Cubs expected to target Russell Martin

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This time last year Welington Castillo was viewed as a potential long-term building block for the Cubs, but he struggled this season and now Chicago is apparently looking to make an upgrade at catcher.

Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports that the Cubs “are going to target” free agent Russell Martin, who’s expected to turn down a $15.3 million qualifying offer from the Pirates.

Martin figures to have plenty of suitors after hitting .290 with a .402 on-base percentage and .832 OPS in 111 games for the Pirates, but unlike most interested teams the Cubs wouldn’t have to forfeit a first-round draft pick because theirs is protected. They’d lose a second-rounder instead.

Nationals back off of minor league stipend cut

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Yesterday it was reported that the Washington Nationals would cut the weekly stipend paid to their minor leaguers from $400 a week to $300 per week through the end of June.

For frame of reference, MLB had agreed to pay all minor leaguers $400 per week through May 31. Several teams have agreed to extend that, with the Royals and Twins agreeing to do it all the way through the end of August. The Oakland A’s decided to stop the payments in their entirety as of today. The Nationals were unique in cutting $100 off of the checks.

The A’s and the Nationals have taken a great amount of flak for what they’ve done. The Nats move was immediately countered by Nationals major league players announcing that they would cover what the organization would not.

The A’s are, apparently, still sticking to their plan. The Nats, however, have reversed course:

One can easily imagine a situation in which Nats ownership just decided, cold-heartedly, to lop that hundred bucks off of each minor league check and not worry about a moment longer. What’s harder to imagine is what seems to have actually happened: the Nats did it without realizing that anyone would take issue with it, were surprised by the blowback, and then reversed course. Like, what kind of a bubble where they living in that they did not think people would consider that a low-rent thing to do?

In any event, good move, Nats, even if I cannot even begin to comprehend your thought process.