Well, that was a whirlwind week. I've gotten about 6-7 hours of sleep combined the last two days. At some point, I'm probably going to crash but so far so good. Now that we've had a day to digest everything, let's take a look back...
How the Cubs did
I'd give them a B+ for their performance under trying circumstances. They managed to trade their starting C Geovany Soto, their 4th OF'er in Reed Johnson, and two starting pitchers in LHP Paul Maholm and RHP Ryan Dempster.
The key player coming back is 21 year old RHP Arodys Vizcaino who, despite his recent TJ surgery, is head and shoulders above any current Cubs pitching prospect. He is easily the best prospect the Cubs received yesterday and likely the only one with big impact potential. If healthy, Vizcaino can be a front line starter. One MLB source told me mid-rotation or closer while Keith Law thinks he can be a #2, maybe more. Those who lament not getting Randall Delgado should note that most regard Vizcaino as the pitcher with the higher ceiling. Before the season, Law had him ranked as the 14th best prospect in all of baseball while ranking Delgado at #98. The advantage with Delgado is the higher floor and the fact that he could help right away.
The next best prospect coming back is 21 year old 3B Christian Villanueva. Villanueva isn't an elite prospect, but he's top 10 caliber and has a chance to be an all-around 3B who does a little of everything. There's a bit of a logjam now as far as 3Bs in the system with Baez, Candelario, Vitters, and Lake all expected to play that position long term. Villanueva has an advantage in that he is the most accomplished defender of the group, though Baez has a chance to pass him when and if he moves from SS. The Rangers toyed with the idea of moving him to 2B as well, where his bat is a potential plus.
The Cubs received 3 other pitchers to add to the depth in their system, the best of which is 22 year old RHP Kyle Hendricks, who doesn't have elite stuff but has a deep repertoire and excellent command. That, along with an advanced approach and feel on the mound gives him shot to be a back end starter rather quickly.
The next best arm is RHP Joel Brigham who has excellent arm strength but his command and secondaries lag behind a bit. He has been capable of reaching as high as 97 mph but often works more in the 92-93 range. He's been starting for Texas and the Cubs may keep him in the rotation for now, but his long-term role is probably in the bullpen where his fastball may jump a tick or two.
The last pitcher, RHP Jaye Chapman, is more of your borderline major leaguer who may move up and down a bit as we've seen some other bullpen arms do for the Cubs this year. His best pitch is his change but his control isn't at the level you'd like for a finesse guy.
The Cubs didn't have a whole lot of leverage because of Dempster's 10-5 rights and Matt Garza's injury, but they did well under the circumstances. They added a true front line starter prospect -- something that isn't easy to do even in the most ideal situation -- along with a possible starting infielder in Christian Villanueva and some pitching depth.
Where do they go from here
The August waiver trading period doesn't have the same kind of drama that the non-waiver deadline does, but the Cubs could move some players during that time.
There was some talk by people I respect that Alfonso Soriano was discussed with the Detroit Tigers but a source of mine did not express optimism that he would be traded this season. Later, Dave Dombrowski refuted that the Tigers had any interest. Tom Loxas also spoke to a well-placed source that said the Giants, despite another rumor, didn't have any interest either. He'll certainly pass through waivers as no team will want to give the Cubs the leverage to say, "Give us such and such prospect or eat that contract". He'll slide through without a passing glance and the Cubs will once again try and find a taker. The more likely scenario to me is that he finishes the season here in Chicago. He's on pace to hit .270 with a passable .320 OBP and around 30 HRs. With only two years left on the deal, those numbers will make it easier to deal him in the offseason. The one thing that may change this is an injury to a middle of the order hitter on a contending team.
Matt Garza will not pass through waivers and the only way he gets dealt is if he slides to a team who needs him and the Cubs are able to work out a deal, which is extremely unlikely. It's more likely a team will take him simply to block him from going anywhere else and the Cubs will have to pull him back off waivers. A Garza deal is a much bigger possibility in the offseason. Teams looking to acquire him are mostly doing it because of the 2013 control and the potential comp pick anyway and the Cubs can greatly increase the pool of teams to negotiate with by waiting until the winter meetings.
A source told me that the most likely big name player to be dealt in August might be Carlos Marmol. For one thing, nobody is going to want that contract so he'll probably pass through. The other big factor is that teams always seem to need bullpen help late in the season. It's quite possible, given Marmol's recent success and the fact that he still has excellent arm strength, that some team will take him on if the Cubs pay part of the freight.
Other possibilities include useful role players with expiring contracts such as Jeff Baker and Sean Camp. Bryan LaHair is another possibility.
As far as where the Cubs go on the field, they'll field a team that will probably struggle as they try to find out what pieces fit short and long term. Expect players like Brett Jackson, Josh Vitters, Dave Sappelt and Alberto Cabrera to get a look this September when rosters expand.
We'll also take a deeper look at how the organization has improved when we put up a new top prospect list either later today or early tomorrow.