Here's one thing that keeps slipping slightly beneath the radar, below the swirling Ryan Dempster/Matt Garza trade rumors. We all know that the Cubs best chance to acquire impact prospects is by trading one or both of their two top starters.
As some noted yesterday, Keith Law pointed out that the Cubs (and other teams) should expect less for free agents-to-be such as Ryan Dempster because the team will no longer garner a compensation pick under the new CBA. There is certainly quite a bit of truth to that.
That truth will be somewhat mitigated by the seller's market that is expected to develop for many teams, especially the Cubs, who have multiple players to trade, ranging from useful role players to potential impact starting pitching.
But even that may not be enough.
If a team isn't going to have anything to show for say, a Ryan Dempster, after the season, then the Cubs may have to be the team that makes up for that loss of a compensation pick. They are the ones who will have to add that cost-controlled player that will serve as compensation.
Rather than gamble on a supplemental pick, which are less valuable in the new CBA anyway, a team can pick up an already useful, young proven player such as Bryan LaHair, Darwin Barney, or Tony Campana.
Now this may not sit well with Cubs fans. Those players are all fan favorites to some degree, but the truth is they may be more useful to sweeten a deal than they will be as long term players with the team.
Let's look at them one at a time.
Bryan LaHair 1B-OF: LaHair (at least against righties) has been the Cubs most productive offensive player. He's also cheap and cost-controlled, exactly the kind of player you want to have on a rebuilding team except for two things. He's 29 and he plays the same position as the Cubs top prospect, Anthony Rizzo. Now, its been suggested that Bryan LaHair can move to the OF, which is true. LaHair has played the OF before and is adequate, though he lacks any kind of range. The problem with that to me is that it's a short term move. LaHair is thick-legged, has had back issues, and is already among the slowest players on the team. He may be able to play LF for a couple of years but it won't be long before he has slightly more range than the Billy Williams statue. This makes him almost as much of a short-term answer as say, Alfonso Soriano, who also has limited shelf-life in the OF. That's not to say LaHair can't be a productive offensive player over the long haul, but without the DH or the ability to stick him at first, it will quickly become a question of where to fit him in the defense.
Darwin Barney 2B-SS: Barney is different than LaHair in that he is a good defender at a premium position with a surprisingly solid bat. He's also younger and more viable as a starter for the long term. But he's not an irreplaceable one. Barney may have more value to teams looking for a complimentary piece or perhaps even a SS, which is Barney's "natural" position. At that position, he may hold more trade value than he will as a starting player for the Cubs. As Tom and I have both found in talking to other baseball industry sources around the league, Barney is held with more esteem by other teams than he seems to be by many Cubs fans. However, for the Cubs purposes , the dropoff in the short term from Barney to say, Adrian Cardenas or Luis Valbuena, may not be that sharp and it could allow the Cubs to enhance the quality of prospects coming back to them, which of course helps them in the long run.
Tony Campana, OF: I expect to get some flak here because he is a big fan favorite because of his dazzling speed and ability to occasionally create runs with his legs alone. But by that same token, think about how valuable that would be for a team that's in the thick of a pennant race, where one run can mean a game and where one game can mean the difference between the playoffs and an early fishing trip. Also think about how valuable such a player would be coming off the bench in the postseason itself where teams are so evenly matched and games are often very close. Of course, the Cubs could use some of that value as well, but Campana's best years are now while he's young and he isn't worn down by the long, sometimes grueling baseball season. Campana isn't the biggest of ballplayers and we've seen similar sized players wear down as they get into their 30s (Bip Roberts, Bryan Roberts). Campana is 26 and he may not be the weapon he is now by the time the Cubs are truly ready to compete.
Let me stress that I like these players as much as most fans do, but I think the new CBA is going to force the Cubs to be creative when it comes to compensating teams taking on a rent-a-player by offering a cost-controlled player that a) may have greater value in the short term such as LaHair and Campana or B) the Cubs can reasonably expect to replace with a player from their minor league system such as Darwin Barney. But if that means getting a much higher quality level of prospects in return, then I think it's something the Cubs are going to have to do, unpopular as that might be.
What do you think? Click all answers that apply