Mike Olt could be the first domino to fall in Cubs prospect chain

Just 2 years ago, Mike Olt was the 2nd best prospect in what was perhaps the game's strongest farm system. Baseball America had him as the 22nd best prospect in all of baseball. That was behind only Javier Baez among Cubs prospects. He was basically about as untouchable as Kris Bryant is today.

Then mysterious vision issues led to a horrendous 2013 season. With the Rangers having Adrian Beltre at 3B and numerous infield prospects on the way, Olt suddenly became expendable enough to be included as part of a 4 player package for 2 months of Matt Garza. In fact, at the time many Cubs fans were most excited about the pitching they received. They had just drafted a 3B 2nd overall in Bryant and many believe that Baez was/is a candidate to be the 3B of the future. There is also depth in the system with Christian Villanueva and Jeimer Candelario. What's more, Olt's performance did not improve upon joining the Cubs. It actually got worse. Obviously this was not a case that a simple change of scenery could solve.

However, it turns out the solution may be even easier than that. Olt's issues have seemingly stemmed, at least in part, to allergy issues that affected his vision. The Cubs believe they have the right medication now and Olt is slowly beginning to make people believe he can be the player many thought he was just last spring.

Here is what Baseball America said about him just over a year ago in February of 2013,

With plus raw power and strong hitting approach, Olt is a threat to go deep anytime he steps to the plate. He works deep counts and piles up both walks and strikeouts, so his average will settle in the .260-.270 range...Scouts say Olt is a joy to watch defensively, owing to his agility and ability to make throws from any angle... A potential all-star, he could open 2013 in the big league lineup or get a couple of months in Triple-A.

If Olt is healthy, we can almost apply that description to the upcoming 2014 season. Does Olt get a do-over?

Even if he does, it doesn't guarantee him a job.  We have to remember the Cubs got surprisingly good production from a 3-headed platoon monster at 3B last year. Together they managed a respectable .320 OBP with 31 HRs, a .770 OPS, and above average defense overall. That said, the Cubs got 20 HRs from Donnie Murphy and Cody Ransom. It's a lot to expect for that to happen again. It seems far-fetched to me that the Cubs can expect a repeat of that kind of performance from the short side of a platoon.

So perhaps Olt will get a legit shot to win that 3B job and if not, he'll be on speed dial at Iowa. There are no real concerns here about cost-control. Olt only has 33 MLB at-bats and is 25. He'll turn 26 in August. He still has his 6 years of cost control and won't be arb eligible until 2017. That means he'll be 33 when he becomes a free agent and 29 when he will file for his first arbitration. There really is no reason to hold him back from a financial standpoint if he's ready.

He certainly seems to be seeing the ball well.  He has impressed the Cubs in practice and then yesterday hit an absolute bomb way beyond the LF fence.  Back in November, we wondered whether Olt may be a key piece for the Cubs rebuilding process in 2014 in part due to some optimistic projections from Bill James that sees him as outproducing Luis Valbuena in 2014.  Olt seems on the verge of providing us with an answer this spring.

If anything does hold Olt back, it's the sore shoulder that has prevented him from playing 3B this spring.  Olt can play 1B at Iowa while he recovers, a luxury he wouldn't have on the MLB team with Anthony Rizzo on the roster.

If Olt is able to win and retain the Cubs 3B job, it begins to change the complexion of the team for both past and present.  It pushes Valbuena to a utility role and Donnie Murphy into a battle for a utility infielder spot with Emilio Bonafacio, Logan Watkins, and Ryan Roberts.  Additionally, Valbuena becomes a short term MLB ready substitute for incumbent 2B Darwin Barney should Barney struggle again.

Deeper in the system, success by Olt puts top prospect Baez in a position where he'll almost certainly play a middle infield position, which is what he prefers.  With Castro at SS, Baez could move to 2B and give the Cubs an infield that should be well above average on both offense and defense.  Meanwhile, Kris Bryant has the bat to play a corner position in the OF.  With Castillo catching and Almora looking about as sure a bet as any prospect in the Cubs system right now, the Cubs could have 8 long term position players in place by sometime next season.

But the first domino is Olt and it appears he just may be the guy to fall and start the chain of events that lead the Cubs into a new and exciting era of baseball.

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  • I fear it may be an Olt or Alcantara situation for the infield.

    Also it is becoming more clear that a LH outfielder might be out biggest need outside of a TOR.

    It would almost seem that Soler might be the odd man out in that situation, unless the FO doesn't mind Rizzo being the lone lefty.

  • It's possible. Alcantara is athletic enough to play anywhere, though.

  • Where you see "odd men out," I see valuable assets that can be traded in the future for that LH-hitting corner outfielder and TOR if they continue to develop. These are really good problems to have.

  • Great article! I think that Olt could be one of the lynch pins of the Cubs rebuild. If he emerges, it suddenly allows the Cubs to start trading off surplus parts at a position of need throughout baseball, it gives them more middle infield candidates than position players, it lessons the need to rush Bryant to the majors, it suddenly starts to give the Cubs a fairly formidable looking outfield if Soler re-emerges this year, and it generally strengthens the Cubs overall minor league system.

    Here's to hoping and wishing on Olt!

  • In reply to JB88:

    Thanks. It certainly seems to open up a lot of options for them if he can be the Olt he was just 2 years ago. I think someone gets traded at some point to get pitching and/or balance out the lineup.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Yep. There's a fair amount of prospect love these days for the Cubs' kids, but the honest question that has to emerge is where do you put a guy like Alcantara if Olt emerges?

    Olt slots in at 3B, Baez at 2B, and, by the time all that happens, Almora may be making a push for AAA. If that happens, you might have to consider trading Alcantara, though I would hate to see that happen seeing as how he offers something the Cubs don't currently possess, a fast, switch hitter, who profiles as a top of the order bat.

  • In reply to JB88:

    He should beat Almora by a full season to the bigs. That would give him a full season of mostly everyday playing. If he hits, he can stay on as a super sub / utility type with lots of pt vs RH pitching. he would be a very valuable bench piece.

  • In reply to JB88:

    No need to trade Alcantara. Baez has a better chance of playing adequate big-league SS than does Castro, who has multiple flaws there. Trade Castro next offseason. Baez also could play LF. Anyway, we think alike. I also consider Alcantara a keeper.

  • He's definitely one of the guys that can make a huge impact on our season. That being said, he still has limited MLB & AAA AB's w/o really having any success at either level. I think they'll have to be convinced he's MLB ready for him to break camp with the team. But like you say; He'll definitely be on speed dial in Iowa...

    As a side note, I've often wondered why people considered Edwards the center piece of the Garza trade. The FO may have in fact targeted CJE, but as we know they also targeted Olt. That trade really could turn out to be an epic win for us...

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Baseball gods evening out the Mark Teixeira deal (Andrus, Feliz, and Saltalamacchia).

  • The 'Boys' will have to figure something out. I don't see the Cubs sending out 7 right side hitters and Rizzo against a tough right handed starter.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    True, but Castro, Baez, Bryant, Almora, and even Soler have all proven effective vs RHP. With the depth at 3B that we have, teams in need will come calling...

    I think ideally we'd like to target a CarGo type for LF. If Bryant is pushed to RF, that may make Soler available... The other thing to consider is they will probably continue to platoon Beef as much as possible, just to keep him fresh and extend his years behind the plate.

    There's a lot of different ways this could all play out. But I don't see them moving anyone out until they know who will make it for sure and who may not...

    Still our biggest organizational needs are TOR SP, Power LH positional players, and catching depth...

  • In reply to 44slug:

    They will. Alcantara is a lefty option though he's not a power guy. Doesn't fit well in a corner but with that kind of offensive infield, maybe you live with it.

    Also very possible they will need to make a trade at some point.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Alcantara is our future 2B and a switch-hitter. The last thing I'm worried about is R/L lineup imbalance. Or too many talents at one or more positions. There will be attrition. There will be trades. There will be appreciable spending on veteran fills when the time is right.

  • There is real excitement this spring. The talent is progressing to the higher levels of the minors and knocking on the bigs door. Now just acquire some top of the line starting pitching prospects to balance out what is already a top 7 system. I know it's easier said the done. I expect them to deal Jeff and acquire 1-2 guys that fit into the timeline with the rest of the position prospects. Future looks bright.

  • The winds of change are blowing at Wrigley, and a World Series trophy will be left in the wake. Absolutely incredible!

  • In reply to edubbs:

    I think I'm really starting to feel it this spring with these prospects performing so well -- and so close to the bigs.

  • Dear John,

    I would describe my mood after reading this article as gitty. It is a hopelessly optimistic and I love it. There is nothing that I would love to see more than Olt solidly himself as a ML third baseman and force others to adapt to new positions around the diamond.

    An infield of Rizzo, Baez, Castro and Olt could be looking at 100+ home runs and a decent OBP. That would allow AA to play a super utility role and be the speed off the bench. That would leave Solar, Bryant and Almora in the outfield, which would be equally tantalizing. Maybe with Szczur (ReedJohnson2.0) in the 4th outfielder spot.

    Coming back to reality, that is a ton of right handed bats and only happens if there are no injuries and no failings....

    Nope, I prefer to stay in my dream world. See you in 2015.

  • In reply to KC Cubs Fan:

    Haha! I don't know if it will all work out that way. I hope so but I think the Cubs are going to move some assets around once they get a clear picture of where the pieces fall into place.

  • In reply to KC Cubs Fan:

    I agree. Plug me into that Matrix!

  • While I certainly would love to see Olt open the season as the go-to 3B guy in Wrigley - there is no need to rush him if he needs more work to keep getting back to what he could have been, and if he needs time for that shoulder issue to heal up.

    3B - Olt
    SS - Castro/Baez
    2B - Baez/Castro
    1B - Rizzo
    C - Castillo

    Sounds like a dandy bunch of guys to have in your infield come mid-summer 2014 and beyond. Then they just have to figure out how to fill out the OF.

    Ruggiano, Lake, Schierholtz, Sweeney + Vitters works for me in the OF,... With some combination of Bonifacio, Roberts, Valbuena, Barney, Watkins and one of the back-up catcher options filling out the roster,.....

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    Then you just add in the developing prospect pieces to the OF mix as they are ready,.... and by 2016 maybe we see an OF with Soler, Bryant, Almora, Alcantara - or a lefty OF free agent we could depend on,.....

    Man that starts to look good offensively and defensively,.... and then just have to cap off the team with a solid rotation - some parts of which the Cubs may already have.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    There is no rush -- but also no reason to hold him back other than health if they think he's ready.

  • Dammit John...stop getting my hopes up!

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    Haha! Sorry ;)

    Got to say I'm optimistic about Olt right now. Cubs may have stolen him from the Rangers.

  • That home run yesterday put a huge grin on my face. I think he is looking like a keeper. I do temper that internally but he's making me happy right now. I agree with ChiTown on Alcantara. I really am hoping for him to turn into our leadoff man at second base(he won't take CF from Almora). Of course that means either someone flames out or is traded. Depending on how things shake out, we could end up with a line on a TOR through trade. Here's hoping for an embarrassment of riches.

  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    Hoping there is a way to fit Alcantara into this as well.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    if AA comes anywhere near his ceiling there is absolutely no way they dont find a spot on the field for him , he provides the switch hitting speed / decent pop combo that the Cubs have been without since.... if the Cubs find 8 other position players better than him then you are looking at a modern day big red machine type lineup with more power top to bottom .

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    not to mention if Junior Lakes baseball skills catch up with his tools you have a Mike Cameron type player too.

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    I know I've harped on this a lot, but I have a hard time seeing the proposed lineup actually come to fruition because it is obscenely right handed (at least six of eight starters). I feel like, if Olt does establish himself this season, short term Baez gets moved to second and probably comes up this summer. That lets you have three big righty bats in the infield counterbalanced by Sweeney, Rizzo, and Nate.

    However, before guys like Bryant and Almora take their spots from them, I have to think one of Olt/Castro/Baez will be moved, possibly for pitching possibly for the impact left handed bat we're currently lacking.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Agreed Mike - beyond 2014 - I think we're going to have to see somebody moved for one (or both) of those two key pieces.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I think the Cubs will have to move some assets at some point. For now they just need to let it play out, see where the pieces fit and then worry about lineup balance.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I'm admittedly not well-versed in this, but I still can't understand why there's such a pressing need for balance in a lineup. Want, sure. But need? It's one thing if a guy has much better splits on one side vs. another. That I get. But if the players we have in the lineup can hit righties just as well as lefties, honestly, who cares? Am I missing something here?

  • In reply to Matt Mosconi:

    I agree 100%, I think people get caught up in lefty righty but if alcantara is not better than anyone on the field at the time are we still going to give him a starting role ? I like what theo said about this same situation yesterday, The great teams and organization have depth. We trade from depth but there is always injuries. I have bad news for some people getting a lefthanded bat or TOR starter is going to cost more than one player. It will start with one of your young players at the major league level and prospects.

  • In reply to Matt Mosconi:

    Steve Stone years ago opened my eyes about some of the advantages a balanced lineup can give a team.

    1. It can have an effect on opposing pitchers rhythm by him having to focus on left and right handed hitters. Especially the backend of some staffs.

    2. Puts more pressure on a bullpen.

    3. Gives a team more flexibility with its own team construction. Maybe allows you to lean more towards a speed guy or defensive specialists off the bench etc. As well as adding arms.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Waaaaaay too soon and waaaaay too many unknowns with the current crop of Rizzo/Castro/Castillo/Baez/Bryant/Almora/Olt/Soler/Alcantara/VoeglBOMB/Villanueva/etc/etc/etc... to be worrying about LH/RH 2016 line-up balance.

    Assuming they all hit their ceilings, which will never happen... but all those projected line-ups that make everyone so giddy right now are really just (pipe dreams)... so play along and assume that happens, then yes; some assets will be traded to fill voids i.e., TOR SP & LH position players.

    But what I don't see happening is them moving their best assets just for the sake of LH/RH balance. So assuming they all hit their ceilings, you can effectively call Baez/Bryant/Almora untouchable and we'd have to get completely blown away to move Castro. We trade surplus, when the time is right and never a core player w/o receiving 2 core pieces in return.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Great article John. I have to agree with you here Mike. If Olt pans out someone on the left side of the infield at the MLB level is going to get traded. I think it is going to take shape by August of this year for timeline and which person. We already know they aren't trading Baez. If Alcantara tears up AAA and Olt is doing what he has the talent to do at the MLB level, that will force our hand to trade Olt or Castro. Both are cheap assets over the next 6+ years so it might come down to what team will give us the most excess value for one of those two. I am with John in that waiting and letting it play out to see where everyone is talent/development wise after this season but I am thinking next offseason will be the one we have been waiting for, for the past several years. We could go after both a lefty outfielder and a TOR arm and start off next year with some real excitement!

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    In reply to IowaCubbie:

    I wouldn't dismiss the option of trading Baez out of hand. From a fan's perspective, it's the last thing I want but he's probably the single most valuable piece the Cubs have right now, including Castro, Rizzo, and Samardzija. If Theo is afraid of something (I can't see it from here, but, then again, there's good reason I'm here and not running the Cubs), he may try to capitalize on that value.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    I usually agree with most of what you have to say but this comment makes absolutely no sense. Theo would be crucified if he even thought of trading Baez

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    yeah, and what every cubs fan dreads is we trade him and he becomes the next lou brock... :(

  • Trading at positions of strength makes me nervous. I hope that the Cubs don't fool around and trade a further Hall guy.

  • After seeing the Cards luck out on prospects like Wacha and Pujols over the years it's about time the Cubs get themselves a break with a player like Olt. As good as the other prospects (and yes, pitchers too) have looked this spring, Olt is the key to speeding up the rebuild. I share your optimism John and hope he can find his way to the 25 man roster quickly this season.

  • John,

    How soon before OLT starts playing 3b here in the Spring?

  • In reply to rakmessiah:

    I think they'll take it slow and we may not see it until closer to the end. That may hold Olt back for awhile if the Cubs aren't sure hes ready to play 3B everyday.

  • Don't be surprised when ("if") Olt shows great strides on the ML level that he would become trade bait for that TOR ready guy they want. When the other dominoes, Baez, Bryant & Alcantara are ready waiting in the wings to be called up for their turn. It would really make them serious players near deadline to acquire that near ready TOR stud, especially if they were to package a Samardzija, Hammel, EJax or other(s) with a "possibly" already ML producing Olt. Not saying they'd do that, just saying they could listen & just maybe get blown away by offers. It would give them options.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    I don't think the Cubs would trade Olt if he establishes himself as a starting MLB 3B and put all their hopes on prospects -- especially a guy who has 6 years of cost control. At some point you have to put players on the field and stop pushing the timetable back for prospects. If he wins the job they'll keep him and move the others around.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I just don't see a whole starting lineup of just farm hands & the TOR only acquired thru FA. They're short a #1 & #2. Those just don't fall off the tree at the end of the season via FA to 1 team. This isn't fantasy baseball.

    Eventually 1 or 2 of these prospects goes. And they are deep at 3B candidates. It's just a reality & common occurrence at trade deadlines or hot stove season that top level prospects & young MLers get traded. Whether it's Olt, who I just threw out as an example, because of the higher ceilings projected for the other dominoes, Baez & Bryant. W/Alcantara, a switch hitting MIFer, slightly behind in the near ready, next tier down dept. who could realistically be the next 2Bman.

    The Padres were listening when teams wanted their young 3Bman Headley. Just like I said, "just saying they could listen & just maybe get blown away". The Padres weren't so held onto him, but doubt they were deep in the near ready candidates who could play 3B w/high ceilings like the Cubs are.

    And the Cubs won't start them all with out changing several of their positions or trading Ruggiano, Lake or others to make the room. Schierholtz & Sweeney are the only LH OFers even if Bryant switches to OF. Luis V. the only LH on the bench. And doubt those guys would bring the value Olt would in a package for a TOR candidate anyway.

  • This example with Olt is one that drives me crazy when people say that organization don't sell low on prospects. I think they do it more than is imagined. It might be time to go after some of the recently injured top pitching prospects (if for no other reason that, when healthy those type of prospects usually demand a king's ransom)

  • In reply to travelguy:

    For the past two years, the Cubs have been going after the potential stars with flaws or question marks.

    Vizcaino had surgery and may not make it, but if he recovers, he could be a star.

    Edwards is too thin and lacks endurance and will probably have to move to the bullpen, but if he gains weight and endurance, he could be a TOR.

    Olt has eye problems, and may never make it, but if the eye problems are resolved, he could be a star.

    In those cases, they chose to gamble on a big win, rather than bring in the "safe" prospects that were probably their alternatives. Catching lightning in a bottle was the only possibility they had to bring in potential core players in a hurry.

    But I think the time for that is ending. I believe that if a strongly performing Olt is traded, it will be for a strongly performing player in return, not for a question mark that will be either a home run or a strikeout. They may still do that with mid-level talent, but not with the top tier.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    While I agree somewhat with yours & travelguy's premise, I disagree we bought low other than Vizcaino. Garza, even though 2 & 1/2 months left on his contract, wasn't really selling "low", he's a legit candidate still to be a TOR. Vizcaino, you pointed out yourself, was a gamble. But even in his case, yes he could be "core", but definitely not "in a hurry" as you claim. Because we still don't know if he's ready, what role he'll fill or be the pitcher he's projected to be. Same goes for Edwards, minus the injury. We got him while he was in A ball. Not AAA or even AA. So while he could be "core", definitely not "in a hurry" either. Even Perez, who I like a lot & who was also acquired & in AAA last year, is still probably a season away.

    But the rest of your post I pretty much agree on. It is time to get some talent who is either already in the show or darn near close to it vs. these 2 & 3 years off prospect talent.

  • If Otl comes through, I think he sticks. FO values defense, especially in the infield. Bryant's defensive ceiling is limited, as is Valbuena's offense.

  • In reply to Oneear:


  • Does anyone see a scenario where Bryant doesn't go to Iowa and the PCL and absolutely crush the ball like Rizzo did before his mid-season call up? The only thing that will keep Baez off the roster this year is his defense. I think by July we see an Olt-Castro-Baez-Rizzo-Castillo infield.

  • In reply to Ike03:

    I think you meant Baez in that first sentence?

    I can see a scenario where he struggles with breaking balls and pitchers pitching around him. They could try to exploit his aggressiveness. That said, he's shown he can adjust quickly so if he does struggle, it likely won't be for long.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Agreed. I think he will be up by the trade deadline at the latest.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Yes sorry, meant Beaz.

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    In reply to Ike03:

    FWIW, I heard Hoyer (on the radio a couple months ago) say that Bryant is "the type of player who may skip AAA altogether"

  • I know that voices of reason will advise caution but, I'm putting Almora, Baez, and Bryant in the Cubs bank for 2015. My only question is what positions Baez and Bryant will be playing.

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    If Olt, Alcantara, Villanueva, Baez, and Castro all hit, somebody is getting traded, maybe 2 somebodies. And Bryant would have to be ticketed to RF?

    Any chance we would trade Baez and/or Bryant? Challenge trades are very tough, but if we want a TOR, those are the guys that are going to bring you top value back, not Olt or Alcantara.

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    The depth that the FO has been trying to create may be finally materializing. An excess of talent is always a good thing. Who's to say that Olt isn't the trade piece that we use to bring in the top tier pitching prospect(s) with? If he finally lives up to expectations, there will be plenty of interested suitors come trade deadline time. If the Baez's, Almora's, Soler's, and Bryant's of the world come along as anticipated, it may make Olt (if he indeed is performing) expendable. Isn't the "if" game fun?

  • Hmmm..it appears someome brought out the Cub koolaid and is passing it around.

    Way too early to think this big about the future.

    Way too early.

  • In reply to JK1969:

    It's usually John who reels us back in!

  • In reply to JK1969:

    Olt could start the season with the team. That's early?

    Please tell us when it's the "right" time to think about the future.

  • In reply to JK1969:

    Sorry but I disagree. Anytime there is something to get excited about is the right time with the Cubs. Its not that I'm ga ga about their chances this season but fans like me that have been waiting so long with our hearts on our sleeves for something good will always get excited whenever there is good talent coming up. After all, what else is there to be excited about with the Cubbies these days. I will drink the kook-aide until it turns sour. Still, every year I hope for a sweet ending.

  • In reply to Bilbo161:


  • How worried about this sore shoulder should we be?

    It all fits do nicely & makes me so excited I've got to remember it's the cubs & they've always been in the business of crushing my hopes.

  • In reply to Morgzie:

    The Cubs don't seem to be too worried. It looks more like they're being cautious.

    I have a feeling that our hopes won't be crushed this time, whether Olt is a part of it or not, the Cubs look like they're going to put some talent on the field soon.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Agreed on the talent. And glad to hear about the caution. It's awesome and I love the building of an organization not just a team. Gives me a lot of hope.

    And in my 43 years of being a cubs fan I've learned a lot about enjoying the process and not pinning all my hopes on winning or having things go well.

  • In reply to Morgzie:

    I haven't been a Cubs fan quite that long (but I'm getting close!) but completely agree with that last sentence. I've learned to enjoy the journey and this time it looks like it may lead somewhere.

  • Fair question about the right time to think about the futurem and one that does not have a right answer.

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    For the sake of a theoretical exercise, let's assume all things remain the same with our current stable of prospects and young players, and they all continue to progress as expected/hoped (which clearly they won't, but let's just say they do).

    Let's also assume that neither Justin Masterson nor Max Scherzer make it to free agency, and also the Cubs FO determines James Shields too old to spend big money on.

    In this extreme scenario, who do you target as a TOR candidate in a trade either next off-season or the one after, and what package do you put together to get it done that doesn't wreck the core and/or farm?

  • In reply to Chris Trengove:

    That is a tough question. My hope would be that the Cubs could find guys the way the Cards found Carpenter and Wainwright, but you can't count on that kind of luck these days. I might target pitching prospects, possibly in a deal with Samardzija if he doesn't sign. But I could also go the opposite way and trade surplus prospects for a young veteran. David Price and Chris Sale are candidates, but they may break the bank and there are long term health issues with Sale.

    I think the best bet may be to gamble on a young, under-performer the way the Cards did or the way Detroit did with Scherzer. I'd have to think about who those candidates might be.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Great response! And I'd love to hear who you think those young, under-performers might be.

    I'm having similar difficulties in identifying potential TOR trade acquisitions.

    One name that's popped into my head is Mat Latos. I have a little bit of difficulty believing the Reds will have the cash to extend him, as well. But even if that's true and Latos becomes a FA, it won't happen until after the 2015 season.

    Another guy I've speculated on is Mike Minor. The Braves have spent a lot of money extending their own, but Minor was not a part of that deal. He'd probably require a significant haul to pry away, though, and I'm also not even positive if he's a TOR guy.

    ...Jeff Samardzija could be on the cusp of pulling a Max Scherzer. Did you see that Fangraphs article that tried to identify the next Scherzer? It mentioned Samardzija and Andrew Cashner as the two most likely candidates (http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/looking-for-the-next-max-scherzer/). If Samardzija is showing those strides early in 2014, I'd be eager for the FO to pony up the cash.

    And with regards to Cashner, maybe he's a guy they consider reacquiring.

    Lots of options, but no definite routes, which makes this exercise, as you said, really tough.

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    In reply to Chris Trengove:

    **I didn't conclude my thought regarding Mat Latos. Also, I see it highly unlikely the Reds would trade him to a division rival.

  • In reply to Chris Trengove:

    "The answer my friend is blowin in the wind" Bob Dylan.

  • In reply to Chris Trengove:

    The way I see it the ideal situation would be Olt breaking out at the MLB level and taking 3B. When the others get here Bryant Almora and Soler can take the outfield Baez and Castro are the middle infielders, Alcantara becomes the super utility guy. At this point the FO decides the best way to address the three major needs by way of trade. The needs at that point are, TOR arms, lefty bats, and speed/leadoff types. Lefty bats would probably need to be in the outfield so what do we do then? Olt could be traded with Bryant coming back to the infield or Castro (hopefully the old Castro) would also make an interesting trade scenario allowing Baez to move to ss and Alcantara taking 2B solving the lead-off situation and adding a switch hitter. At that point an outfielder could go in exchange for a lefty counterpart. Easy as pie right?

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    In reply to Bilbo161:

    Ha, couldn't be simpler. Naturally, none of this from a position player perspective will be that easy. But let's say it did - I'm not of the opinion that you must acquire another LH hitter for the middle of the lineup. We'd theoretically have Rizzo, and also there have been RH-dominant teams in the past that have performed quite well.

    Also, I'm not in favor of spending resources on a classic "speedy" leadoff hitter. In my opinion, that's a little old school, and I'd be very happy with a non-speedy, but high OBP player at the top (such as an Albert Almora at his ceiling).

    So that's why I'm focusing my "future-related" conjecture on acquiring a TOR guy.

    Though if they acquired a Jason Heyward or Carlos Gonzalez type... I wouldn't be opposed.

  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    Until they draft Trea Turner and it throws it all off again. Haha!

  • target Jarrod Parker , I think he hits arb next year and could be about the time the A's typically start to move their good players.

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    In reply to Bryan Craven:

    Not a bad idea. As long as the FO projects Parker to get better, I'd be in favor of this.

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    Parker is a possibility. I know that the Cubs were set to take him if the Royals had taken Vitters, so the old guard (i.e. Wilken) really liked him a lot.

  • I hope Olt can win the job and provide us with a main stay at 3b. Just a question. What if Olt doesn't win the job? Where will Olt, Bryant, Villanueva, and Candelario be? It will be hard to spread them out so they all can get the reps they need.

  • Nice article John, because of our lack of left hand hitters do you see Sheirholz getting getting traded? Regardless of whether we are in the cellar by July I don't think he's expendable at this point.

  • In reply to CubsBuck22:

    I don't think Schierholtz is a long term solution for them. Sweeney might stick if he hits for power, but I think their big LH hitter has yet to be acquired. I'm still hoping for CarGo if the Cubs play well in the first half and the Rockies don't.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I'm wondering if there's a Vogelbach and Soler for Polanco deal to be made. (Within the division would be like chewing tinfoil for both GMs, though.)

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    ???????? Are you kidding me? He said last year that he didn't even know if he wanted to play in 2014 and if he did it would have to be close to home. Please tell me how this would make any sense at all to trade for another 3rd baseman when it's our most stacked position??? Especially one who only hit .250 last year

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Isn't our big LH bat Anthony Rizzo? I know it'd be ideal to have more than one, but there have been successful RH-dominant hitting teams in the past.

  • In reply to Chris Trengove:

    I'm sure there have been. Balance is an ideal situation but I don't know if it's one the Cubs should obsess about. I do think they'll add a 2nd lefty in the lineup at some point, but no need to force the issue right now. They can reassess after they see how their pieces fall into place.

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    In reply to Chris Trengove:

    This is not asked sarcastically: who are they? I've been unable to find any.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    Well there certainly aren't many. The first to come to mind is the 2006 Cardinals who had Jim Edmonds. Aaron Miles was there, too, but was pretty below average.

    The '98 Astros had Carl Everett and an oft-injured Bill Spiers. The '09 Cards had Rasmus and Schumaker. The '08 Cubs had Edmonds and Kosuke. All RH-dominant.

    So like I said, not many, but I don't think another LH hitter is as pressing right now, as John suggested. I'd love a Heyward or CarGo type lefty, but I hope they prioritize TOR pitchers.

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    In reply to Chris Trengove:

    The '06 Cardinals are deceptive. They also had Spezio (switch hitter) and Chris Duncan getting over 300 PAs each and hitting 13 and 22 home runs. Duncan split playing time with So Taguchi -- starting 60 games -- essentially adding another lefty bat there. What's significant about the Cubs is that we're talking about guys who you would not want to platoon under any circumstances. Also worth noting on that team: they DID go out and get Miles after losing Larry Walker, and his OBP wasn't terrible (.326). I'd argue the reason they got him to play second was precisely because he was an average offensive player who happened to hit left handed.

    I'll grant you the other three but, interestingly, they won a playoff game between them. (The Astros against the Padres.) I'd argue that isn't coincidental.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    Mike, that's a very good point.

    Although I want the FO to prioritize a TOR pitcher before LH bat, a Jason Heyward acquisition could make a lot of sense.

    I'll play devil's advocate with myself - what is more common in winning teams than a RH-dominant offense is a pitching rotation without an ace. Point in case, see the 2014 Red Sox. Although we'd all want a Verlander/Kershaw/Strasburg/Hernandez/Wainwright/etc. type, perhaps a more balanced lineup is more easily attainable than a TOR arm.

    The problem is where do you put the LH-hitter, though. I know I'm way ahead of myself, and you have to let things play out. But right now vacant positions are slim to none.

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    In reply to Chris Trengove:

    **"right now" as in our theoretical lineups if Baez, Bryant, Almora, Soler, and Olt progress as expected/hoped and join Rizzo, Castro, and Castillo in the majors.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    The real expensive years in CarGo's contract start to kick in next year. The Rockies are in a real tough division, as we know, and if starts to look to them like they need to re-tool or do a mini-rebuild, the Cubs might be an attractive trade partner, as our prospects will be another year along in their development.

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    So they've essentially turned mark Derosa (who became Chris archer), hak ju lee, chirinos, gruyer and fuld into olt, cje, grimm and ramirez. Take out the throw-ins, it's archer and lee for olt and Edwards.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    Essentially but the Cubs may get a couple of bullpen arms out of this as well with those throw ins. The throw ins on the Rays side are not factors with the team anymore.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Any word on Hak Ju Lee? Is he recovered from the injury that cost him the vast majority of the 2013 season? He was off to such a good start last year for the rays AAA squad.

  • I'm cheering for Olt! Saw one of his first games in the big leagues against the Royals and saw his first major league rbi! Hopefully he pans out and you have Baez at 2nd, or even LF. We'll say 2B and Alcantara possibly pushed to CF. These things tend to work themselves out over time

  • Has anyone told 30 pound lighter Dan Vogelbach that there's no way he can play LF and balance out the Cubs all RH batting order?

    I'm still having problems believing he would be worse than Soriano, Dave Kingman, Greg Luzinski, Ron Kittle, Oh'Henry, Matt Stairs, George Altman, ...

  • In reply to DropThePuck:

    He may not be worse than Kingman or Kittle, but the game has changed these days. There's a much bigger emphasis on defense.

    Vogelbach needed to lose the weight to play 1B at an adequate level, but I don't think he's a good enough athlete at any weight to play the OF. It would be great if he could. That would fill a big hole for them.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    John, here's where we disagree. Left field is the easiest and least consequential position on the field. the first baseman has a chance to impact the game and the play of others several times an inning.
    If the 1B can't pick a short hop throw, another player is charged with an error. Typically, about a dozen times a day, someone is throwing the ball to first - and that's not counting pickoffs. A left fielder might go all day with a only a routine ball or two hit his way. Meanwhile, a first baseman must be agile enough to charge and field a bunt, turn a 3-6-3, practically do the splits to snag poor throws, or jump high in the air and make a tag in the way down, cut off incoming throws home from the OF and catch a trailing runner, etc.
    The left fielders job is to catch fly balls, run down the ones he can't catch and then throw to the guy with his arms in the air.
    Bottom line, you can hide an immobile guy at first. But it's harder to be a good first baseman than it is to be a good left fielder.

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    In reply to DropThePuck:

    i was actually wondering if the weight loss put third base on the table. It's doubtful but, if it does, a left hand hitting third baseman with plus hit tool, plus power tool would be a very valuable asset. (Still likely wouldn't break through here with guys like Olt, Bryant, and Baez ahead of him.)

    For now, though, I'll be happy if he plays average defense at first base.

  • I'm like Mike on left handed hitters. I lost count as to how many years the Cubs were short of that second hard hitting lefty. Also Mike P. makes a really good point on left field defense. I also don't want to short chance John's view on changing philosophy in baseball and we know this front office will not short change defense. I do think we will need that left side bat though.

  • I'm excited about Olt. My only real concern is that he squeezes Alcantara out of the future starting line-up (provided everyone reaches their respective ceilings and Starlin stays with the club, of course.). As far as the present and future are concerned though, its so nice to have all these quality players!

  • Hannemann is already 22 and close to 23. He is poised to move quickly through the minors. He may help out the lefty bat situation in the OF.

  • John, do you think Kyle Schwarber might drop far enough for us to grab him in the second round? I imagine that probably depends on whether teams think he can stick behind the plate. I personally doubt he can though. He could help fill the LH void we have right now in the system. Really love his approach\power and I think he could move quickly through the minors.

  • In reply to Mike:

    I think it's possible but it's a double edged sword for exactly what you are saying here. He can hit, but the question is can he stick at catcher. If he can, he may go first round, if not he slips. One scout I talked to wasn't optimistic about him sticking at catcher.

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