It appears that with a 15-27 record, the Cubs will once again be sellers this trade deadline. While that fate may be inevitable at this point, I'm not looking forward to it. I was hoping the Cubs would be in a position to buy this year rather than sell. Now I am afraid they will sell too much and/or not get enough in return.
That's not to say I don't trust this front office to get the best deal. I certainly do.
But despite the record, this team isn't as far away as it's record would indicate.
The Cubs are about to start a series against the New York Yankees and, on the surface, this is the matchup between a first and last place team. Yet a closer look shows teams that, from a statistical standpoint, are near equals. In fact, the Cubs are better by some measurements. They have a better run differential: Cubs are at -3 while the Yankees are at -8. The Cubs Pythagorean record (the record based on their overall statistical production) is 21-21. The Yankees Pythagorean record is 21-22.
Yet the Yankees will be buying and the Cubs will be selling. In fact, some rumors have them showing interest in Cubs ace Jeff Samardzija, though it is hard to imagine the Yankees beating the field and offering a superior package to acquire him.
I am not saying the Cubs should buy this offseason...necessarily, but what I do not want to see are deals made in exchange for high risk, low level ballplayers and/or low risk/low ceiling ballplayers. I want to see them get players that can help them in 2014 and 2015 -- and cerainly by 2016 at the latest.
One executive I spoke with believes that a Jeff Samardzija deal should easily beat the return they got for Matt Garza -- a trade in which they got 3 MLB ready players and one higher ceiling A ball player (who is now in AA) in CJ Edwards.
The extra year of control and the expected draft pick any team will receive as compensation if Samardzija becomes a free agent (and presumably receives the QO) alone add value, but this executive also believes Samardzija is simply a better pitcher than Garza was at this point last year.
If the Cubs are going to trade Samardzija, the lowest bar should be similar value to the Garza return plus the value of a first round pick plus the value of an additional year of Samardzija.
But as we alluded to earlier, it's not just the value of the Samardzija that should compel the Cubs to get a big haul, the Cubs should be mindful that the team isn't as far away as it appears, so those players need to be close to contributing now.
Aside from the Pythagorean record, the Cubs are getting good production from their core players (Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo, Welington Castillo, Travis Wood, Jeff Samardzija) and have waves of MLB talent arriving from Mike Olt, Hector Rondon, Junior Lake, Justin Grimm, Ryan Kalish, and Neil Ramirez at the MLB level to Kyle Hendricks, Javier Baez, and Arismendy Alcantara at AAA to Kris Bryant, Stephen Bruno, Arodys Vizcaino, CJ Edwards, and Armando Rivero at the AA level.
There is a lot of young talent to go with underlying statistics that tell us the team could already be better than we think it is.
Is this really the time for the Cubs to take a step back?
I'm not against the Cubs making deals because there are still many holes to fill and there are still uncertainties at the prospect level, but those deals have to be for young MLB ready talent with impact potential -- and if they dip into the lower levels, then it should be impact talent with the ability to move quickly.
Of course, this is easier said than done, especially when it comes to pitching. Nobody wants to lose pitching depth or trade top of the rotation talent -- particularly those close to the MLB level, yet the Cubs don't want to settle for high risk or lower ceiling pitching prospects.
Some have suggested the Cubs look to acquire position players if those kind of pitchers are not made available, particularly LH hitters like Joc Pederson, who is absolutely raking at AAA (.356/.464/.650 with 13 HRs). While I don't know if Pederson can be had, that point of view has a lot of merit. With the exception of Castro, Rizzo, Emilio Bonifacio, and the occasional contributions of Olt, Lake, and Castillo, it's been the Cubs offense that has hurt the team. A player from the left side with a good approach would be a great addition. With the exception of Kris Bryant, the Cubs don't have a lot of up and coming top prospects with a lot of patience. Adding one to pair up with Bryant, Rizzo, and Jorge Soler for the 2015/2016 seasons will make for a good balance with aggressive hitters like Starlin Castro, Albert Almora, and Javier Baez.
As always, the cubs biggest need is simply talent and any deals the Cubs make should be for impact level players ready to contribute by 2016. Anything else will be taking a step backward at a time when the Cubs may be ready to take a step forward.
Filed under: Uncategorized