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Thinking outside the box: Should the Cubs be buyers this year?

Thinking outside the box: Should the Cubs be buyers this year?
Carlos Gonzalez

Conventional wisdom says that you should wait to buy when your team is ready to win now and take a slightly more short term approach.  But perhaps there is another market inefficiency the Cubs should explore -- and that is the possibility that prospects today may be a bit overvalued.  The Cubs have found this out from a sellers standpoint.  They have found that top prospects have been difficult to pry loose, most recently when teams have come calling on Jeff Samardzija.  Instead of looking to sell, could the Cubs make this market shift work for them?

They certainly have the depth to trade good prospects without having to deal from the top of their system.  Prospects like Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, and Albert Almora should be off limits, but perhaps the Cubs should be willing to deal from their 2nd and 3rd tier now that they have depth and a better knowledge of their system.

Nick Cafardo reports that the Rockies are scouting the Red Sox AA and AAA teams with the Sox looking to acquire an oufielder.  Outfielders Grady Sizemore, Daniel Nava, Jackie Bradley, Jr., and Johnny Gomes have all struggled.

The Cubs have a similar problem with production from their own OF.  And though they are not in the position that the Red Sox are to make deals, I would really like to see the Cubs get involved in getting a veteran like Carlos Gonzalez -- if not for  this year, then for next.

There aren't a lot of good free agents expected to be available as far as position players go and as we've seen with other top FAs like Anibal Sanchez and Masahiro Tanaka, the Cubs are going to have a difficult time luring free agents because they are rebuilding.  If anything, it seems like more often or not, they are getting used to drive up prices and can only win bids when they overpay (see Edwin Jackson).

With the depth they have in their farm system, a trade may be the best way to add young veteran talent.  Gonzales is 28 and signed through 2017 at a price (7 years, $80M) that is a bargain compared to what free agents are getting on the open market.

The Rockies are still in the thick of the NL West race so I don't know if they'd be willing to trade their good veterans right now, but I think the general idea is one the Cubs should explore. I use Gonzalez as a prototype for the kind of player they should acquire but the principle would also fit with other players that may become available.  A key addition or two could go a long way toward changing the Cubs clubhouse culture.

I think the teams the front office have put together have been better than their record shows.  They're run differential and Pythagorean record is consistently better than their actual won-loss record -- but there is something missing.  Prospects could add a boost mid-season but I'd like the Cubs to add a veteran or two to take the pressure off of Rizzo, Castro, and the young kids.  And maybe the best time to do it is now rather than wait for the kids to start producing at the major league level.

I'm not saying the Cubs should compromise their future, but when I see that the best teams can offer for Samardzija are higher risk Class A pitchers, I just wonder if the Cubs shouldn't be considering acquiring their own veterans at that kind of lower risk cost.  We certainly have seen the Cubs can stockpile that kind of talent rather quickly, so I'm pretty confident they can replace lost talent if they are careful about who they trade.

One of the things the Jim Hendry regime did well early on is acquire young talent for overvalued prospects like Bobby Hill (Aramis Ramirez), Hee Seop Choi (Derrek Lee), and Justin Jones (Nomar Garciaparra). I'd like to see this front office do something similar in an era where prospects seem to be worth their weight in gold.  If a good opportunity to acquire short and long term value presents itself, the Cubs shouldn't wait until they feel the team is good enough to make such a move.

Sometimes you just have to take those chances when they become available.

Roster Moves

It was a few days ago when a commenter predicted a Jose Veras injury, trip to DL, and a "rehab" assignment to get him back on track.  I can't recall who it was but it made me laugh at the time, not because it was funny, but because it sounded entirely plausible.

Well, suddenly it looks like that is exactly the path Jose Veras will take.  Good call.  Veras has a strained oblique and while I don't doubt he's had some discomfort (as wild as he is, Veras has never been anything as close to as wild as he's been so far this year), maybe there's something to that injury affecting his performance.  Whatever the case, Veras will get some R&R with the hopes he comes back as good as new.

In what is not news if you watched the game yesterday, Brian Schlitter is up to take his place and now the Cubs have recalled 3 relievers this week.  It'll be interesting to see who goes down when Jake Arrieta is recalled, but I predict Neil Ramirez goes down for now.

Today's Lineup:

  1. Kalish LF
  2. Lake CF
  3. Rizzo 1B
  4. Castro SS
  5. Schierholtz RF
  6. Olt 3B
  7. Baker C
  8. Barney 2B
  9. Hammel SP

A bit of an odd lineup here as the Cubs are trying to get some speed at the top but not a whole lot of OBP there (or anywhere, for that matter).  The bottom 3rd of the lineup is about as weak as you'll see.  It looks to me like Hammel is going to have to pitch extremely well today.

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  • fb_avatar

    I like the general thinking. I think we are close to the point that Baez replaces Castro at SS. Anyone else hate the lineup changes. Can we try:

    Bonafacio - cf
    Valbuena - 2b
    Castro
    Rizzo
    Olt
    Castillo
    Shierholtz / lake
    Kalish - lf

    For 7-10 games?

  • In reply to Niren Desai:

    Those are the right people to play every day, a shuffle here and there, let Olt bat 7th until he is comfortable and slide up Castillo and the platoon.

    Baez is in no way mentally ready yet, even for AAA. I watched him in person yesterday. He's SO impatient (easy to fool), and pretty surly. A lot of maturing to do.

  • In reply to Niren Desai:

    Castro has been playing well at SS, and even if Baez is brought up sometime in June (which would be the earliest), he will be playing another position other than SS. He is not only just coming back from an injury, struggled early in the season when he played, and is a worse fielder at SS by far than Castro. Just have to get used to it that Castro is your SS, and if Baez doesn't go on a tear, won't be up for a while.

  • In reply to Niren Desai:

    Baez is nowhere near replacing Castro and even if he does make it to the bigs this year, it will be at 2B or another position.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I have been a bit critical of Castro over the past week or so, but in no way is Baez close to replacing him. Defensively, Castro has been very good and fully engaged.

    He is only batting .270 but has about 6-8 loud outs so far. His approach is a question mark, but you cannot question his defense so far this season.

    As John wrote, if Castro was the 5th best offensive player on this team and was batting 7th, all would be good.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    I have to agree with John/Irwin on Castro, there is no way Castro is being moved off SS. His bat has been fine, defense pretty good, he's error prone but Baez is just as bad if not worse.....44 last year.

    Baez, if he can show more contact, is going to have to move to 3B or 2B, depending on how it shakes out around him. At the moment, 3B may be his destination, since Olt is showing contact issues, and Christian Villanueva is really struggling in Iowa

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    Not sure what people are watching this season but Castro's been amazing at SS. Made a couple Errors maybe you'd want back, but how many perfect SS's are there out there? Kid makes plays with his range and arm others only dream about. Just a small amount of MLB SS's that are in his league. People just hate the kid. Pisses me off!

  • In reply to Johnny Hatelak:

    I agree with you on Castro. This year he seems to carry himself differently. He had a good 2 years then year 3 hit and I think he got extra cocky. He is a guy who needs to see ball and hit ball. He is gonna make errors but he will make most plays and covers a ton of ground. I am a old school guy. I am do glad he got his hair cut. The fro added to his attitude last year. He looks more focused and alert this year. And could have had 4 hrs this series. Hope it continues.

  • fb_avatar

    CARGO's home and away splits concern me. He hasn't been nearly as good away from Coors Field, but I dig what you are saying. I like the idea of acquiring young/under contract talent. It goes against conventional wisdom to do it in the midst of a season like this, but I think it's one way to get better sooner rather than later.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    I think that's been the case with a lot of Colorado hitters but they tend to do fine once they move on.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Except for Ian Stewart lol.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    That wasn't the case with Holliday. Look deeper into CarGo's numbers. There's reason for concern.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    I would be remiss though if I didn't say that I like his lefty/righty splits. I'd be okay with acquiring him if the price were not to high.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    I agree about the splits, so maybe that lowers his price just a tick. The Colorado GM can't just look the other way on the fact that the product he's giving away isn't exactly what his numbers say at home.

  • In reply to nmu’catsbball:

    It also means his value is lower.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    I took a look at his 2011-2013 away numbers just for kicks. In 31 Wrigley Field at bats, he's hit 5 HRs and had an OPS of 1.077. He had pretty nice numbers at other NL Central parks as well - seemed to do worse against the NL East, but he wouldn't play as many games there as a Cub.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Keith Erickson:

    "But he hits well at Wrigley Field." How many times have I heard that as a reason to acquire a player? 31 AB is hardly a statistically significant sample.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Also, one doesn't face Cub pitchers and defense playing for them. Not really the case since Theo and Jed arrived though.

  • I think the Cubs should be buyers of Hammel and Samardjiza and maybe an OF-er that has a contract through 2015. There is just no depth to this lineup. I don't think Luis Valbuena, Sweeney, or Kalish cause any pitcher concerns. Last night the Cubs swung at so many pitches out of the zone because they had fallen behind in the count. Olt, who I like very much, needs to get playing time every day. Renteria needs to stop trying to play the %s so much. It's not working with these players. And unfortunately, we have to dance with what we brung. To paraphrase Rick Pitino, at .157, "Javy Baez is not walking through that door" anytime soon.

  • In reply to historyrat:

    Are you meaning to say the Cubs should re-sign those two pitchers? I wouldn't mind to see that either. I'd like to eventually see some stability in that rotation.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Yes, I am. I think they can be very productive pitchers for several years (3-4).

  • In reply to historyrat:

    I bet the FO has started talking to Hammels agent about an extention already. However that wouldn't preclude him from being traded this year. In fact a long, reasonably priced contract might make him more likely to be traded.

  • Heh, yeah that was my comment. I got wrong who they brought up, thinking that Wada might be the guy because of his shortened AAA outing and then they'd put Fujikawa on the 60 day DL. Now I'm wondering what happened to Wada because there was no news that came out after his start.

  • In reply to TulaneCubs:

    You were pretty close, though ;)

  • I think they should do both. Trade some top prospects for still
    fairly young players and in July trade veterans (Jeff) for
    prospects or fairly young players. This season is a Cub fans
    worst nightmare

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Agreed, a combo of the two is ideal.

  • As the months go on lets hope some teams are willing to trade
    such players and the Cubs can offer what it takes to make it happen

  • I vote for John to be GM.

  • Great thought John. What do all think about Matt Kemp?

    29 years old and seems to be healthy. Can play CF now and could move to another position as others come up. He is owed $105 MM over the next 5 years which is a lot. Has a very good walk rate, has power and can run.

    Because of recent injury history and high salary, would the Dodgers be looking for less in return?

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    I was also gonna check what people think about Kemp. I like the idea of trading for Kemp and signing Jeff and Hammal to extensions. Add Lester in the offseason and let's roll.

  • I predicted Veras' sudden injury, DL trip and rehab stint... Though maybe I wasn't the only one.

    He's been so bad that I don't doubt his injury is real.

  • In reply to Caps:

    It may have been more than one of you, now that you mention it, I do think I remember you saying something like that.

  • Things overall do not look so good, but I think the FO has signed the free agents that made sense value wise. I don't think that it is a good idea to pust things too much with trades, free agents, or promotions, because that is when big mistakes are made. Things will come together when the time is right.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Agree, sign young and don't give long term high priced contracts
    to older players

  • It is entirely possible. This FO is thinking out of the box all the time.

  • I agree with the sentiment that the Cubs should always be open to being both buyers and sellers at the deadline. True, the
    cubs needs are more long term right now and there will probaly be more seller type trades, but for the right guy you always need to be prepared to be a buyer too. Sellers will always have more leverage available to get a bit more out of a deal with a contender than buyers, but there are a lot of teams that have their own Jeff Samardzija type guy that is about to become more expensive than they either can or want to pay for. The Pirates often have looked for those kind of trades with the ARam trade being the one example mentioned. The Pirates being contender wannabes in the same division might make them less likely but there must be other teams with similar trade tendencies?

  • fb_avatar

    Anyone think if Bryant has 4 good months AA-AAA we get to see him in August. I'm sure this whole clock thing will stop it from
    Happening

  • In reply to Niren Desai:

    What will be interesting to see is his bat may play but they have to decide where he will play that may cause a bit of a delay in him coming up

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Niren Desai:

    No way before September.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Giffmo:

    I wouldn't say: "no way". It may be highly unlikely, but if he continues to dominate the way he has, there is no reason to let him sit at a level where he is, flat out, not challenged. Another month like this one and he has to goto Iowa, Imo, and if he continues to rake there for a couple of months...

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Matt McNear:

    2 months is still a small sample and even more so for a guy who has never played a full season in the minors.

    He's playing very well, but his stats aren't outrageously high, and he strikes out fairly consistently. I think he'll surely deserve a mid season call up and hopefully after that earn a small cup of coffee.

    But let's not put the Cart before the horse. Triple A is still a higher level if skill and a greater challenge. Just ask Baez.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Giffmo:

    I agree it's likely that he struggles, that's why I said "it may be highly unlikely". Two months is a small sample size, but he hasn't yet been challenged as a pro. I don't think I'm putting anything before the horse by saying it's possible. And a professional ops over 1.000 is outrageously high in my book, and 20 hr's in about 300 pro ab's is, also. That said, the k rate is a minor concern.

  • I wouldn't be surprised to see them add a 2nd or 3rd tier prospect in some of their deals so that they may add a better haul coming back.

  • fb_avatar

    Castro put a charge into that 95mph fastball.

    I can't recall a single time last year he hit a high velo fastball like that. Crushed it.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    The questions about his bat speed should be put to rest for good with that blast. Never thought he lost anything physically, I think it was more about him being more tentative last year.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    Agreed. Seemed like his mind was the thing slowing his bat down.

    People also like to harp on about his see-ball-hit-ball approach which leads to low walk totals, and by extension OBP, but he is taking more pitches and working good counts. It's just when you when you're so good at making hard contact like Castro is walks are hard to come by unless the pitcher throws 4 straight out of the zone.

    Why let a pitch go by trying to force walks if you know you can hit it. He just needs to improve his plate/pitch recognition and he'll be fine.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    The best way to get walked is to hit the snot out of the pitches that are in the strike zone.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to 44slug:

    Agreed. Castro did that 4 times today

  • I wonder if as we get to July if they would consider a prospect for prospect deal.

  • fb_avatar

    I'll continue to hear the drum for Yasmani Grandal. Pads have three catchers they like PLUS Austin Hedges coming up.

    I love the Gonzales idea but unfortunately doubt he will be available.

  • I like the idea of adding a guy like CarGo or Kemp but there really aren't that many guys who would be realistic options. CarGo's splits are what they are but he's still a big league 3 hole hitter regardless of what city he happens to be in. I think we're going to need one of those at some point...

  • fb_avatar

    The should appoint Rondon as the new closer after that show he just put on.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    I bet he gets the call right now for awhile....we'll see how it shakes out.

    Rondon is just about the best Rule 5 pick in the last few years

  • Maybe this has been mentioned before, but is Hector now officially a bullpen guy or are they thinking about giving him a chance at starting? I know the injuries made it hard and the rule 5 etc as they had to play him, but he now seems to have arm back etc. Vizcaino still has a ways to go, but those are a couple of guys that have the option for starting rotation as well in the not too distant future. Maybe not as we will surely take 2 real good end of the bullpen guys.

  • the name I wonder about is G Stanton. pretty sure the Marlins put him on the block

  • In reply to CubfanInUT:

    They (Marlins) will most certainly be auctioning off Stanton. It is their M.O. And they will get someone's farm system.

  • In reply to IVYADDICT:

    Stanton is rather intriguing.. still somewhat young and is a impact talent. wonder if the cubs would be interested. and what we would have to give up?

  • In reply to CubfanInUT:

    I think they'll entertain offers as every FO always does but considering their really good young starting pitching core, I don't think they'll have him on the block "all out". They should pay him.

  • In reply to Ben20:

    they should.. but we will see what happens

  • Grimm is the guy with the stuff to start. The outfield has been terrible and Lake in particular is going to struggle, but Schierholtz and Sweeney are going to do better from here. I still think this team as constituted is going to pick it up to something in the neighborhood of respectable.

  • What a great sight seeing Castro ripping the ball today along with Hammell and Rondon shutting down the Brewers.

  • I take back everything,.... EVERYTHING I said that was negative about signing Hammell back during the Winter,.....

    And it's good to see Castro hitting the ball with authority, and doing a better job defensively so far this season.

    Nice win today - too far and too rare though. The team is better than their record.

  • I don't expect to see Bryant in Chicago at all this season (or extremely early next year). I don't believe Theo and company want to risk losing both Bryant and Baez to free agency in the same year. I do expect to see Baez, Alcantara, Vizcaino and Hendricks this year, with Rivero and Christian Villanueva also possible.

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