The first thing we need to do is take inventory here.
Here's who's in...
- RHP Jake Arrieta (from Orioles)
- RHP Pedro Strop (from Orioles)
- RHP Matt Guerrier (from Dodgers)
- $963K in international pool money -- which means top IFA prospect OF Eloy Jimenez
- SS Gleyber Torres (IFA)
- RHP Jefferson Mejia (IFA)
- RHP Erling Moreno (IFA)
- C Johan Matos (IFA)
- OF Dave Sappelt (from Iowa)
- LHP Chris Rusin (from Iowa)
- RHP Scott Feldman
- C Steve Clevenger
- RHP Carlos Marmol
- 2B Prospect Ronald Torreyes
- OF Ryan Sweeney (60 Day DL)
The Major League Players
The Cubs traded 2 1/2 months of Scott Feldman, who is essentially a back end starter playing above his peripherals right now for two power RHPs, SP Jake Arrieta and RP Pedro Strop.
Jake Arrieta is the real prize here as he was once considered one of the game's best SP prospects. He once threw 92-94 mph but he has stepped that up and now sits in the mid 90s and is capable of reaching the upper 90s. He also throws a hard curve, a change, and a slider that has 90 mph velo. He's a power pitcher with an elite arm but poor command.
It's not exactly easy to pick up 27 year old pitchers with front line results so the Cubs did the next best thing -- pick up a guy with that has front line stuff and hope that they can translate that ability to performance. The key for Arrieta is to command his great stuff and he doesn't need to be ultra-fine with his command. For him it's more about throwing strikes and getting ahead in the count so that he can use his superior stuff to put hitters away with more regularity.
Pedro Strop has closer type stuff but Marmol like control, but he's cheaper, younger, and perhaps more fixable at this point. Strop is just one year removed from a 5-2 year with 3 saves and a 2.44 ERA (but 3.59 FIP) and an even better 2010 in which he posted a 2.05 ERA (2.56 FIP) when he held his walks to just over 4 per 9 IP. His stuff is good enough that he doesn't need to be a strike-throwing machine to succeed -- but there is a fine line, he does need at least adequate control.
Matt Guerrier is going to be 35 years old and isn't really a part of the Cubs long term future. He essentially saves the Cubs some money and replaces him in the bullpen. He'll throw more strikes (3.6 Ws/9 IP) but he's not exactly a control artist either. The hope is he'll give the Cubs the type of steady presence that Shawn Camp gave them last year.
The acquisition of Arrieta and Strop indicates that the Cubs are looking to get help for as soon as next season -- well, this season, really, but nobody expects the Cubs to win. Arrieta will slide into Feldman's spot and Strop will replace Marmol's role as the guy with scary stuff and scary control. The Cubs get a good 2 1/2 month look at both pitchers and should get an idea of how they'll fit in next year.
Dave Sappelt gives the Cubs an OF'er who can play all 3 positions and a RH bat to complement LH hitting Bryan Bogusevic in CF. Sappelt had little success early in the season and did not tear it up in Iowa, though he did hit the ball better toward the end of his stay there. He's just a 5th OF'er and shouldn't have a huge impact one way or another. The Cubs likely wanted to keep other roster options like Brett Jackson, Junior Lake, Matt Szczur, and Logan Watkins down in the minors for more seasoning. No sense taking ABs away from them to be the 25th man on the bench this year.
LHP Chris Rusin will get the start tonight but as of now it's unclear as to whether it's just an emergency start or this will be a full time gig. With both Arrieta and Carlos Villanueva in the mix, it's likely that it's just a one time deal for now. The Cubs cannot stretch Villanueva out in time. I expect Jake Arrieta to get a shot at the rotation once everything settles but he is reportedly headed to AAA for now.
Losing Scott Feldman is the big blow as far as how well the Cubs do down the stretch -- but it's obvious the Cubs aren't going to win this season and while they won't try to lose, Epstein has said that there is no glory in eeking out 5-6 more wins at the end of the year to finish with 77 wins instead of 72. For the Cubs long term plans, it's best they finish with 72, not that I'm going to sit in front of the TV and root for them to lose -- but when the smoke clears and the season ends, and you ask me whether the Cubs have a 77 win non-playoff team or a 72 win non-playoff team, I'll take the latter. The record doesn't really matter except that the Cubs will put themselves in better position to get more talent via the MLB Draft and IFA pool in 2014. A few extra wins this year doesn't help them in 2014.
The Cubs also lost a young, cost-controlled catcher in Steve Clevenger which isn't ideal, but with Welington Castillo all but anointed as the catcher of the future, Clevenger was likely going to be a role player in Chicago. The loss of Ronald Torreyes hurts the system a little, but the Cubs have all kinds of depth as far as middle infield prospects and Torreyes projected as more of a utility type with one standout tool -- his uncanny ability to put the bat on the ball.
The Cubs also cleared a 40 man roster spot by placing OF Ryan Sweeney on the 60 day DL, which likely shelves him for the rest of the season, or at least until the last couple of weeks. He probably did enough between Iowa and Chicago to earn a spot on the roster next year, if not the starting lineup.
The International League Free Agents and Pool Money
This is long term but the Cubs picked up one of the top 3 talents, if not the top talent in the draft, SS Gleyber Torres. Torres is an instinctual player with advanced skills on offense and defense, though he may lack the athletic ability to stay at SS. The Cubs are betting that he can. If he does, he has the bat to hit for average and some power. Scouts compare him to Freddy Sanchez.
The 2nd official signing is pitcher RHP Jefferson Mejia, who has great size at 6'7", 225 lbs and the velocity to go with it. The 18 year old currently throws a 90-93 mph fastball with obvious room for growth in that area. He also has an advanced change-up. In what seems to be a pattern with the Cubs, they've been acquiring younger pitchers with good fastballs and changes, figuring they can teach the breaking ball later with the fringe benefit that it may save early wear and tear on the arm. Recent draft picks Kevin Gausman (Orioles) and Michael Wacha (RHP), have shown that you can learn that breaking ball in the minors and move quickly. Because of a paperwork snafu, Mejia is able to sign a 2013 contract, meaning he can start pitching this season.
The Cubs also signed Colombian RHP Erling Moreno for $800,000. Moreno, 16, is currently at 87-90 mph. He has a big frame and projects to be a power pitcher as he fills out and gains strength. He pitches with good downward plane and has the makings of a good breaking ball and change with most scouts preferring the change right now.
The Cubs also signed C Johan Matos out of the Dominican Republic.
The Cubs haven't officially signed him yet but if Torres isn't the top talent, than it's very likely that OF Eloy Jimenez is. He's a toolsy player with a fluid swing that lacks some lift right now, but it has good plane and stays in the strike zone a long time, indicating he should hit for a decent average. The Cubs will likely tinker with that a bit as Jimenez has the potential size and strength to be a power hitting RF'er in the mold of Vladimir Guerrero. Detractors don't like that he doesn't show up much in games yet, but at 16 he's got plenty of time to improve as far as game performance. He probably won't move as quickly as Torres. The Cubs have almost $2.5M left to sign Jimenez but there could be more moves to come. The Rangers loom as a threat, however, as a team that could just sign him and punt next year's class.
None of these players will be top 10 prospects and probably not even top 30 prospects at this point, but they certainly add to the waves of talent the Cubs front office is trying to build. These guys are a few waves away but the hope is that they keep the talent flowing to Chicago.
The Cubs improved their chances for 2014 with the addition of Arrieta and cleared more room with the subtraction of Marmol. Overall the Cubs got younger and added a great deal to their overall talent level at the sacrifice of some immediate production. It's a trade they had to make -- and will continue to make -- given where the team stands right now.
This is the beginning of a process that will likely lead the Cubs to another limping finish down the stretch yet have them well-prepared for next season. There are still deals to come. Matt Garza should be traded soon as well, perhaps after another couple of starts. I expect the Cubs to obtain prospect talent in that deal rather than another MLB ready deal, so we'll have plenty more to write about when that time comes.
Filed under: Analysis