The Rundown: Former Cubs Pitchers Change Places, Cubs Reliever Targets, Verlander Scouted Heavily

It didn’t include any of the big names we’ve been hearing and the Cubs weren’t involved, but two former Northsiders were swapped as part of a six-player deal between the Royals and Padres Monday evening. Trevor Cahill is one of three players moving to KC, while Travis Wood will try to make San Diego a little classier.

The big key for the Padres in the deal appears to be Esteury Ruiz, an 18-year-old infielder from the Dominican who put up a 1.219 OPS in 86 Arizona Rookie League at-bats. There’s not much out there on the 6-foot, 150-pound prospect, but he generated a little buzz with an offensive performance that included 19 extra-base hits (10 doubles, 6 triples, 3 home runs). This is a high risk, high reward move that doesn’t cost much and could pay off.

Brandon Maurer is a decent righty bullpen arm and Ryan Buchter — who spent some time in the Cubs organization in parts of four seasons — is a lefty reliever who strikes out 11 men per 9 innings. Trevor Cahill helps to bolster the rotation for a Royals team that still has aspirations of catching the Indians in the AL Central.

Moving Wood is really about a salary dump for KC, who will reportedly send $7.2 million to the Padres to cover most of the grungy southpaw’s salary. That still saves them roughly $1.5 million, as Wood is owed the remainder of this season’s $6 million, plus $6.5 million next season and at least the $1.5 million buyout on an $8 million mutual option for 2019.

If you recall, Wood held out for a deal that gave him the opportunity to start, which he though he’d gotten in KC. And I guess he did, sort of. He made put up a 6.28 ERA (5.03 FIP) with 6.59 K/9 and 5.65 BB/9 in 25 relief appearances before being moved to the rotation, which, okay. But believe it or not, he was actually a little better as a starter when you look past the 8.31 ERA. Dude doesn’t have much swing-and-miss, but he only walked two men in 13 innings.

Moving to SoCal should give him the opportunity to start more and to swing the bat, which we know he likes. And given the Padres’ earlier attempt to make Christian Bethancourt a two-way player, maybe they’d be willing to give Wood a little run in the outfield when he’s not pitching.

Apropos of nothing, other than the fact that he’s another former Cub now playing for the Royals, Jason Hammel hasn’t exactly been lighting the City of Fountains on fire this season.

Cubs looking for relievers

Zach Britton is the biggest name out there when it comes to high-leverage relievers, but he’s far from the only one. Given his pedigree and the additional year of control after this one, the O’s closer is probably going to command a haul of something in the Aroldis Chapman/Andrew Miller range. And that might put him out of range for the Cubs, who’d likely have to part with one of their core position players to make it work.

But it’s become all too obvious that the Cubs are going to have to shore up the bullpen at the deadline. After giving up a home run to Adam Engel (wait, who’s Adam Engel?) in Monday’s loss, Justin Grimm has allowed 10 earned runs and has walked 9 in his last 9.2 innings. That’s not great.

Barring some unforeseen resurgence in the next week, I’m just not sure the Grimm Reaper has a spot on the roster come July 31. But who do they get to replace him?

One possibility is Marlins closer A.J. Ramos, who the Cubs — among several other teams — have been scouting. Like Britton, Ramos has an additional year of control and would be able to take over the closer’s role from Wade Davis after this season for what would still be a reasonable cost even with a significant arbitration raise from his current $6.55 million.

Or then there’s the Phillies’ Pat Neshek, who has been drawing interest from several teams. The 36-year-old righty should be more affordable than his younger counterparts because he’s a free agent next season and is only due the remainder of the $6.5 million on the final year of his contract. Then again, the Phillies are doing a pretty darn good job of creating a bidding war for the former Butler Bulldog.

Which brings us back to…

Verlander still has it

Not many pitchers can hit 98 mph on a good day, let alone when they’re 34 years old and throwing their 119th pitch in a game. Then again, most pitchers aren’t Justin Verlander.

Pitching in front of his home crowd Monday night, Verlander gave up 3 runs on 5 hits, generating 9 strikeouts to a single walk. He left to a nice ovation in what may have been his last start in a Tigers uniform. His next scheduled start is Sunday against the Astros in Detroit, which is a day before the trade deadline. The lead-up to that start could be very interesting.

Verlander said after the game that it was almost like pitching in college because of all the scouts, one of whom was from the Cubs. So that’s cool. I mean…I’m not saying, I’m just saying. Wait, what exactly am I’m saying? Well, not much, other than I’m warming to the idea of Verlander pitching for the Cubs for the next couple seasons. Which is probably why he’ll end up going to the Dodgers or some such.

More news and notes

  • The Rangers are leaning against trading Yu Darvish
  • The Brewers are “fading” when it comes to adding Sonny Gray
  • As I wrote yesterday, the extent of Stephen Strasburg injury could make the Nats big players for Gray
  • More on Willson Contreras, Victor Caratini, and the Cubs’ need for a capable backup this season
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