Cubs have quietly built depth, trade flexibility

Cubs have quietly built depth, trade flexibility

It's not quite the hot stove season or the trade deadline, but the last week of spring tends to generate some interesting trade activity.  Teams have had a chance to look at what they have in camp.  Sometimes they realize they're going to be short at certain positions.  Sometimes a young player hasn't made the progress they had hoped and they now prefer a steady veteran.  Other times a last minute injury can open up a hole.

When that happens, teams like the Cubs suddenly become popular.  When I mean teams "like the Cubs", I'm talking about a team who has a lot of nice, relatively inexpensive short term pieces, but are looking at the long term picture.  The Cubs have several of those kinds of players with Marlon Byrd and Randy Wells standing out.  Although you can't rule out a bigger trade such as Matt Garza, I find that to be less likely at this point.

Not only do the Cubs have short term pieces, they have less expensive versions ready to step in and play in those spots.  What Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have quietly done is build up some depth behind the very players they might most reasonably trade.  Here is what I mean...

  • Marlon Byrd:  The Cubs have Brett Jackson to take his place in the very near future, although they could start with Joe Mather and/or Reed Johnson in CF if they feel they want to give Jackson a few more swings in Iowa, where he hasn't played a full season.
  • Randy Wells: The Cubs made building starting rotation depth a priority from day one.  Assuming Chris Volstad and Jeff Samardzija have won the last two spots, Wells is starting pitching depth along with Travis Wood, Casey Coleman, and Rodrigo Lopez.
  • Jeff Baker: The obvious replacement is Joe Mather.  He is another RH batter who can play the 4 corners, just as Baker does.  Baker has the advantage that he can also play 2B while Mather can play CF.  Baker is the better hitter but Mather may have more pop and speed.
  • Blake DeWitt: The Cubs have a carbon copy, though younger and cheaper version in Adrian Cardenas.  Both offensively oriented LH hitters whose primary role would be as a complement to the defensively oriented, RH hitting Darwin Barney.  I also find it curious that Alfredo Amazega's playing time seems to be increasing lately.  He's the one Cubs utility IF'er who can play a respectable SS.  I think he's a lock for Iowa and perhaps more if the Cubs make a couple of deals.
  • Geovanny Soto: The Cubs have two major league ready catchers in Welington Castillo and Steve Clevenger.  Neither is as good as Soto, but they are cheaper and capable of putting up decent numbers between the two of them.  More importantly, Soto could potentially bring back the biggest haul on this list. This one is an extreme long shot, though, as I don't think the Cubs necessarily want to go with 2 rookie signal callers as they are trying to develop potential long term starting pitching assets such as Jeff Samardzija, Chris Volstad, and down the road, Travis Wood.

The caveat here is that the Cubs aren't playing for 2012 so that means that 1) they aren't going to make deals that won't help them long term and 2) they aren't going to dump players just to make room and put in a player they like better -- even if he's younger.  That may seem like a paradox, but there is no rush to get guys like Jackson and Anthony Rizzo in the lineup this season.  The Cubs would rather call them up later and delay their service time clocks a bit so they can more easily hang on to them long term, when the team will hopefully be a consistent contender.  The other factor in not dumping players is that the Cubs can't affor to miss an opportunity to transfer short term assets like Byrd and Baker into long term assets such as prospects or younger, cost-controlled players.

For those reason you will hear the Cubs say they will listen but they aren't looking to make a deal.  It's baseball speak for, "we'll trade these guys, but we're not giving them away.  We can afford to be patient with our prospects and there's no reason to trade guys unless we get value in return."

If teams are looking to get players on the cheap because they think the Cubs just want to hurry up and play prospects, then I don't see a deal getting done until the deadline.

If teams are willing to sacrifice a little bit of long term quality in exchange for a full season of Byrd, Baker, or Wells,  then the Cubs will be ready.  Epstein and Hoyer have made the necessary moves to add depth and are fully prepared to make a deal before opening day if the opportunity arises.

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  • I'm convinced in the next week you will see some type of move, and Byrd or Wells are at the top of list in rumored deals.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    I'm at that point too. A lot of smoke on Byrd and you have to think at least one of the teams will make it worth it for the Cubs. We'll see. I like Byrd, a nice player, but deserves to be on a team that will win rather than serve as a placeholder for Jackson.

  • They will be active between now and Aug. But like you
    said they are not going to give anybody away. Players will get
    hurt or not perform and the Cubs will just be waiting to trade.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Agreed. Some of those needs are out there right now, as I mentioned with the Braves yesterday. But it really is tricky, do they try to ride it out early or do they make the deal now? Is it worth it to pay a little more than you want to to get a guy earlier in the year? It's a call teams will have to make but as you said, a lot of team will go back and forth from here until August and I have to think that eventually a deal gets done.

  • I agree, we are not talking Garza or Soto?. I just hope we don't
    wait to long for the perfect trade and have another team trade
    their player instead.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    There is a balance to be sure. You want to get as much as you can, but at some point you have to realize there's a limit as to what you can get for Byrd, Wells, etc.

    However, if the Cubs are just getting an offer of mid-grade low level prospects, for example, they might as well wait since they can get that at any point. Might as well hang on to them and see if value increases. Time to settle is later.

  • Wade Davis got sent to the bullpen by the Rays today. He might be a good addition.

  • Solid arm. They tried to get a lot back for him before. Have to think that price has gone down a bit.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Maybe the Cubs can get Tampa to pick up most, if not all, of his salary and not want much in return. Just kidding.

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    We are also taking a risk if our trade piece gets hurt too. Byrd is an everyday player and can get hurt. I say get your long term piece now. Make the deal now!

  • In reply to mblum876:

    I agree, by now the Cubs know what their players can and can't
    do and what type of season they are going to have. Trade ASP
    if the right prospect/player comes along.

  • In reply to mblum876:

    Agree but that's contingent on getting what you think is fair value. If offers are low, it's better to risk injury and hope need arises and value increases.

  • I worry about waiting until the trade deadline. Marlon turns 35 this season, Baker turns 31, and Garza and Soto are 29. There are bound to be DL stints among this group. It's a risky gamble hoping they all can play well and stay healthy.
    Out of this group, the only player who we'd be trading at peak value is Garza, so it's too bad the Cubs couldn't find a good deal for him during the off season. Based on his age and past history the odds are against him repeating his performance from last year; although if he does his value will be really strong at the deadline, so I guess we're all-in on that hand.
    It's too bad we didn't trade Byrd after his 2010 season when he was at peak value; similarly we should have traded Soto and Marmol sooner, especially Marmol when he peaked. If we had done so we wouldn't be rebuilding from scratch.

  • In reply to baseballet:

    If they're getting low-balled though then no reason to make a deal because you aren't potentially losing anything by waiting. If teams are offering fringe prospects or unwanted veterans, then there's no loss if the Cubs don't make a deal now... and they possibly gain if a bigger need arises later in the year.

  • I'm not giving up on Dejesus but if we are talking about age he is 32 and not productive right now. He is past his peak years and we have so many other players that are younger and are better. I'm not quite sure what the FO is thinking with this position. I just don't see the logic. Reed Johnson is a better player in my opinion although he has some back issues, I would rather see Reed or Mather fill that roll until we bring the kids up....

  • It will take at least 2 full months of the season to see if the players
    are going to produce at the level we expect. I hope Sveum gives
    them enough BA's before he goes to the bench.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Agreed. You have to give a guy who has produced his whole career a chance. He doesn't deserve to lose a spot based on a slump during the spring.

  • He's batting a lovely .170 right now and he just left 3 more on base and the game is only at the half way point....

  • He had 442 AB last year and batted .240 he's been in a slump since last year and he looks horrid during ST, I'm not convinced that he can or will get any better with more AB's. I'm not ragging the dude out I just think we could do better in that spot with the players we have right now. There was no competition for the RF slot it was just given to him. I think there should have been a fight to get into the lineup and many other players have out performed him not only in ST but over the course of last season as well. IMO

  • In reply to johnnywest333:

    DeJesus has a history of success in the MLB, though, whereas Mather does not, and Reed is older than he is and much more likely to be declining.

    A poor spring and an off year (caused partially by a very low BABIP, indicating a lot of bad luck), just not enough info to think DeJesus is declining at this point. He deserves the benefit of the doubt much more than Mather or Johnson do.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Thanks John, I do agree with you and I'm not giving up on Dejesus, I just would have preffered to see a battle for the spot and give someone the chance to earn the position. David was given the spot with no opportunity for the others to compete for the position

  • In reply to johnnywest333:

    Sure, Johnny. But that's the same thing. You can't just throw away 9 years of proven production. I think if I were David DeJesus and I had done my job well for 9 years and then they brought somebody in who had done a well below average job for his entire career like Joe Mather, then said...okay, forget everything you guys have done, whoever has the best month -- in a completely non-standard setting-- gets to have the job, I think I'd be pretty upset. What if the other guy has one lucky month? It's completely unfair to DeJesus.

  • As of today i think Chris Volstad, Paul Maholm have look better then Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza. I just hope Volstad and Maholm will be able to keep it up because i think Garza will have a big year. If the team can have 3 solid pitchers we will be in for a treat.

  • In reply to cubsfanforlife:

    I think Demp can be solid too. Cubs may have a respectable staff this year.

  • If any of these guys are traded, it will be for perceived fair value, nothing less. There is no reason to trade someone just because. I would guess they have a fix on every player, knowing what they believe should be given up in any acquisition. As for Dejesus, if he isn't producing by midseason, then it may be time for change. Spring training is not the time to bench veterans for performance or promote rookies.

  • In reply to Break The Curse:

    Agreed. I think of it as what if you were on your job and did it well for 9 years, then they brought in somebody who had done a poor job with a lot less experience, then your boss said I don't care what either have you have done in the past 9 years, whoever does this job best (under non-standard conditions) for the next 30 days gets to keep it. You have to give the proven people more respect and a lot more slack than that.

  • Did you know that Jake Fox led all major leaguers in home runs last year? In spring training! Ten dingers, 15 RBI and a .297 average. 2011 stats- 2 homers, 6 RBI and a whopping .246 avg. Let's not get carried away. Good for Mather, but until he produces when it counts, he is just a feel good story.

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    I think the fact that the Phillies, Nationals and Braves could all be potential trading partners for Byrd automatically ups his value. To a lesser degree, if Atlanta doesn't get Byrd, I am sure they would love Baker so that they could keep Prado in the OF until Chipper returns. I actually think Baker is a better fit for Atlanta just looking at their roster.

    Mike

  • In reply to Jive Wired:

    I'm glad you mentioned that because I actually thought about Baker as a decent fall back option for them too. He hits lefties extremely well and can fill in at 3B and be a supersub for them when Jones gets back.

  • On the starting pitching front, I actually take Jed & Theo at face value when they say they want to be 8 or 9 deep. Theo saw Boston's SP blow up last year, and they have obviously studied the Cubs issues from 2011, which included atrocious 4th & 5th starting records. I don't see Wells being dealt.

    Anyway, off to MLB Opening Night in 8 hours here in Japan. Too bad it is the A's & Mariners!

  • In reply to TokyoCraig:

    Very cool! Have fun. I'm jealous. Would be great to see a game out there.

    True on the starting pitching depth and I do understand being hesitant to deal Wells. If they get a good offer, though, will be hard to pass up. Cubs now have T.Wood as primary depth plus Lopez, Coleman...gives them 8 and then maybe someone like Chris Rusin or Jay Jackson as #9?

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