Evaluating the Cubs options

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.


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.

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.

Filed under: Cubs

Tags: Baseball, Cubs, hot stove, mlb

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    Looks like Nick Franklin of Seattle might be available.

  • Any chance there is a fit with Seattle if they are un-able to work out a deal for Price. They are looking for a bigger name SP and then desperately need OF help. Off the top of the head is this a realistic deal..

    Cubs get:

    Danny Hultzen
    James Paxton
    Nick Franklin

    Seattle gets:

    Samardzija
    Schierholtz
    Another MLB player to sweeten the pot (Barney or Russell?)

    I think it fits for both teams. It's going to be hard to get a top 25 prospect in baseball that is a pitcher for Shark, and with Hultzen coming off of the shoulder injury that may be the way to get one. Paxton is a lower tier top 100 guy who is coming of a little of a down year, but is MLB ready and will slot right into the rotation, and Franklin could be the answer at 2B. He's only 22 and the Mariners have no home for him with the Cano signing.

    Just an idea, but I'd do that deal.

  • In reply to bjsill3:

    I think we'd be giving up way too much in that deal. I'm leery of shoulder probs, so I'd rather get someone other than Hultzen in that deal. I would like Franklin, though!

  • Are we though? The only thing of true consequence is the 2 years of Shark. Schierholtz is solid, but he's not irreplaceable and the same goes for Barney/Russell. Mean while we'd be picking up a 22 year old 2B with nearly a year of MLB experience already and who was ranked as high as the #47 prospect in baseball coming into last year, an MLB ready left-handed SP who is only 25 and was ranked as high as the #57 prospect coming into last year, and another left-handed starter who is a top 20 prospect in terms of talent but is going to be recovering for a serious injury. The time to grab a guy like Hultzen is now IF you can get him because that injury reduces his value a lot.

    With the Mariners in win now mode I think it would be worth talking to them right now. They need players who can help them right now.

  • Agreed. Avoid Shoulder problems. Elbows can be fixed. Shoulders not so much.

  • In reply to bjsill3:

    I have to think about this one. It needs scrutiny which I don't mean in a bad way.

  • In reply to Mauricio Rubio Jr.:

    Nice informative article Mauricio. My only objection is that although Gardner is a good defensive outfielder, he is a Left fielder because of his weak arm, not a center fielder. When the Yankees play Granderson and his weak arm in center ahead of Gardner, that says volumes.

  • In reply to krn99:

    Yeah there's definitely that issue. On the Cubs current roster he's definitely the starting CFer, but it's gonna become an issue real soon ala Juan Pierre and his pie arm.

  • In reply to bjsill3:

    I won't give up that much I think Samardzija and Sheirholtz is enough for Paxton, Franklin and I would take a SP names Edwin Diaz.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    I like your thinking here too Kevin. I just have to think if Seattle can't get a Price deal done, they would definitely be interested in Shark so wanted to hear some possible ideas.

  • In reply to bjsill3:

    That's a great deal for the Mariners, but a horrible deal for us. Hultzen is coming off a shoulder injury that was serious and Paxton has been a real disappointment for them. Shark is the only pitcher we have who could be a front of the rotation guy and Schierholtz is one of only two consistent rbi guys for us.

  • What are the pros and cons of acquiring Jeff, Price or Garza

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Jeff is inconsistent as hell so that's the major con with Samardzija. Price has innings on his arm and Garza has a spate of injury issues and inconsistency as well. Weird gap between stuff and results with Garza. He'll want a big boy contract as well.

  • Good stuff, Mauricio. It's a nice lead up to the winter meetings.

    Gardner is intriguing to me but only if the cost is 1 year of Gardner.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Thanks man!

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    I feel like we're having the Gardner discussion one year early. I definitely think he's a guy we should look at when he's a free agent next winter. He's interesting to me because, if Almora does come up in 2015, in the very short term we could move him to left and get production out of Almora and then make a long term decision in the off-season.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I wouldn't trade Gardner if I were the Yanks. If I did, I think the rumor to the Reds for Bailey is a good one. It would take a little more than Gardner, but that would be a good fit for both clubs.
    I agree that Gardner could be a nice target for the Cubs next offseason.

  • I don't know if I agree about the bullpen being a weak point at this point - especially if a vetran like Axford can be added to the mix. I also agree - that adding Wright off another team's discard list was a very shrewd move and a danged nice price.

    I mean with Russell (assuming his arm hasn't fallen off), Wright, Grimm, Strop, Parker, Rondon, Arietta (if he doesn't make the rotation), Rusin, Villanueva and possibly Vizciano (if he continues to hold up) in the bullpen mix - I think that issue is settled out for the most part.

  • So I'm thinking out loud here, but the Yankees are shopping Ichiro, and I'm wondering here if trading for him and giving up something minimal might put Tanaka over the edge to sign with the Cubs as opposed to other teams.

    I'll eat $6.5 million in salary to a now-mediocre outfielder if it lands Tanaka no problem. Cost of doing business.

  • In reply to Jim Weihofen:

    I think of that as well. I'm not eager to help LAD or NYY free up money right now.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I'm not looking to help them either, but this might wind up being the best use of Brett Jackson. Got to believe given Ichiro's salary that they're about on par in terms of talent.

  • In reply to Jim Weihofen:

    *on par in terms of value

  • I keep harping on it but I absolutely love the idea of Ackley. I think he'd be one of those "table setters" that KG wrote up a while ago. I think his skillset would very nicely compliment RH thunder coming through pipeline. I also like the positional flexibility.

  • Phillies want to dump Papelbon, I wonder if eating his salary would net a bigger return from them. Does anyone have thoughts on Jesse Biddle, LHP in Phillies system?

  • In reply to Nateisnotnice:

    Biddle is a solid arm. I just don't know if the Phillies have the depth to make a package for Samardzija beyond that.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Most (many) feel he is an overrated/overvalued prospect.

    I'd be disappointed with him as a headliner, especially considering the fact that Philadelphia doesn't particularly have a deep farm system.

  • In reply to Average Samaritan:

    I tend to agree there. I think the Cubs will have to get their pitching prospects elsewhere.

  • Agrees on shallowness of PHI system. You'd have to think Dom Brown would be part of a 3-teamer there.

  • In reply to Carl9730:

    Not a fan. He is the epitome of a one-hit (one-month) wonder.

    He's still only 26 and was at one point one of the best prospects in baseball, but I just don't feel as if he will pan out.

  • In reply to Carl9730:

    or we could just ask for a package of Biddle/ Franco 3B /PTBNL (Crawford the SS) and flip 1 or both the position players. Phillies system stinks .

  • Under the scenario I suggested, he ends up with "3rd" team. I think we're narrowly gunning for SP prospects in Shark deal.

  • Brown is to defense what Barney is to offense, so perhaps they could offset each other. But seriously, Brown has talent but injuries have always held him back. He would be a good fit in Chicago, but more so with the While Sox than the Cubs. I could see a Beckham or John Danks for Brown deal having potential.

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    It would seem that Theo and Jed hope for Samardzija to be the last face card in the deck when it's all said and done. I wonder, should the Dodgers be able to satisfy their desire for another starter in free agency, if they won't turn to the Cubs. Anyways, here is my idea for a trade with the Dodgers.

    Cubs send Samardzija and Alcantara to the Dodgers for Pedersen, Lee and Chris Anderson as a PTBNL. Anderson is a 2013 draftee, and he would have to be a PTBNL if he were dealt. Some of you might recall that the Cubs took him in the 35th round in 2010. Lee has the higher floor, but Anderson definitely has the higher ceiling.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    It is a rather intriguing trade possibility. After all the hyperbole on Lee without him proving anything in A-ball, he had a very solid 142 innings in 2A where he has established himself as a solid middle of the rotation prospect. Anderson is a lot like Shark; he's a college reliever with a fresh arm but very little experience as a starting pitcher. He averaged 3+ innings as a starter in the minors which is far from impressive for a "potential" starter. Pederson is another intriguing guy; he could be another Hunter Pence or he could be a Brant Brown. His 70 walks in 400 ab is impressive but his 114 k's would be 180 for a full season, an awful lot for a leadoff hitter. He reminds me a bit of the lefty outfielder Green who played for Toronto and the Dodgers. It would solve two major problems for the Dodgers, but I'm not sure where it would get us.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Can't do PTBNL trades with 2013 draftees yet. PTBNL have to be identified no more than 6 months after a trade. 2013 draftees aren't eligible to be traded 6 months from now.

    If the Cubs wanted to make a deal like that, they'd have to wait until February or so to do the deal.

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    I'm preparing myself for no moves at all. I don't know about you guys but yea-I want some new faces. That said, trading Shark doesn't make us better for next year. I'm all on board and think highly of Epstoyer and trust-but certainly ache for them to be decent next year. All the good offenses have a corner bats. Yes, I think Baez, Bryant, Rizzo and either Olt or Soler could be those bats. But it sure would be nice if we had a middle of the lineup stud, an Ace and a lights out bullpen right now. Maybe Vizcaino helps us this year?

    So yea, if we're holding down the fort awhile longer, it would be good to get a legit leadoff man who can steal some bases. From that stand point I like Gardner.

    As for Shark if Scott Boros was marketing him-he would be dubbed the next Max Scherzer. A guy just about to break through, a healthy arm and a fierce competitor. And you have two years at 5M apiece to get him there. I'd say that's worth more than Garza. It doesn't have to be for prospects either. It could be for the veteran piece like Scott Rolen was for Cincy. What if it were for Matt Kemp? Wouldn't that be a hoot. If he's healthy and you're out of it, you could spin him for prospects at the deadline.

  • In reply to Dale Miller:

    You can forget about Gardner. There's no chance the Cubs acquire him unless it's to trade him to another team before the season starts.

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