This is the beginning of a 3 part series where we examine whether players are potential building blocks or trading blocks.
We've heard about the Cubs philosophy of converting short term assets into long term assets and it makes a lot of sense given the Cubs present situation. But if there's one thing I don't like, it's getting trapped into a line of thinking to the point where it becomes dogmatic. My question is to what extent do you practice this philosophy? When do you start keeping assets? What is the age cutoff where you begin to consider a guy a "long term asset"? Does organizational depth at the position come into play?
We've heard some speculate on trading Starlin Castro for prospects, which I am vehemently against because it's a trade of both present and future value in exchange for speculative future value. It's a deal that's likely not going to work unless the haul is so big that it practically eliminates any risk. I can't even begin to describe how unlikely it is for such a trade to happen on either end.
To a lesser extent, I've also heard similar speculation from Cubs fans on Jeff Samardzija and the chances of dealing him are every bit as slim for the same reasons.
These are not the type of players I want to discuss right now. What I'm interested in are the "non-core" players. At what point do you decide that you want to trade these particular players for prospects?
Now, I don't want to deal in theoretical scenarios such as, "If you get surplus value in return, then you make the trade." That's a given in theoretical terms, though much harder to define in practical ones.
What I'm thinking about are trades like the Cubs made last year. How long do the Cubs trade present day value in the hopes of reaping surplus future value? What we want to do here is take a look at some players that some have earmarked as potential trade candidates.
The first part of the series will focus on players who are already a couple of years into their theoretical peak seasons. They are veterans but still young enough to still be productive by the time the Cubs are able to contend.
This compares somewhat to the Paul Maholm situation. We have a 29 year old finesse pitcher who is outperforming his peripherals. He's young enough to be part of the long term answer but not so special where he's too hard to replace. Villanueva is off to a good start in terms of his results (2.29 ERA) but his FIP (4.04) suggests that he's still pretty much the same pitcher he's always been. Yet, he does enough of what the Cubs like to give him long term value as a 4th or 5th starter -- and that is throw strikes while still missing bats. I expect Villanueva to be one of the more interesting names to get bandied about later this summer. Is he a sell high candidate or will teams still see him as a durability issue with his usual peripherals and low-ball the Cubs? If it's the latter, then the Cubs need to walk away.
Garza, 29, is also young enough to be part of the long term situation and has more upside than Villanueva but the questions here are obvious. Can the Cubs depend on Garza to be healthy going forward? Is he willing to sign an extension that will provide the Cubs value? Complicating the situation is that his value has taken a big hit. How much can the Cubs truly get for two months of a suddenly injury prone Matt Garza? Do you trade him for a similar package as the one the Cubs got for Ryan Dempster? Do you revisit a deal for the struggling Mike Olt? I'm not so sure you can't get more value at this point with a reasonable contract extension.
He's a guy who I liked early on because I liked his potential to perform outside of AT&T with most of his ABs coming against RHP. Another 29 year old, he's a guy who is beyond the 27 year old threshold yet still in his prime years range. Schierholtz could be a bit of a late bloomer and embodies what the Cubs are trying to do, which is to get more athletic, get better defensively, and adding hitters who are willing to take pitches and put up quality ABs. So the question is this: Can the Cubs get enough value for Schierholtz? Or will this be similar to the Bryan LaHair situation where teams see him as a platoon player? If that's the case, it's possible other front offices won't be willing to give up enough value for him to make it worth the Cubs while.
Schierholtz does have the advantage of being more athletic and an asset on defense, but again, those are the things that make him more valuable to what the Cubs are trying to do. There is a potential replacement in AAA in Ryan Sweeney, whom the Cubs may lose if they don't promote to the roster sometime in the next month. Bryan Bogusevic is another option as a good athlete with the arm to play RF. Schierholtz's one year deal and potential ready-made replacements at Iowa make the acquisition of MLB ready talent less of a pressing issue than it does with either pitcher, but I still think it needs to be a factor. If the Cubs can't get a good player who helps them in 2014 and beyond, then maybe it's better to re-sign Schierholtz. They can always find another OF position for Sweeney and/or Bogusevic if the Cubs decide they want to keep them around.
Another player who may qualify here is Edwin Jackson, but the feeling is that the Cubs won't trade him this season -- if at all, so we're leaving him off the list for now.
The bottom line is that all of these players are in a gray area as far as possessing both short and long term value. The biggest question then becomes trade value. My thought is that if you can't get upper level, ready or near ready MLB prospects with impact potential, then I don't see a lot of value in trading these guys. The Cubs don't need more Barret Loux's Marcelo Carreno's or Kyle Hendrick's, in my opinion. Nothing against those guys, but I think the system already has their share of those kind of players.
The Cubs players mentioned in this piece all fit into the Cubs philosophy. They provide present day value and are still young enough to contribute by 2014 and 2015. If the Cubs can't get more than low level, C grade prospects for them, then I think they need to pass.
I'm all for building a stronger farm system but the Cubs need to start transitioning into a team that adds players who give them short term value in addition to their long term value. No players on the current Cubs sit on that fence more than Carlos Villanueva, Matt Garza, and Nate Schierholtz. So, if the Cubs trade these guys, they have to recoup players who will also give them value in both the short and long term.
Next: In their prime, "non-core" players.