Trade analysis: Cubs land Grabow, Gorzelanny

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Cubs acquire LHP John Grabow and LHP Tom Gorzelanny from the Pirates for RHP Kevin Hart, RHP Jose Ascanio and INF-OF Josh Harrison.
In Grabow, the Cubs get the lefty reliever they craved, but it will up to Lou Piniella to use him correctly. Grabow is no specialist, and he didn’t become a quality pitcher until the Pirates figured that out. Lefties have actually hit .270 off him in his career, compared to .254 for righties. His ERA is up this year, but that’s entirely due to a rough stretch in early May. He’s been rock solid for 2 1/2 months now, and he should be a fine sixth- and seventh-inning guy for the Cubs.
The Pirates soured on Gorzelanny a year ago and refused to give him another opportunity this year, even though he had a 2.48 ERA and an 85/30 K/BB ratio in 87 innings for Triple-A Indianapolis. He was actually up for a time in May, but it was to pitch in relief, even though he had never done that before. They didn’t even give him a few appearances in Triple-A to see how it would work out. It was a bizarre experiment, and he went right back down after allowing five runs in 8 2/3 innings. Since then, he had a 1.17 ERA in eight starts for Indianapolis. The Cubs figure to bring him to the majors as Hart’s replacement in the rotation, though that will only last until Ted Lilly returns. Perhaps he’ll be tried again as a reliever then.
Money isn’t a major issue in the deal. Grabow is making $2.3 million and will be a free agent at season’s end. He’ll likely be a Type B free agent, and the Cubs figure to offer him arbitration, allowing them to gain a supplemental first-round pick if he leaves. Because of all of the time Gorzelanny has spent in the minors, he still won’t be eligible for arbitration at season’s end, meaning the Cubs will control his rights for four more years.
Hart’s Cubs career was interesting, if nothing else. Upon debuting in Sept. 2007, he pitched so well that he claimed a spot on the postseason roster. That made him close to a lock for the 2008 roster and he earned his spot with a strong spring, only to struggle in April and spend most of the rest of the year in the minors. He seemed like a forgotten man in the system only a couple of months ago, yet injuries gave him another chance and he had gone 3-1 with a 2.86 ERA in four starts since entering the rotation. He learned of the trade just a few minutes after beating the Astros today. I’m not sure the changeup is there to make him a quality starter for the long term, but he should be pretty useful, even if it’s just in middle relief. The Pirates will likely give him Virgil Vasquez’s spot in the rotation.
Ascanio was a reliever for almost his entire career until the Cubs tried him as a starter in Triple-A this year. He proved to be one of the PCL’s best starters early on, though his ERA faded to 3.16 before he was called up. He had a 3.52 ERA in 14 relief appearances for the Cubs. He has the pure stuff to close in the majors, but his command has always held him back. The Pirates should be happy if he turns into a useful seventh-inning guy.
Harrison was a sixth-round pick out of Cincinnati last year. He was hitting .327/.372/.464 with five homers and 26 steals in 373 at-bats for low Single-A Peoria and high-A Dayton. As a second baseman, he’d be interesting. The Cubs, though, had been using him more in left field and at third base lately. He’s not going to be a starting outfielder, and he’ll probably need to show he can handle infield chores if he’s going to make it as a utilityman.
I liked the Jack Wilson and the Freddy Sanchez deals, but the Pirates don’t seem to make out as well here. Besides giving up the one established major leaguer, their also parting with the player with the most upside in Gorzelanny. Hart fits into the same class as Ross Ohlendorf and Charlie Morton, leaving me wondering just how many No. 4 starters they think they’re going to need next year.

Angels ink Javy Guerra to minor league deal

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Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Angels have agreed to terms on a minor league contract with right-handed reliever Javy Guerra. The deal includes an invitation to major league spring training.

Guerra was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball last July after testing positive for a drug of abuse. That suspension is now over, though Guerra is probably ticketed for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate to begin the 2016 season.

The 30-year-old made just three major league appearances in 2015 for the White Sox before getting outrighted off Chicago’s 40-man roster. He does own a 2.87 ERA in 150 1/3 career innings, but it has come with bouts of inconsistency and unreliability.

Maybe he can get everything going in the right direction with Anaheim.

Braves sign reliever Carlos Torres

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As first reported by Bill Shanks of Fox Sports 1670, the Braves have signed right-handed reliever Carlos Torres to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Torres was waived by the Mets in January, somewhat surprisingly, and elected to become a free agent. The 33-year-old ultimately chose Atlanta, where he should have a good shot at an Opening Day roster out of spring training with the rapidly-rebuilding Braves.

Torres posted an ugly 4.68 ERA in 57 2/3 innings last season for the Mets, but he registered a gorgeous 3.06 ERA and 96 strikeouts across 97 innings in 2014.

If he gets off to a good start in 2016, he could become valuable trade bait.

Blue Jays will have a closer competition this spring

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Roberto Osuna became the youngest pitcher to ever play for the Blue Jays last season at age 20 and he rose to the challenge with a 2.58 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 75/16 K/BB ratio in 69 2/3 frames. Osuna eventually took over as Toronto’s closer, earning 20 regular-season saves and one in the American League Division Series — a five-out effort in Game 5 to close out the visiting Rangers.

But the Jays upgraded the back end of their bullpen this winter, acquiring Drew Storen from the Nationals in early January for speedy outfielder Ben Revere. Jesse Chavez was also brought to Toronto in a trade with the A’s.

Storen has more experience at closer than Osuna, and Storen struggled when the Nationals tried to put him in a setup role. Storen, in his final year of salary arbitration, also gets paid much more. He’s probably going to enter spring training as the favorite for the Jays’ ninth-inning gig, but there will be a competition …

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins told Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca on Wednesday that he doesn’t expect the team to choose between Osuna or Storen until midway through spring training, if not later.

There’s been talk of making Osuna a starter, so add that wrinkle.

Storen, 28, boasts 95 career major league saves.

Orioles plotting late-offseason push? Gallardo, Fowler, Alvarez, Bruce in consideration

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Baltimore’s front office appears to be lining up a run of potential roster additions leading into the beginning of spring training.

We’ve already passed along the reports suggesting they are close to a three-year deal with free agent starter Yovani Gallardo, but now FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler could be next on the Orioles’ target list. It they get those two deals done, the O’s could then chase free agent slugger Pedro Alvarez.

Rosenthal says the Orioles are even eyeing Jay Bruce of the Reds, though the FOX reporter hears the O’s might not have the prospects to pull off that kind of trade.

The focus for the Orioles out of the gate this winter was re-signing Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. Wieters accepted his one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer in November and Davis was locked up to a seven-year, $161 million contract in mid-January.

Now the O’s are spending a little leftover cash on late-offseason additions to improve their position in what should be a tight 2016 American League East race.