A short break from the position analysis, which I'll have tonight, to catch up on a few items.
This piece is something of a mailbag as I'm going to try and address the major questions I've been getting through email and Twitter. There haven't been a lot of rumors for the Cubs lately, mostly because they've taken care of their biggest goal, which was to rebuild the rotation and bullpen. There is one secondary need to take care of, an outfielder, and a tertiary need for another infielder who bats RH and can play multiple positions, including 3B.
That hasn't stopped people from speculating on major happenings including the status of Matt Garza, a trade for Justin Upton, and the lingering free agency of Michael Bourn.
- The Cubs have loaded up on SP depth with the signing of Scott Baker, Scott Feldman, Edwin Jackson, and Carlos Villanueva. They've covered themselves in case that Matt Garza won't be ready to go this spring. According to Garza himself, that won't be a problem. In an article by David Kaplan of CSN Garza said, "If Spring Training started tomorrow, I would be ready to go. I’m not ready to pitch six innings today, but I will be ready to go when the season starts. I will be ready to go Opening Day, that’s guaranteed.”
- Garza also has value as a recruiter apparently. The same link above links to a video where Garza talks about his conversations with Cubs new pitcher Edwin Jackson. Garza sold Jackson on day baseball and the ability to spend more time with his family.
- Bruce Levine is jonesin' for the Cubs to trade for Justin Upton and it comes up several times in his chat. At one point, Levine says, "I can almost understand Castro for Upton". Nope. Not going to happen. Trading a core SS for a corner OF'er isn't how you build. Value-wise, it's a trade that would have the Cubs running in place at best. But Levine can "almost understand" Castro? I'm not close to understanding the purpose of it. Perhaps if Javier Baez was raking at AAA, but even then it's questionable. Texas wasn't about to give up Jurickson Profar for Upton even though they have Elvis Andrus and the Braves wouldn't part with Andrelton Simmons, and while he's a great player, he's not the all-around SS that Castro is.
- Later in the chat, Levine says that Garza, Baez, and Jackson is overpaying. I can agree with that. When another fan suggests the Cubs should trade Matt Szczur, Dan Vogelbach, and Junior Lake in exchange for Justin Upton and Gerardo Parra, Levine responds that would be short. Again, I agree. Levine adds the Cubs would have to add a catcher. The only one with any real value on the Cubs is Welington Castillo. Though it would leave the Cubs with a big organizational hole at catcher, you'd think they'd make that trade if they had the chance.
- Lots of chatter from various places on CF Michael Bourn. My stance remains firm on this. There are two choices with Bourn, you sign him to short term deal (one or two years), with the intention of flipping him for a prospect better than the Cubs 2nd pick, which will be somewhere in the 30-40ish range, roughly the equivalent of a first round supplemental in past years. Jason McLeod recently stated he is excited about who they can get with that pick, so it obviously has great value to the Cubs. Bourn won't put the Cubs over the top in the next year or two, so the only purpose is gambling that you'll get more for an over 30 speed player than you will with that pick. Is it worth for a possible marginal upgrade if everything works out? I don't think so. The other alternative is to sign Bourn to a multi-year deal so that he could be around when the Cubs are ready to win. If we call that year 2015, then you have to hope Bourn is still producing in his age 32 season. It's possible, but that's high risk when you consider that Bourn is just an average offensive player right now and we should expect regression there. The likelihood is that the Cubs will have a below average offensive player with diminished speed (and less defensive range in CF, where most of his value lies).
- My alternative to Bourn would be Coco Crisp. His offense has improved with age as he's added some power (a skill that tends to have a longer life span than just speed) and his defense is still good, but I have toned down my expectations that the Cubs can or will acquire him. According to Ken Davidoff of the New York Post, the Mets inquired on Crisp but got the feeling that the A's don't want to trade him. I can interpret that in two ways, either a) they really do intend to keep a 4th OF'er who makes $7.5M or b) they didn't like what the Mets were offering and are expecting a substantial return to consider dealing him. In either case, it doesn't look great for the Cubs. I like Crisp but my hope was that salary relief would be a bigger incentive for the A's. I still think he's a great fit, but the rebuilding Cubs can't afford to give up a good young player for a one year stopgap.
- I've had lots of questions on the two newest Cuban free agents, whom I wrote about a month ago here. My basic response is that I believe the Cubs would have more interest in the infielder Aledmys Diaz simply because he is the better player and plays the more valuable position (he's a SS with a chance to stick there). However, it's very likely he'd demand a 40 man roster spot and a team with a bigger need at SS/2B may have more incentive to give him that type of deal. The other player is Dariel Alvarez and he projects more as a 4th OF'er. The question with Alvarez is again whether he's worth a roster spot to the Cubs right now. His ceiling is as a reserve OF'er but likely won't be ready this year. By 2014, the Cubs should have several players ready for that kind of role from their own organization. Alvarez is available now, but Diaz will wait until he turns 23 and becomes an "unrestricted" international FA. That will be on January 8th and he is expected to hold a workout around then. We'll get a better idea of the Cubs interest around then.
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