Normally the last two weeks of spring training is a time for some last minute trade talk. As teams begin to finalize their roster, they sometimes realize they can't fill holes internally -- or perhaps injuries decimate their roster, as it has with the Yankees. In March, there are many teams who believe they'll contend so there is usually a bigger market of teams with which to deal.
Yet the Cubs look like they'll find themselves on the outside looking in when it comes to pre-season deals. First it was Matt Garza who got hurt and now it's become clear that he will start the season on the DL. The Cubs choices have been pared down to either trading Garza as a rental in July or looking to extend him sometime between now and the time free agency rolls around. Next Scott Baker went down with elbow soreness and now will miss the first half of the season. It's doubtful team will be eager to trade for a pitcher just returning from the DL who hasn't pitched since 2011.
Then we heard yesterday that the Yankees, who seemed a prime fit for a RH slugging bat like Alfonso Soriano, but instead chose to pursue the less productive and more highly overpaid Vernon Wells. We have no way of knowing if the Cubs and Yankees discussed a deal, but most media sources are indicating that they did not have trade talks -- at least none that they knew about. At any rate, Wells symbolizes the Yankees conservative strategy they've taken over the past couple of years. The organization that once would do what it takes to contend year after year is now settling for flyers and holding on to prospects as if they were....well, the rebuilding Chicago Cubs.
Teams in general have been reluctant to deal for Soriano. The Cubs briefly engaged the Phillies in an attempt to pry young OF'er Domonic Brown loose. The Phillies, however, decided to move forward with what they had and signed Delmon Young to fill that RH hitter void. Again, another team chose a lesser player rather than give up any kind of talent for Soriano.
For their part, the Cubs have no reason just to give Soriano away. He's still productive on the field and the Cubs like what he brings off the field. In other words, he still holds value for them, so to give him away makes no sense. Adding to this lack of urgency is that Soriano isn't blocking a prospect. If he were to be traded tomorrow, your starting LF'er would probably be veteran Scott Hairston.
Then there's Carlos Marmol. The player ESPN Chicago's Bruce Levine thought would be traded before the season. It makes some sense and I had also heard that Marmol was the most likely to go next, though that was last fall, before he was nearly traded for Dan Haren. But the team that seemed to need a closer the most, the Tigers, may just end up going with rookie Bruce Rondon after all. Even when they were talking about trading for a closer, they had more interest in guys like Luke Gregerson, Huston Street, and Andrew Bailey. And who could blame the Tigers after their experience with their own control-challenged closer, Jose Valverde?
There seems to be greater interest in David DeJesus because of his team friendly contract, but it's questionable how much teams will want to give up for a platoon corner OF'er with below average power. DeJesus, like Soriano, may hold more value for the Cubs than anyone they might bring back in a trade.
The Cubs have other players who could provide value for contenders down the stretch, guys like Nate Schierholtz, Scott Hairston, Carlos Villanueva, and Scott Feldman -- but again, the issue is going to be how much they can get in return for such players. At any rate, none of those players were ever expected to go until closer to the trade deadline -- if they get traded at all.
It appears likely right now that the Cubs will open the season with their current roster intact. That may change by the trade deadline, perhaps sooner, but for now it seems that the Cubs trade chips are either hurt or don't hold enough value to other teams, at least not enough to bring back anything worthwhile. The Cubs have to hope now that players like Soriano and Marmol have big years as they figure once again play prominent roles. Perhaps then they'll prove their worth to GMs around the league. Any hopes of adding significant long-term value, however, will depend on Matt Garza and to what extent he can return to form.
Filed under: Uncategorized