So yesterday we talked about the Cubs spending money on free agents and perhaps more realistically, we also talked about the possibility of a trade for a player not yet past his prime years.
Stanton is a guy we focused on when we wrote the article linked above but it's going to be tough to outbid teams with better farm systems. He's an ideal fit in that he's not yet in his prime, hits for lots of power, and takes walks. You have to figure Texas will be willing to offer Jurickson Profar and a good, young starting pitcher. The Cardinals have Oscar Tavares and plenty of live arms in their system. And while they're not a big market team, they've shown the willingness to keep their better players in-house. The Cubs have top prospects who would be very marketable in Florida: Albert Almora, Dan Vogelbach, and Javier Baez played high school ball there while Jorge Soler and Almora have appeal to the large Cuban community.
Price is probably a more realistic trade target, though Tampa doesn't sell below value. They can't afford to. Buster Olney speculates that the Cubs will be the top contender for his services. There are a lot of pieces you can put together here. Price is a top of the rotation starter, a guy who can help take the pressure of budding ace Jeff Samardzija. He's a left-handed starter, a commodity that is very scarce in the Cubs organization. He' s just 27, just beginning his prime years. And he has his old pitching coach working for the organization.
The Cubs have said that the 3B of the future may not come from the current organization, meaning Baez may move to 2B or another position instead -- if he makes it at all, of course. The Cubs have other good prospects such as Christian Villanueva, Junior Lake, and Jeimer Candelario but none are guarantees to make it to the show as starting 3Bs. Headley is a little older than the ideal for the Cubs but if they think they can win by 2015, Headley is plenty young enough to still put up big numbers. He fits the team's philosophy as a good athlete and a plus defender who takes walks and can hit for power. The small market Padres have a home-grown replacement in Jed Gyorko and may try to cash in on Headley while they still can. It also helps that the Cubs front office is very familiar with Headly and the Padres organization in general. If there is a concern, it's the recent injury history.
There is the obvious link with Boston and the Cubs big 3 of Theo, Jed, and Jason, but Ellsbury is a risk in that he will be 30, injury prone, and 3 years removed from the season in which he finished 2nd in the AL MVP voting. Much of Ellsbury value will come from whether he can regain some of the power he showed that year because his future as he gets into his 30s will be a corner OF position. He'll be a plus defender there, but he isn't a pure OBP or power guy historically, so he could end up being a tweener. But you can be sure his agent Scott Boras isn't going to admit that. He'll try to sell him as the 2011 guy, the rare commodity that can play CF, steal bases, and hit for power.
Another Boras client, Choo is an OBP guy with good doubles power and the ability to hit one out on occasion. He's still a solid defender with a strong, accurate arm in the corners, though he's stretched out in CF. Choo is the alternative to Ellsbury and is the more natural OBP guy. He's already 30, however, so you'd be getting him as much for the short-term as the long term, but he should have 4-5 good years left, especially if he's in a corner position.
Johnson had a great spring and there was some hope he'd return to that budding front of the rotation guy that people saw in 2009 and 2010. Injuries have claimed the life from his fastball now and Johsnon isn't a plus-plus command guy, so some scouts believe he may be more of a #4 type starter going forward. You can bet Toronto will try and sell high if they don't contend this year but it's hard to see any takers in that scenario. I see Johnson as more of a flyer type either as a trade candidate or a free agent signing and if you can't get him at a bargain rate, then you should probably pass.
Robinson Cano, 2B, (30) - Will probably re-sign with the Yankees and, despite his productivity, there is some risk signing him at his age and position to a long term, big money contract. You could conceivably move him to 3B, however.
Brett Gardner, OF, (29): Gardner is a speed player and we read from Tom Tango during the Michael Bourn free agency period that those players are more likely to retain value. Gardner is a plus-plus defender in LF and can probably play a very good CF as well, where his bat will play better. He's an OBP guy who is a threat on the bases when he's healthy, which has been his biggest question mark in recent years.
Brett Anderson, LHP (25): He has a club option for 2015 but as a small market team, the A's may not be able to retain him. He's been terribly injury prone, however, and while he's young and hasn't pitched a ton of innings, there's been some hard miles on that arm. Could be an interesting option if there is a discount.
Colby Rasmus, OF (26): The toolsy, talented Rasmus will be 28 when he hits free agency. The problem is he really hasn't lived up to expectations. There's some speculation about his maturity level but hard to say if those are valid. He can do a lot of things on the baseball field athletically and has the patience to draw walks -- and he'll be in his prime years if he makes it to free agency.
Brian McCann, C (29): The Cubs catching future pretty much lies in Welington Castillo's hands. Not only is he their most advanced catcher out of their young players, he is the only one on the active MLB roster -- and he has the highest ceiling. In other words, if Castillo turns out to be a bust, there's not much behind him in the system as of now. It's becoming more doubtful the Braves will retain McCann as he he will be in his 30s with a history of injuries, so perhaps he becomes an option if the price goes down and Castillo doesn't become at least an average MLB catcher.
Brandon Morrow, RHP (28) - If Morrow can stay healthy, he has one of the best arms in the game. That is a big if, but it's that same question that may make him available for a less expensive rate than some of the other arms on this list.
Conclusion: Of the main guys, I think David Price and Chase Headley seem like the most realistic options and while free agency is thin, the Cubs could find a replacement for Alfonso Soriano in someone like Ellsbury or Choo. There are some interesting potential bargains in the "other" category as well, including Rasmus, Morrow, and Anderson.
Price alone would make for an interesting rotation, depending on what the Cubs do with Garza. But I'll leave it up to you to draw up trade scenarios and future lineups based on what may be available.
Also in the news...
- One guy the Cubs could potential sign is one of their own, Matt Garza. Garza was scheduled to start at Kane County tomorrow but that has been scratched because of the conditions. According to Bruce Miles, he'll pitch a simulated game in Milwaukee instead.
- Former 1st round pick, Hayden Simpson has signed on with the independent league Southern Illinois Miners.
While you contemplate the lineup of 2015, here is the lineup for April 18th, 2013...
- DeJesus CF
- Castro SS
- Rizzo 1B
- Soriano LF
- Schierholtz RF
- Castillo C
- Valbuena 3B
- Barney 2B
- Villanueva SP
What to Watch For:
Felzz: An Umbrella. How the hell are they gonna play this game?