Winter has frozen our most distant memories of warmth, pleasant weather and baseball. We're left with endless speculation on what the Cubs can potentially do next. It's not all bad, speculation season is a fun one as we all get to try and climb inside the multi chambered minds of the front office folks.
There are a wide gamut of trade ideas and personnel moves I've read about and heard from fellow Cub fans. Some of them border on the absurd (Shark for Bradley and Skaggs!), while others make sense to varying degrees. Trades are a funny thing with many moving parts and machinations. Wheels we'll never see turn to deliver a deal from a simple thought to a concrete reality.
None of this is to say that we should stop the idle speculation, it's part of the fun of being a fan. But we should take a bit of a harder line against ourselves when we cook up some of these ideas. I'll present a few of the most popular ideas I've heard about and why I think they work or don't work.
Darwin Barney to the Yankees
In the wake of the Robinson Cano departure the desire to see Darwin Barney shipped to the Yankees for anything substantial has been bandied about a bit on the twitter machines.
Yankees will need defensive second baseman for late innings. Cubs Darwin Barney former Gold Glove winner would be nice platoon (Johnson)
— Bruce Levine (@MLBBruceLevine) December 7, 2013
It works in the way that most theoretical moves work from a fanbase's perspective. Team A has a need, Team B has a player who would fill that need and is considered excess by fanbase and everybody wins. However, I don't think that's quite the case here. Sure, the Yankees went out there and acquired Brendan Ryan to fill a hole at shortstop last year but considering their current roster construction I think it's fairly unlikely that the Yankees will be falling over themselves to trade for Darwin Barney. I like Barney's skill set but I recognize that it's probably not a first division starter skill set. I would temper expectations here.
Brett Gardner to the Cubs
This is closely linked to two other popular trade ideas, the aforementioned Barney to Yankees theory and the Samardzija to the Yankees idea.
How about Darwin Barney for Brett Gardner as principles in a trade. Donnie Baseball, Valbueba, Olt take care of 2nd/3rd. Baez mid-season up
— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) December 7, 2013
It's really hard to find underrated Yankees but I think Brett Gardner is an underrated Yankee. Gardner provides value with OBP via a solid BB% (10.3 over his career), he has enough gap power to take advantage of his speed, and really good defense. Gardner is seen as excess because of the Jacoby Ellsbury signing and lineup constrictions created by the odd assortment of talent the Yankees have put together. The Cubs need a true CFer and another bat to augment their rather anemic looking offensive lineup. There are issues, however. He's kind of old (30) and he's out of arb years after 2014 meaning the Cubs will have to either extend him or play the compensation game with him next offseason. It's a good idea, but contractually I don't think it works.
Jeff Samardzija trade ideas
These are popping up all over the place. There's also the possibility that Samardzija isn't traded at all and is extended with the Cubs at some point. There are a lot of suitors for Samardzija at this point; Toronto, Arizona, Baltimore all seem to be in the mix. We've written ad nauseam about a potential Samardzija trade. There's a lot of smoke gathering around the idea but a fire has yet to be confirmed.
Castro trades, position switches, Baez to secondbase, etc etc
There was a bit of a hulabaloo regarding the front office making the claim that the Cubs will stick with Javier Baez at shortstop but are willing to keep his options open. This all of course leads back to the Starlin Castro trade ideas since it seems that there's a backload of talent ready and willing to replace Castro at short, third, second and center. The Cubs might be crowded in the infield if everything breaks right.
That's the big question, though, "if everything breaks right" is a dangerous dream whose pitfalls and cresting nature leads to irrational behavior and overzealous wishcasting. I'm guilty of it too. I've filled out the Cubs potential lineup just like everyone else has. It ignores the sky high failure rates these guys have though. There are no sure bets in baseball, just good ones. Castro struggled last year and it's an open question whether he'll be the superstar talent he teased at in his first few seasons or Yunel Escobar in blue pinstripes. But he's done it at the major league level before where those other guys haven't yet. Penciling in Javier Baez as Castro's replacement is understandable but a bit premature.
Castro has a very team friendly contract which makes it enticing to keep him in the fold while also attracting other teams who need a cheap shortstop with high upside. Much like the Samardzija idea this has good roots in reality but there's still a considerable distance to travel in connecting the seeds of a thought to a concrete realistic outcome.
All of the relievers to the Cubs
The Cubs have work to do everywhere on their ball club but the bullpen is the most noticeable issue. Wesley Wright helps but he's hardly a cure-all. So, there's talks of John Axford, Andrew Bailey and a slew of other relievers potentially coming to the Cubs in an effort to shore up their pen. They all make sense to varying degrees. Bailey won't be ready until later in the year but he'd be an interesting security blanket. John Axford has stuff and mixed results so he'd fit in very well with this current crop. Most other relievers not named Papelbon can be had at reasonable prices (monetary and trade value wise) so realistically this is something that can and likely will happen.