There's an interesting article this morning by Phil Rogers suggesting the Cubs aren't done and are going after at least one more top prospect..
This despite already being well over their spending pool, by one estimate $629,700 but that doesn't seem to include the most recent signing/agreement of C Johan Matos, whom we mentioned a couple of days ago. He signed for $270K, which would make the overage approach around $900,ooo mark. But all of that is speculative as exact amounts aren't known yet.
But here's the thing...the Cubs aren't done yet. And what that could mean is that the Cubs may just ignore the limit and incur the penalties for next season. The Cubs front office is enamored with this class at the top end and aren't as optimistic about next year's class, according to Rogers. So the possibility is that the Cubs could continue to pursue whomever they want and then live with the luxury tax and, more importantly, the $250,000 limit they can spend on any player next year. With uncertainty about next year's class, they could just go for volume next year.
Of course, the Cubs may just be blowing smoke here. They've already twice traded for pool money, indicating that they had no intention of exceeding the spending limit. They've also been careful to not officially sign everyone so as to give themselves the opportuntity to trade for more pool money. If they didn't care about the limit, why bother waiting at all?
Perhaps with their hearts set on all the players they've already agreed with and/or signed so far this season, teams are trying to extort a good prospect or player and the Cubs are unable to complete trades. At some point the value of more seasoned prospects exceed what's available on the international market. It's one thing to trade a prospect like Ronald Torreyes if it means signing a special talent like Eloy Jimenez, but maybe not the same when it comes to signing some of the lower ranked players still available. If the Cubs don't have as much esteem for next year's class, then trading for this year's crops "in exchange" for the guys next year makes a lot more sense than trading current prospects or players they'd rather hang on to.
You may also recall that ESPN's Sahadev Sharma wrote that acquiring pool money was not a priority, according to Theo Epstein. When they did that right off the bat with the Scott Feldman/Steve Clevenger deal and then the Torreyes deal, the first thought was maybe that he'd pulled the wool over our eyes. We wouldn't blame him if he didn't want to reveal his strategy. But today's article seems to indicate that perhaps he wasn't being deceptive at all. They will try and trade for pool money, but the key phrase is that it is not a priority.
But then why bother trading Torreyes at all? That's where it gets kind of interesting. It could just be as simple as the Cubs making an attempt to acquire pool money at the outset, but now find themselves running into a stalemate when it comes to negotiating a deal for more money. In that case you would rightfully say that the Cubs misjudged the market and basically gave Torreyes away for what amounts to nothing if they're going to exceed the limit anyway.
But there's another possible explanation. The Cubs may have soured on Torreyes as a prospect and the idea of trading him meant little to them in terms of losing value. I can't help thinking back to the beginning of the year when Torreyes showed up about a week late to spring training. Even though the seemed to get back up to speed quickly, the Cubs held him back when the AA season started anyway. And even when he was activated, he played sparingly to start the year. It made me wonder whether this wasn't just your garden variety visa issue. Perhaps there's more to that story that we don't know about. It's just speculation and I don't want to delve into that, but it seemed to me the Cubs were making a point by holding him back.
So in that sense, maybe they figured they'd unload a guy they didn't value highly anymore and give it a shot to see if they can recoup as much pool money as they could. If it didn't work out, they were ready to absorb that loss.
Of course, what makes it even easier to absorb that loss is the presence of Javier Baez, who has made significant progress this season and is having an excellent season at Daytona. He may be ready for a promotion to AA and while Torreyes was a 2B and not technically blocking Baez, there was SS Arismendy Alcantara, whom we consider the Cubs 5th best prospect. Should we read anything into the fact that Alcantara has strictly played 2B since Torreyes was dealt. Could the Cubs be making room for Baez at Tennessee? The consensus has been that Alcantara would eventually move to 2B anyway and now that he is perhaps a year away from the big leagues, the Cubs are beginning that transition now. If that's the case, they weren't going to let a decent, but not great, prospect like Torreyes get in the way. The Cubs don't lack for utility type prospects, especially if they only play one position well. If Torreyes doesn't start at 2B --which is likely, his lack of speed, defensive versatility, and power doesn't give him a ton of value off the bench.
But we can't forget the main point and that is that the Cubs are looking to load up on international talent this year. As Rogers said, they have their eye on at least one top prospect and the speculation is that it could be two players who have yet to turn 16,
The two most intriguing guys still out there are Dominican 15-year-olds Luis Encarnacion and Leonardo Molina, who aren’t eligible to sign until their 16th birthdays. Molina, a speedy center fielder who is extremely athletic, turns 16 on Aug. 1; Encarnacion, a third baseman with raw power, turns 16 on Aug. 9.
Those two players certainly seem to fit the Cubs profile. Molina as an athletic, middle of the field player and Encarnacion as a player with plus power potential at a corner spot. In a sense, given their age, they could be the Cubs de facto 2014 signings anyway. Molina is the 5th rated player in this class and Encarnacion is the 4th.
We could find out more today as the Cubs are reportedly set to finalize the Eloy Jimenez deal. If no trade is announced in conjunction, that means the Cubs are officially over the limit and can no longer make trades to make up the money. And if that's the case, expect them to continue going after top international players with no regard to any of the CBA's imposed spending limits.