He's good...so what can we get for him?

As we all know, I'm supportive of the rebuilding process.  I understand the process has changed because of changes in the CBA, especially the part about getting multiple compensation picks in exchange for (sometimes mediocre) departing free agents.

The fact that you have to offer a qualifying amount reduces the pool of free agents that can potentially bring back draft picks -- and even when they do bring them back, they no longer bring back multiple picks.  It's one pick and only for those departing free agents who are good enough to receive a qualifying offer.

The draft pick compensation loophole that was exploited so well by teams like the Rays and Theo Epstein's old team, the Red Sox -- and even the Cubs in Epstein's first year (Pierce Johnson and Paul Blackburn were comp picks for losing Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena) -- has been closed.

So the Cubs have turned to an alternative -- trading players at the deadline to try and create their own compensation for players they are about to lose.  They did this well with Paul Maholm (Arodys Vizcaino), Ryan Dempster (Kyle Hendricks, Christian Villanueva), Scott Feldman (Jake Arrieta, Pedro Strop), and Matt Garza (Mike Olt, CJ Edwards, Justin Grimm, Neil Ramirez).

Dumping 40% of your rotation the past two years has a second "bonus", it weakens the team down the stretch to the point that,  instead of focusing on meaningless late season wins, the focus becomes on how high a draft pick you can procure.  So, on top of all that, you can add Albert Almora and Kris Bryant to the list of players the Cubs have been able to obtain, in part because the team tanked after roster crippling sell-offs at the trade deadline.

Lastly, the new CBA has been a deterrent for rebuilding teams when it comes to signing free agents.  After all, if you're not going to be good for 3-4 years, then why sign a 30 year old player who may get you an extra 2-3 wins over the next couple of years?  Instead, by keeping that pick, you get a LH starting pitching prospect like Rob Zastryzny in exchange for resisting the pleasure of signing Michael Bourn and the 2 wins above replacement he brought last year.

This is all sound strategy, is it not?  After all, among the names listed here, you can argue that this very strategy has brought in 11 of the system's 15 best prospects.

So why I am I growing a little weary of it?

In all honesty, I'm looking forward to the day when this strategy becomes an afterthought and not the main focus of every season.  I'm looking forward to the day when a guy like Jeff Samardzija breaks out and has a great season and the first thought that pops in our head isn't,

"Wow, he's pretty good!  So, what can we get for him?"

I'm looking forward to the day when we say, "Wow, he's pretty good and we think he'll be good for another 3-5 years, what can we do to keep him?"  I'm as big a prospect hound as you'll find, but I find myself looking forward to the day when the Cubs are in a position to keep known talent rather than pushing back the timeline to gamble on more prospects.

I know that this is sometimes inevitable.  If Jeff Samardzija and the Cubs are going to play a game of negotiation chicken, at some point the Cubs need to make a move and salvage what they can before he loses trade value -- and that value begins to depreciate rather quickly after the trade deadline this year.  I also understand that if Kevin Towers is going to freak out and offer the Cubs Archie Bradley, then it becomes an offer they can't refuse.  It becomes a simple matter of common economic and baseball sense -- you're getting the same pitcher, possibly better, for cheaper and for more years of control.  To top it off, a deal like that for a near ready MLB arm doesn't really push back the timeline all that far.  So yeah, I get it and if it's offered, I'd expect the Cubs to jump on it.

But a trade isn't always going to be that clear cut.  What many would consider fair would be a lesser pitcher (a bottom of the rotation type) with greater cost control and a couple of low level, high risk prospects with a #3 starter ceiling.  So if you're lucky, you get a downgrade now in exchange for more current cost control +  an equivalent pitcher 2-3 years from now.

At some point, that is going to start making a lot less sense and that point will come when the Cubs find themselves on the brink of contention.

The problem I find with rooting for one more bad year to sell off parts and get another high, protected pick is that it would almost certainly mean that the Cubs didn't get enough production from a young core of players.  In the cases of Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, and even Mike Olt, they will go from potential core pieces to areas that potentially need to be addressed.  They'd be starting from square one and now counting on the next batch of prospects to become the new first wave of core players.

Instead, what I'd really like to see is for all of those aforementioned players to play well, for Samardzija to reach the next level and force the Cubs to consider keeping him, and for the next wave of prospects to be just that -- the next wave, and not a do-over because the first set of core players failed.  And please don't tell me that the Cubs young core can make significant progress yet somehow the team can still lose 95 games.  It's not going to happen.  If this core of young players play up to their expectations, then the Cubs won't be terrible enough to get all the consolation goodies we want at the deadline, the offseason, and the draft.  It will almost certainly be that if the young core performs, then the team will follow suit and improve.  It's either that or they all go down together.  There is no picking from one and not the other here.  The two destinies go hand-in-hand.

I know it is said that not much could be worse than a .500 season, but to me if that means that Rizzo and Olt combine for 60 bombs, Castro is back to his line-drive, .300  hitting self, Castillo becomes Molina-lite, Samardzija steps it up so that his results actually mirror his stuff, and the young arms form an intimidating Cardinals-like bullpen -- and then later adding Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Albert Almora, and others to that core for 2015, then I'll take .500 in 2014, a newly signed Samardzija, and my mid-1st round pick with a smile on my face.


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  • Amen, brother! I plan to copy and paste those last two paragraphs in a reply to the 1001 or so comments that will be posted here between now and July 31st calling for Shark to be traded. They set forth exactly what I've been thinking/hoping since the end of last season -- except I'd like to see Baez to get up here in June or July, not next season, and help this team catch fire.

  • In reply to TTP:

    I hope to see Baez this year as well.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I cant wait to see Baez as well. Unfortunately he is going to strike out a lot add him to Olt&Rizzo you have a pretty large group of rally killers. I would like to see Bonafacio,Kalish,Castro,Castillo & Schierholtz together at the top of the order. We need to have a group of guys that can put good AB's together in the lineup. So maybe a lineup of: Bonafacio,Castro,Kalish (not sure he is ready for it) then Castillo, Schierholtz,Olt & Rizzo. I would move Rizzo to at least 5th.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    Bryant has swing & miss to his game too...

  • I saw this article and was like "Oh John!!!!! Don't be that guy…."

    Thankfully you didn't go there.

    I too would like Samardzija to pitch well enough for Epstoyer to consider signing him. Because the other idea is that someone is going to meet Theo's price, and that clearly is never going to happen.

    And to trade Samardzija for 65 cents on the dollar seems silly to me.

    Good first step. let's hope for more….

  • In reply to felzz:

    That title is as close to April Fool's as I will get.

  • "In the cases of Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, and even Mike Olt, they will go from potential core pieces to areas that potentially need to be addressed."

    John- this is such a great point and I agree with your premise. If these guys perform how they should, we should flirt with .500.

    I feel like I always learn something new when I read your articles. Keep them coming!

  • In reply to JasonB:

    Thanks Jason! Will do.

  • I'm excited to see what Theo and Jed can do with a good team!

  • Agreed!

  • My only problem with keeping is what the market thinks we is worth.
    I would rather have 2 top piching prospects that are cost controlled
    for 4-6 years.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    That kind of package has not been offered.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    What is the potential that Grimm and Ramirez are eventually starters? And would you evaluate their stuff, projected, as 2 or 3 starter?

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I agree with your thoughts here John. But........ (there is always a but)

    Most of us here at Cubs Den probably assume that Castro and Rizzo will have a bounce back season. And Castillo will hopefully improve more over last seasons decent year.

    BUT, we wouldn't be Cubs fans if we weren't looking for the other shoe to drop. The assumptions on the players mentions MUST be accomplished for a "keep" Shark campaign could be entertained. If not, trading him just makes more sense if we are to stay on the "grand plan" Theo has laid before us.

    But on the other side of the coin, if Castro and Rizzo do not bounce back, I see no reason to stay confident in this rebuild. After all, it was this FO that gave Castro the extension. It was this FO that traded away a fine pitcher in Cashner to get Rizzo and than signed him to a long extension. It looks to me that Castro and Rizzo were the cornerstone that this FO chose to build us a WS Champion.

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    If Castro and Rizzo struggle again, then the Cubs will be looking toward that next group, but I consider that the worst case scenario. I want them to be good enough where a fire sale isn't a foregone conclusion -- unlikely this year, but Im really looking forward to that day.

  • The FO would never trade Samardzija for .65/100! The Cubs have plenty of no. 3-5 starters. What they lack is 2's and 1's. It they can't get an AA TOR pitcher or better, or a bevy of lower level fireballers, they will not trade. And don't forget that Samardzija is not alone. There are other pieces to include in a trade.

  • Does anyone know what Samardzija wants in terms of years/dollars?

  • In reply to xhooper:

    I think it's just more that he wants to wait and prove himself than anything. Cubs can't afford to wait until after deadline because they lose trade leverage (no QO can be made for team that obtains him next season).

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    "What many would consider fair would be a lesser pitcher (a bottom of the rotation type) with greater cost control"

    I simply don't see the attraction of "cost control" when it comes to low quality players. It's a back-end pitcher, who cares how cost controlled he is!? Every AAA system, even the Cubs, has a guy or three that can fill the #4/5 slot, I don't see the point of getting another one in a trade. If Chris Volstadt was 3 years pre-arb would we be rejoicing that we had this lousy - but cost-controlled! - pitcher in our lap?
    For Samardzija, I'd much rather get 1-2 relatively sure things (ok, as sure as a prospect can get) than 3-4 high risk/high ceiling types, and getting injury rehab guys being the centerpiece of a trade is getting a little old.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    I agree and I believe they can get their own cost controlled bottom of the rotation starter from their own system (i.e. Hendricks).

  • Well John, I believe all of us would love to see Shark, Castro, Rizzo, Barney et. al. succeed because we're familiar with them. And it all boils down to simple cost/benefit analysis for Shark as well as all veterans who are approaching free agency. The reality of the new CBA has totally changed the landscape for teams attempting to improve without spending an additional $50-100M/yr. in FA.

    That has basically shortened the season to two months, and teams like the Cubs have to evaluate whether to go after a playoff spot or prospects. As much as I hate to watch the team lose two out of every three games after the ASB, knowing that Kris Bryant, Albert Almora, and a pitcher like Kolek/Hoffman are the payoff isn't so bad.

    I read an article today where it was suggested that Theo was now in Phase II of the rebuild, which was to bring prospects to the majors after shedding the albatross contracts of aging veterans in Phase I. It's a near certainty that the Cubs will be dealing Shark in July, and only a miraculous first half appears to stand in the way of that from happening.

    Hopefully Castro & Rizzo can progress to where sell-offs no longer occur, but if they continue to scuffle then I have no problem with moving them either. As hard as it is to root for different players every year, it's much easier when the team is winning ball games.

  • In reply to Paulson:

    It doesn't have to do with familiarity, it has to do with starting over with a new core and pushing the timeline back.

  • This sums up my thinking for the past year or so regarding Shark and the rest of the young guys on the team. He should only be dealt if it is an overpay. He is right on the edge of being a veteran and being a part of the young core. What has always swayed me to the side of keeping him as part of the core is that he does not have as many innings on his arm as most guys his age and he has no injury history. None. That is very rare for a guy his age. And that adds significantly to his value in my mind. He is as good a bet to stay healthy and provide innings as any pitcher in baseball. His build and athleticism profile as a classic TOR horse. And he has legit strikeout pitches. Trading Shark is the one move that I think would significantly setback in the timeline for contention. I don't take that step unless I am sure he is unwilling to sign or I get a huge haul in return.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Shark isn't really that young anymore. his potential is of a #1 but so far his numbers really aren't much better than someone like Hammel or 5-10 guys that are available every off season. If he gets hot and someone wants to overpay for him I don't think the FO has much choice but to trade him. Whether we keep Shark or not we still have to go find that TOR guy, we have a few breakout candidates that can give us what shark has given us: Edwards, ramirez,johnson all could fill that void and guys like Grimm, Hendricks, Jokisch are capable of being very good #5 starters. I just think that is how the front office is looking at it and they should.

    Now if we get hot and are in playoff contention then shark isn't going anywhere this year.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    It was very encouraging that Samardzija pitched to contact so well yesterday. If that is indicative of his maturing as a pitcher, he might be a TOR, and worth ponying up for.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    All do respect, Edwards & Johnson aren't likely to even get their first cup of coffee til 2015 and it will be 2016 at the soonest before they can be counted on, and that's "IF" they can be counted on. Grimm and possibly Ramirez are being viewed by this FO as relievers and not starters so I'm not sure why you feel they can fill any void created by the departure of Shark. Hendricks & Jokisch have proven to be nothing more than finesse MiLB players. Maybe they'll make it as a #5, maybe as a middle reliever, or maybe NOT at all.... I seem to recall people banking on Brooks Raley to be that #5 guy and look how that turned out. But to count on that whole pool to replace Shark, much less any one of them seems like an exercise in futility.

    None of them have Sharks ceiling. CJE has the most upside and even his ceiling isn't that of Sharks. I'm not saying that we should or shouldn't trade Shark here, but to value him similarly to a guy like Hammel, who's ceiling is a #3 and has never pitched more more than 177 innings and hasn't even come close to that the last 2 seasons is grotesquely undervaluing Shark.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I agree that Hammel and Shark comparison may be somewhat skewed, but I think you are overvaluing Shark. I really don't care how much he pitched previously, as the human body doesn't just start getting younger or more vibrant as we move past 30. Power pitchers generally don't age as well as other pitchers either.

    Other than concerns about his slight build, I'd argue CJE has at least as high of a ceiling as Shark. More importantly, CJE has actually had dominant seasons in his career (seemingly every year); Shark has never has a WAR above 1.6 in the majors and never dominanted at any level.

    Shark is a tease who will continue to tantalize us with dominant games and streaks but overall never be a TOR pitcher.

  • In reply to springs:

    Well I never actually stated what I thought Sharks value was, so I'm not sure what you're arguing here. My point was counting on a couple of AAA relievers and soft tossing back of the rotation types that have yet to dominate at the AAA level and one high risk/reward type SP that has yet to pitch above A level, to replace Shark in our rotation is an exercise in futility.

    I'm as intrigued and optimistic as anybody on CJE. But don't discount the risk. His "slight" build is a huge risk for a power pitcher. You can say he's been dominant "seemingly every year". But in reality, he's only been pro for 1.5 years so that's not saying much is it?...

    FWIW, Fangraphs shows Shark posted a 2.8 WAR in 2013 and 3.0 WAR in 2012, his only two seasons as a SP.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    True...seemingly every year is misleading for CJE, though his 1 full dominant year is one more full season than Jeff S.

    I was going off of baseball reference --


    Last year was 1.0 for him.

  • In reply to springs:

    Well since CJE has a grand total of 6+ starts in A+ ball and Shark had a career total of 7 starts below A+, I don't think you can make an apples to apples comparison. So I don't know why your adamant about making a "dominant" argument with me for CJE vs. Shark. I'll go on record as stating the obvious, yes CJE was dominant in A ball last year. That doesn't mean squat going forward though. He has to do that at 3 more levels. The road to the MLB is lined with guys that were dominant at A ball and never even made it to the MLB much less accomplish half of what Shark has done.

    FWIW though, when being a dominant MLB pitcher is contingent on dominating low A ball hitters early in your career, I'll give you that argument. Otherwise it's as valid as what I ate for breakfast having any determination on this seasons final outcome.

    John did an article on WAR if you care to search the archives. BR is terrible at that and they have Sharks 2012 campaign as a 1.8 WAR. Even though many of his secondaries are similar, and Fangraphs rates his WAR similar, BR has a huge variance from year to year. So it's not very reliable or credible.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    True, shark doesn't have that many innings on his arm so technically his baseball age is younger than actual age

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    Plus, he was a 2 sport guy at a college where football was his number 1 priority. So, not only does he have less innings, he has only been focusing solely on pitching since he was drafted. Most college players were focusing 100% on pitching all 4 years at college. With consistency being his weak point, i think this is something he still can improve upon and in fact, get better over the next 2-3 years.

    Lastly, he is a tremendous athlete and I do think this helps pitchers in body maintenance, conditioning, and intangibles (fielding, hitting, base running - which all contribute to increasing wins).

  • John,

    You just jumped up a level with this article...,and I gotta agree with you on MOST Everything.

    I had to RE-read your last paragraph a few times. It is the most wonderful example of "IF" I've Ever Read.

    If all your dreams come true, or even most of them, we will be in contention.

  • In reply to rakmessiah:

    Haha! Thanks. Big IFs indeed, but I think that's kind of my point. If these guys perform, then the Cubs will be in contention or on the brink of it depending on how everything else goes. And if that's the case and it appears the Cubs are playing well by the deadline and getting close, then I'm not entirely sure I want to trade Samardzija for A ball prospects.

  • fb_avatar

    That's an excellent piece. It lifts my spirits because it's both hopeful and realistic. A .500 team with visible development will hang onto fans in a way that selling off assets for a return that may pay off in five years can't.

  • "So why I am I growing a little weary of it?"

    We're all getting a little weary of it John,..... at some point the management needs to stand, and slug it out with that they have to figure out good, or not good, it is.

    Jeff Samardzija - if he can repeat performances like what he did on opening day - is worth keeping AND paying well for. If shorter-term assets like Hammell, Schierholtz, or others can be traded for value, and their places effectively filled by others already on the roster, or in AAA - then so be it.

    But keep Jeff Samardzija if the team has any chance of solidity.

  • I love this piece, John! I wouldn't even mind if the Cubs blinked in the game of negotiation chicken and payed him. I don't have a problem with him getting a big number. Here's hoping we're in a position to add at the break. Here's hoping the Rays are somehow in the drink and looking to move DP. Its hard to win a championship let alone have a dynasty without a perennial CY Young candidate. Or two.

    I really believe that Samardzija will be a better pitcher if we're in it. Guy wants to win. Love it.

  • You nailed it John. Its time to start winning some ball games. And if shark progresses and becomes a 3.5 to 4 war starter, the only smart move is to sign him to a 3 or 4 year extension.
    All the prospects in the world don't get you there. Have to develop a core of players to go with them.

  • Just saw your retweets John. Really disappointed to see Maples and Underwood hurt to start the year. I am a pretty big fan of both of them.

  • In reply to jswick23:

    Yeah, me too. Maples had made some real progress and it appeared Underwood was having a good spring.

  • At what point do you hold Theo and Jed's feet to the fire? 4 years? 5 years? of mediocrity.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Theo said it would take 5 years to rebuild both the farm and the major league team with improvement coming at the major league level second. I would say he absolutely nailed the first two years by acquiring a boatload of talent, hiring good coaches/teachers, and significantly upgrading the training facilities. Now what is left to do in years 3, 4 and 5 is to get the non-linear improvement he talked about. Why are you even thinking of holding their feet to the fire when they are doing a very good job?

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    I think any GM in baseball could have bought up free agents and made short term cosmetic improvements in a year or two. Rebuilding an organization from top to bottom takes 4-5 years. They've already rebuilt it from AAA down, the rest will follow soon.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    It also didn't help that 3 former top prospects, vitters, jackson, and mcnutt, disappointed when theo came in.

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    In reply to Aquinas wired:

    So, if you "held Theo and Jed's feet to the fire" right now, don't you think you would find that the organization is in much better shape now, than it was when they took over?

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    I think it's possible for this team to show real improvement over last season and still end up with a protected pick. As for resigning Samardzija, both sides are going to have to give some, and if that doesn't look like it's going to happen, then he has to be traded while he still has maximum value. I don't want to see another repeat of the Garza situation for any reason. It's pretty apparent now that the Cubs got lucky and Daniels flat out over-payed. I wouldn't count on it happening again.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    I also suspect that Shark wants to see a change in the expectations at the MLB level akin to what John suggested - an end to selling off at ASB each year and then limping to the end of the season to get a high draft pick.

    I have followed Shark as both a WR at Notre Dame and pitcher here in Chicago and one thing I can say for sure is that he is a fierce competitor who wants to win or at least have a chance to fight for a win.

    I seriously believe that of the team plays hard for Renteria, those core pieces bounce back and the cubs flirt with .500 and look to be in position to make a run at the playoffs in 2015 Shark will be interested in getting an extension done. If he increases his consistency but maintains his high level of play, I think the Cubs will also be inclined to make it happen.

    I think Shark cares about his personal security ($$ and years) but also competing. I think he wants no part of pitching in his prime for a club that is pushing back the rebuild further after he has already been knee deep in it for the last 4 years.

  • I am with you John. I want a mid round pick in the first round of 2015. Of course I also want for Theo/Jed/Jason to nab the top 10 prospect who is falling before the Cards get him.

  • In reply to John57:

    Opportunistic drafting...I like it. I'm sure the Cubs will pick whoever falls farther than they should.

  • Is JS looking for a NTC? If so, then there's virtually no chance he stays with the Cubs and this is all a moot point. My guess is he'll insist on receiving one since he was tight with Dempster and he mentioned how important it was during the trade deadline several years ago.

  • You're going to pay a lot for frontline starters. I hope they can work something out with Samardzija - and the fact that the media is so cocksure he'll be traded gives me hope that he won't.

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    I'd rather keep Samardzija.
    Granted, if someone can afford to overpay with a legit budding ace, I'd trade him.
    But, the position talent in the system should be ready by mid 2015.
    I'd rather keep Shark, sign a TOR free agent pitcher, make a couple of trades in order to make a real run at 2015-2016.

  • It feels like a shift is taking place. Most of us here have been riding the rebuilding train, and it seems we've come to a transfer station to the next phase.

    We have players at the MLB level now that we've got to invest in. For me, this is a bit scary because it brings hope along for the ride. And I've found it easier as a life long Cubs fan to not hope and be surprised than to invest energy in my beloved Cubs begin successful.

    So far in the rebuild it's been easy to say "someday", but the time seems to have arrived where it's decision time. Do I gear up and care about the current crop of players knowing that I'm walking back into that risky part of being a Cubs fan.

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    Great article, John. You're on fire lately, must be baseball season! My one quibble would be that I think it's entirely possible that the young core could all progress and the team is still out of contention. I would certainly prefer your scenario, but even if Rizzo, Castro, Beef, Shark, and Olt are making strides, this is still a somewhat flawed roster. Not saying they couldn't flirt with .500, just that I don't think one necessarily guarantees the other.

  • Certainly hope all our young guys succeed this year and that we're drafting in a worse position because of it.

    As for the Samardzija thing, unless he's willing to sign an under market contract, trade him. The value of the prospects he'll bring back will be high and they can find a similar pitcher in the free agent market for a market level contract.

  • "And please don't tell me that the Cubs young core can make significant progress yet somehow the team can still lose 95 games. It's not going to happen."

    Castro.. .283/14/78/25 SB 162 games played.
    Rizzo.. .285/15/48 87 games played.

    Double Rizzo's totals for a full season, it won't make the difference of more then a couple wins. I think if they put up numbers like that this season it would count as a bounceback year and progress in the right direction.

    That year...101 losses.

  • I bet you could trade Bourn tomorrow for a better pitching prospect than Robby Z

  • In reply to Kyle:

    Ha! I'm not sure if you're serious or not. No way.

  • In reply to Kyle:

    Maybe true, though when Baez, Bryant, Soler and Almora hit their mid-20s in 4-5 years, how much value will Bourn have?

  • In reply to Kyle:

    Bourn would need to return to 4+ WAR status vs. 2 WAR in 2013 to hold any value to the acquiring team. Right now, he's on the DL with a strained Hamstring... the same hamstring he had surgically repaired last year.

    Right now, I don't think you could get anything for Bourn...

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Just objectively, we got a player slightly better than Zastryzny (Black) for a player a whole lot better than Bourn (Soriano). Even that required ownership to overrule the GM.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    And that's even with some realization of the random variable. That is, knowing that Zastryzny's fastball has declined a couple MPH from the original ceiling. The question is whether you could get a guy as valuable as the Cubs perceived Zastryzny to be on draft day for Bourn. It seems highly unlikely.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    But your assuming that Z's FB velocity has declined. When several Scouts and Z himself are on record as saying he intentionally varies the speeds and only hits 94-95 when he needs a little something extra.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I know you're agreeing with me on the "nil" factor of Bourns value right now. But, FWIW, Cubs Den ranks them:
    16. Rob Zastryzny, LHP
    22. Corey Black, RHP

  • John, thanks so much for this post...I think in all of excitement over the prospects and their rankings and how improved the farm system is we forget that the quickest path to success would be the current MLB players actually being good.

    We keep saying 'waves' of talent coming up from the minors, but our current players are actually our first 'wave.' If Samardzija/Rizzo/Castro or whomever is traded for prospects, all that does is push back the timeframe of someone being good in that position by who knows how long.

    I love following the prospects as much as anyone, but the key to the quickest and most successful turnaround is not when Bryant, Baez, Almora, etc come up, it's success from Castro, Rizzo, and Samardzija this year so their replacement is not necessary.

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    Great article. I hate that trading Samardzija has become so ... expected. It feels like Shark should be a Cub long term. Unless we get a top-30 pitching prospect, trading him should be viewed as an unfortunate last resort.

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    I do agree that it's unlikely that the Cubs can make significant progress in all the areas you mention and also lose 95 games.

    But I can see a scenario where Castro and Rizzo bounce back, Castillo progresses, Baez shows up mid-season and delivers solid numbers and Samardzija puts up good enough first-half numbers to increase his trade value - and the Cubs still lose 90-95 games and snare another high pick.

    For one thing, if Samardzija and say, Hammel, are solid in the first half and then are dealt - and replaced by the Rusins of the world again - it won't matter if Castro, Rizzo and Baez are hitting down the stretch.

    The outfield is awful, and if Schierholtz is dealt it will be worse. And if St. Louis, Cincy and Pittsburgh - and even the Brewers - are all playing up to their capability, the Cubs could lose a lot of games in which they play reasonably well.

    I will agree, however, that I would rather have things go phenomenally well for the Cubs - assuming it's because of factors that can be counted on in the future - as opposed to the core guys on the current big league club not making enough strides to indicate that they are part of the long-range solution and not new problem areas.

  • In reply to Gregory Shriver:

    Awful is an overstatement. They might turnout to be awful, but I think Lake, Kalish, Ruggiano can quite decent.

    BTW, I prefer to keep Shark based solely on his own merit, not on how the rest of the team is doing. If he shows he's TOR, show him the $.

  • In reply to TTP:

    The assumption Shark will ever be more than he is now is what underlies this entire discussion. Not to single you out TTP. you just make the point everyone else is stating to some extent, but you say it clearly -- "If [When] Shark shows he's TOR, show him the $"

    With this I agree. I also agree that if you take "Shark" out of that statement and say "Hammel", "EJax", "Hendricks" or any other name, I agree with it. If someone in our system shows they are a TOR pitcher, then we should pay him and keep him.

    My problem is that I don't think Shark ever will be a consistent TOR; he is inconsistent, has streaks where he is getting hit much harder than he should with his stuff, and has never shown the ability to be a good number 2, much less TOR, for an entire season and he is already 30 years old. Personally, I want Shark to be dominant in the first half and then we get a potential TOR prospect in return. But if that doesn't happen and the best we get is (1) a younger Shark (i.e., significantly less than 30 year old prospect who has a #2 ceiling but is likely a #3) and some other pretty good prospects, I am all for it. IMO this is the best Shark we will see and I would like to trade him when his value is highest.

  • In reply to springs:

    I think many were very impressed with Shark's performance Opening Day. He showed signs of maturity and continued development, mainly be pitching to contact. I equate "dominant" with TOR. So if he is dominant as you say in the first half, show him the money. Let's keep him and not trade him for a prospect we hope can become dominant.

    As John has explained, we're entering into Phase 2. So I want to sign and keep our keepers (like a dominant pitcher) and start bring up the prospects. I don't want to be in perpetual rebuilding constantly acquiring prospects at the expanse of our MLB roster.

  • In reply to Gregory Shriver:

    Take Lake out of the equation because he's still very very raw and learning the OF.... Schierholtz is only better than Sweeney and Sweeney actually covers more ground, he just doesn't have the arm for RF. So since Sweeney can play CF if needed, I'd give him the nod over Nate defensively. Kalish & Ruggiano are better OF'rs with both more range, and stronger arms than Nate. Bonafacio is also excellent in the OF.

    I just don't see how trading Schierholtz weakens us on defense. offensively, sure... I'll give him that, but not defensively. Again taking Lake out of it because of his learning curve, I don't see a bad defender in the group. No GG's mind you, but I think awful is a stretch.

  • Even if the Cubs improve this year so has the division, so a better Cubs team this year will loose about the same amount of games or maybe more.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    I think this may be the best division in baseball. But I don't know that we can't keep up.

    The Brewers appear to have improved. Getting a guy like Braun back in the line-up will do that. They still have holes though. But IDK if the 3 playoff teams are as good as last year. The Pirates & Reds have both lost quality SP's. The Reds have lost a key OBP & Defender. Hamilton is fast but he is no guaranteed thing yet. How ill losing Chapman for 2+ months effect them? Do you really think STL can sustain that ridiculous BA with RISP?

    This is why they play the games every year and not just automatically give the WS championship to the best team on paper....

  • Its all cyclical in a couple years the Pirates and Reds will be down and it will be the Cubs time. Which will make the timing perfect.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    Any thoughts on the Cubs going after Vin Mazarro? He was DFA'd a right before the season started, and put up pretty good numbers last year for Pittsburgh.

  • In reply to DetroitCubFan:

    I don't think they can add any pitchers, look at the Iowa rotation as it stands now: Hendricks,Ramirez,Beeler,Jokisch,Rusin and Wada Pinyero & McDonald. Plus Loux & Cabrera (he was best as a starter if he remains with the Cubs).

  • In reply to DetroitCubFan:

    It depends if last year was an aberration. If they think last year is the pitcher they'd be getting he may hold some value as a BP arm. But if he's the guy with control issues, etc that he was in his entire career leading up to last year, they'll probably pass.

  • I believe that keeping a guy like Samardzija will speed up the rebuild in two ways. First, having his competitive fire in the locker room will be good for the prospects coming up. Second, he is our best pitcher at the moment and anything we get in return will have to be a step down (at least on the short term). So to me, keeping Samardzija would mean that the prospects would come up in a more positive environment. Also, keeping guys like Samardzija around should put a little less pressure on the prospects.

  • I was reading about our catching prospects. It looks like Kane County will have Brockemeyer,Remillard & Carhart as it catchers. I like all 3 of these guys and with Lopez & Contreras ahead of them I think the catching prospects have had a major upgrade over the last 18months. I am very interested in what Remillard does this year.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    There are some real intriguing names on that KC roster. Starting rotation of Blackburn, Skulina, Torrez, Paniagua, and Tseng is definitely worth watching.

  • In reply to Paulson:

    Will Leal be in Kane County in that rotation? He had a really good year last year.

  • As much as I love reading Cubs Den I think it's time to stop speculating on what may happen and just watch what does happen. Sure we may be able to both look at the now and still think about the future but I believe that having an eye in both places minimizes each one. It's also the undoing of all Cubs fans. Please, can we focus on the present? I think it will all do us some good. Cheers!

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    Excellent article, John. Of course, I still want to have my cake and eat it, too.

    So I actually will tell you "that the Cubs young core can make significant progress yet somehow the team can still lose 95 games." Look at the 2012 Boston Red Sox. They had solid to very good performances by Dustin Pedroia (OPS+ 114), David Ortiz (OPS+ 173), Will Middlebrooks (121), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (97), Adrian Gonzalez (117), Daniel Nava (101), and Cody Ross (115), and yet their season still resulted in a 69-93 record. I know their starting pitching was horrendous, but you wouldn't intuitively expect to have 6 hitters with > 100 OPS+ and still lose over 90 years.

    So, yeah, I do think I can have my cake and eat it, too. And if my options are a 95 loss team or a 81 loss team, I'll be hoping for the former for at least one more season, along with progress from your aforementioned core Cubs players.

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    I want Jeff Samardzija to stay. His success in a Cubs uniform has come slowly because of the previous regime's efforts to sabotage his career at every turn with their incompetence. Jim Hendry and company couldn't have been any dumber in this case. Samardzija was still new to the art of pitching having played so much football, and all of that was as a starting pitcher. He joins the organization very green, so do they make him as comfortable as possible in this new venture? Of course not. Not only do they rush him to the Majors way before he is ready but they do so as a reliever. It is a job he has never done before so is even less prepared to do at the Major League level so soon after coming off the football field. Add to that the pressure and expectations of being a bonus baby from a high profile University just down the road. Stupid doesn't even come close to describing that decision. He then gets fan criticism which is completely unjustified and people are ready to give up on him way too soon because they see him struggle at something he as done so little of and at the highest possible level. Samardzija then has to basically beg to become the starting pitcher he should have been all along. He should never have been switched to the bullpen in the first place and should not have been at Wrigley that soon regardless. He should have been left alone to improve his way through the ranks in a sport he was still learning...at the job he was most comfortable with...at a rate he was comfortable with. He is still trying to overcome all that nonsense and I am impressed with how he has done it. He has great stuff and still has a young arm and is still learning the art of pitching. I want him to succeed here. If Samardzija is traded than the Cubs really are still years away from contending apparently and that is very depressing.

  • Not to be 'that guy', but I posted this on another site a few days ago and thought it was relevant...

    It’s almost like people are schizophrenic about the team. They want the core to do well, because it fits their worldview of how the Cubs will magically contend in 2016 or 2017, or whenever. So that means, by default, they have to actively root AGAINST the non-core guys. Literally hoping that Schierholtz, Lake, Sweeney, Jackson etc. will play so bad that we have a top-5 pick. It makes zero sense to me. All the while, hoping that guys like Hammel play just well enough to A) secure some prospects from the O’s in July while B) Not contributing enough value to win a few extra games ‘because winning a few extra game MIGHT cause us to pick 6th instead of 4th…’. Blah blah blah….

    My hope is that we are able to sniff a WC spot in late July and Theo, at the very least, doesn't trade away anything that isn't nailed down. I’m not advocating trading for Price. I’m advocating that, if we have an outside chance at a WC, we retain our players and maybe bring up Bryan / Baez / Vizcaino [if they are performing well] to help us with a playoff push. If we are 40-60 in July – i’m fine with trading off any non-core assets. If people can’t get on board with something like that, they why are you even fans? Just check back in 2016 and see if the prospects are doing well and if we’ve signed any FA talent.

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    In reply to Roscoe Village:

    Roscoe Village,

    You can actively root against the non-core guys, because... they're non-core guys. They aren't going to be here in the long-term. However, a top 5 pick that their crappiness would produce likely would be here for the long-term.

    That makes perfect sense to me.

  • In reply to Chris Trengove:

    Sure, you can do whatever you want. I'd rather not actively cheer for my team to be terrible with the hope that, in 3 years we 'might' be in the playoffs. As I said in my post, I hope that we can be in the running for WC birth this year and Theo, at least, does nothing and lets the chips fall. We get a few lucky breaks, Liriano's arm falls off and maybe we sneak into the playoffs. Will that happen? Probably not. But it would at least be fun to see a semi-relevant team in September. Aren't you tired of losing?

    Braves / Rangers / STL and others consistently find good value in the middle late first round. Do you not have faith that Theo / Jed can do the same?

    If we stink, I'm fine with a sell-off. Like I said, its strange people would, in APRIL, hope their team sucks. I'd assume Theo doesn't have that mindset. If he does, you could probably circle back to this board in 2018 and people will be having the same discussion: 'Lets just suck for a few more years and collect some more top-5 picks so that in 2022 we will be ready to contend.'

  • Great Article! Perfectly articulates how I been feeling about this team.

    I understand the rebuild. I support it. I am weary of being too eager to push it off another year in the hopes that tanking will net us Steven Strausberg II.

    At some point, you have to improve if your previous personnel decisions were wise, no?

    John, nailed this point. I think a .500 season is far from a bad thing. It means, that the addition and fruition of some of your prospects in late 2014 and early 2015 has the potential to push you into competing for a wild card in 2015.

    After all, if Jed and Theo can build this team to contention, we can have confidence that they can maintain it through trades, signings, and smart drafting from the mid to late round (as the cardinals and Rays do)!

  • We need to trade Castro immediately or, force him to fly home on a separate plane. Otherwise, team mates might catch what he has.

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    In reply to Hey Hey:

    Not sure if serious or.......

  • Good, bad or indifferent. Replay is changing the game. I for one think it's over the top.

  • Home plate umpire Davidson must be forced to function with a league approved "seeing eye dog."

  • Is Veras related to Marmol?

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