Advertisement:

To Trade or Not to Trade? Cubs young core + position player prospect depth creates big surplus

To Trade or Not to Trade?  Cubs young core + position player prospect depth creates big surplus

We've been covering a lot of prospects lately and at just about every point, we talk about how the Cubs have a talented young starter ahead of them.   A look at the 2017 starting lineup by position (with Baez at 2B) shows few -- if any -- openings for a young prospect even in the long term...

  • C:  Willson Contreras (24)
  • 1B: Anthony Rizzo (27)
  • 2B: Javier Baez (24)
  • SS: Addison Russell (22)
  • 3B: Kris Bryant (25)
  • LF: Kyle Schwarber (23)
  • CF: Albert Almora (22)
  • RF: Jason Heyward (27)

Every single player is at peak performance age or younger.  And there is a lot of cost-control for the foreseeable future..

  • Kyle Schwarber, Javier Baez, Addison Russell, and Kris Bryant are all cost-controlled through 2021.  Anthony Rizzo signed an extension through 2021 as well when we include the two team options.
  • Willson Contreras and Albert Almora are cost-controlled through 2022.
  • Jason Heyward is signed though 2023, though he could opt out after 2018 or 2019.  It is right after those option years that his salary begins to decrease, so even if he performs at a level similar to his usual season prior to 2016, there is a chance he can get at least as much money (5 years, $106M) after his first option in 2018 (he'll be 28 for most of that season and 29 when he becomes a free agent) or 4 years and $86M after 2019.

That's at least 5 years that this core is guaranteed to be together for every player except for possibly Heyward, who can opt out after 3 or 4 years.  We can, of course, also add veteran starter Ben Zobrist, who will also play a significant role for the next 3 years even if he isn't part of that young core.

Here's a look at the Cubs top position player prospects per my personal rankings...

  1. Eloy Jimenez, LF (A ball)
  2. Ian Happ, 2B-OF (AA)
  3. Jeimer Candelario, 3B (AAA)
  4. Mark Zagunis, OF (AAA)
  5. DJ Wilson, CF (Short Season A)
  6. Eddy Martinez, OF (A)
  7. Donnie Dewees, OF (A+)
  8. Victor Caratini, C (AA)
  9. Jacob Hannemann, OF (AA)
  10. PJ Higgins, C (A)

So what happens with all those young position player prospects?  Where do they fit?

Category A:  The Near MLB Ready guys

  • Candelario and Zagunis will likely be ready by this season.
  • Caratini and Happ aren't too far behind and should be ready by 2018.
  • Hannemann should be ready by 2017 or 2018, though he is likely to be a role player early in his MLB career and will be easier to keep in the organization.

Category B: The guy who can force the issue

  • Jimenez could start the season in AA and put him on a track to reach the majors by late 2018.  That conveniently puts him on a timeline to replace corner OFer Jason Heyward should he choose to opt out.
  • In the same situation, there may be some who would prefer to keep Happ and trade Jimenez.

Category C: The guys who are too far away to worry about now

  • Donnie Dewees could also be ready by late 2018 or sometime in 2019 and be either a starting CF if Almora doesn't pan out or a 4th OFer if he does.
  • DJ Wilson and PJ Higgins are too far away to cause concern about a logjam yet, especially since Higgins could easily backup what will then be an experienced Willson Contreras.
  • Dewees and Wilson are also OF options if Heyward leaves.

No matter how you shuffle the deck, it seems the Cubs should have enough to make trades and still maintain organizational depth.

For some reason, this debate gets artificially divided into two distinct camps.  One camp says you absolutely have to trade the prospects before it's too late and the other says you cannot trade prospects because you have to keep the pipeline going.  In reality, both ideas have merit but neither are entirely accurate.

There are gray areas everywhere.  The closest there is to an untouchable for me (and that term likely no longer exists when it comes to Cubs  prospects) is Eloy Jimenez, who could be an impact starter at what might eventually be a position of need, but I think that if the right deal comes around the Cubs could still trade him and have potential alternate corner OF replacements in Ian Happ, Mark Zagunis, and Donnie Dewees should they be needed down the road.

While there are no real untouchables, one player I don't see much point to trading is DJ Wilson, who has a  unique set of skills in their organization and is too far away to be blocked.  He also wouldn't bring a whole lot in return at this point in his development anyway.

The Cubs also have some time, though they'd rather not get their backs to the wall as they did with Jorge Soler.   In his case, Soler's value as a member of the Cubs organization peaked far lower than they'd hoped.  That they got as good a player as they did in Wade Davis is fortunate, even if Davis is only controlled for one more year.  By contrast, all of the players on the current top prospect list have options and room for growth.  They don't have to trade them now if the return value isn't there and the need isn't yet glaring.  They can keep all of them in the minors.  All of them could still see their value go up.  All of them are still potential depth pieces in the event of injuries to the 2017 MLB squad.  They certainly don't have all the time in the world, but they do have some time to find that right deal.

Jeimer Candelario, Mark Zagunis, and Victor Caratini are the most blocked players in terms of position and timeline, so they become obvious trade candidates in the short term,.  They are not without value, however.  As mentioned, they provide value as depth in the case of injury for 2017.  Anything the Cubs get in return for those players has to exceed the value that depth provides, so they won't just sell them for pennies on the dollar.

It gets really interesting when we talk about Ian Happ.  He's already spent a half season in AA and will likely be ready by 2018.  He's also versatile, meaning the Cubs can start squeezing him in by moving him around the field.  But with Zobrist around for 3 more years and Baez here for 5, even that's not really a big need right now.  Happ is also a potential replacement for Heyward if he leaves, especially if the Cubs trade Jimenez or he doesn't progress enough to start by 2019/2020.  Happ has seen his value go up since the AFL, ranking as the Cubs top overall prospect per MLB.com.  Whether that is enough to headline a deal for a cost-controlled starting pitcher is hard to say right now,  Prices have risen sharply.

Another interesting player on the list is Eddy Martinez.  Like Happ and even Jimenez, there is some mixed opinion.  Unlike those two, he's far enough away where there is no urgency to deal.  They can wait and see if they choose.  If there is a team that values him highly now, however, there's no reason for the Cubs to hold back if the overall return is suitable.

Honestly I think the Cubs are open to almost anything right now.  Assuming Schwarber and Almora perform up to expectations -- and if Heyward bounces back and decides to stay through his option years, the Cubs may not have a single lineup opening for at least the next 5 years.  In that scenario, it'd be logical that the Cubs would make all of their position player prospects available.   I think we could say the same thing regardless of the situation if the right player (read: cost-controlled young SP) were made available to them.  Even if Heyward leaves, the Cubs have enough depth to sustain a major prospect trade for a core young pitcher.

In the absence of impact, MLB ready homegrown starting pitching, the Cubs have the next best thing -- a young core and a surplus of position player talent as currency to obtain what they need.  I'd be surprised if they didn't exchange one asset for the other at some point.  This offseason seems unlikely but perhaps we'll see it over the next year or so.  If recent trades hadn't diluted the value of prospects as they have, they probably would have made a deal by now.  But the Cubs prefer not to have the market dictated to them and my guess is they'd rather wait until it settles before they commit to a trade, especially since they have some time to play with now.  The bottom line, though, is that they have put themselves in a position to make needed additions as they arise. They have an opportunity to increase their chances to contend for a World Series title for each of the next 5 years.  By the time that run ends, they should have had the time and resources to rebuild their farm system, especially if they hang on to their lower level talent.

All of that is not to say the Cubs should start a fire sale and trade for the sake of trading.  Those prospects have value so I don't expect them to continue trading top prospects for 3 month rentals and if they do, it means they've found themselves in a desperate position, much as they were last year with the bullpen.  Even so, it's hard to imagine the Cubs ever having the same sense of urgency now that they've won it all.  Some of that pressure is gone forever.

At the same time, please don't make too much of that last sentiment. This is a competitive front office.  They didn't come here for a one and done.  I don't expect them to rest on their laurels -- and I certainly wouldn't want them to.  If there is a reasonably good value deal to be made that helps them win in the short term, they're going to make that deal.  And while I don't believe they would trade any of their young MLB core players (including super-sub Javier Baez) I do think they'd be willing to trade any prospect for the right player and/or in the right scenario -- though I would expect them to set the bar pretty high to include Jimenez or Happ.

The Cubs are in an enviable position.  They're awash with prospect currency and they have about a 5 year window to compete for multiple titles provided they maintain a playoff worthy starting rotation and bullpen.  They also have the resources to additionally contend well beyond those 5 years if they can use that currency responsibly.  One thing we should know by now, the Cubs have the right owner and the right front office to make these tough decisions and deftly balance short term goals with their long term philosophy of sustainable success.

Filed under: Uncategorized

CHICAGO TRIBUNE VIDEO

Comments

Leave a comment
  • fb_avatar

    Do you think that the FO will change their draft philosophy and instead of taking the best college hitter to more high character HS hitters like AA that need more development time in the minors?

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Ron U:

    They unquestionably have the luxury of "time." I have my doubts, though, that they change their philosophy. That doesn't mean they won't take a high character HS athlete if they think he is the best player available. But given the choice between Almora (high character HS athlete) and Happ (best college hitter available) I think they take Happ (depending on how much you value switch hitter vs plus defense) at least in the "metaphorical sense" if not necessarily the literal sense.

    But, again, the Cubs have time to develop their position players. It is also possible that the Cubs jump on a college pitcher in the first round. However, for the foreseeable future those will be low first round picks which means they will be likely just taking BPA and hope for the best. I am thrilled, though, that this FO looks beyond the "tools" and takes "character" and "coachability" into account as well. We have all seen guys with eye-popping numbers or off the charts "tools" that flop in the minor leagues. These guys seem to focus on "here are some traits that often help a good player become a MLB player." And not all of those traits can be easily quantified, or measured, or even seen without "knowing" the player.

  • In reply to Ron U:

    It's always BPA, which for the Cubs also means probability of success. Early on it was best hitter because they had top 10 picks and hitters at that level have such a high likelihood of success, especially college hitters (Bryant, Schwarber, Happ). But BPA and probability gets fuzzier as we get to lower first round. It could still be a hitter if that's how it shakes out, but now much more likely to be pitcher than in previous years with 1st rd, pick

  • In reply to Ron U:

    Wow, that is a good question.

  • In reply to Ron U:

    There is a tremendous difference between #30 and top 5 prospects. Don't expect any more Bryant's or Schwarber's. Those guys will be long gone. Any draftees will require significant time in the minors before accruing much value. After all, that's the reason for the draft being done in reverse order.

  • That's a fine article, John. Does anybody really think that Jason Heyward is an actual threat to walk/opt out on that contract, considering the offensive struggles he had this year ? On what planet, will he be able to do better than that contract and commitment from the Cubs? Obviously, we're all hoping the offense returns this year, but his deal seems ridiculous right now.

  • In reply to drewsky:

    I agree - I do not envision Heyward opting out. #1 reason is that I perceive that he want to be part of the Cubs team....reason he chose Cubs over Cards. I anticipate that he will get lots of innings in CF the next 2 years to free up innings in RF for Zobrist. Then maybe continue into 2019 & beyond if Happ (or Zagunis) becomes the best lead off option or Jimenez forces his way into RF. Can envision Heyward as primary CF until maybe Wilson or Dewees arrives. Almora role could be then 4th OF and 1st replacement for baserunning situations and late innings defense (especially to replace Schwarber)

  • In reply to 1147wenonah:

    I think you nailed it. Unless Almora learns to walk a lot more, I see Heyward and Almora platooning and the RF manned by Happ or Jimenez.

    Wonderful article. Thanks, John, for giving us a concise rundown on where we stand.

  • In reply to Oneear:

    Thanks.

    I don't think the Cubs platooning Almora and Heyward though :) Certainly not because of walks. If he hits well enough (and there is no indication he won't hit) he will catch everything in CF and hit at the bottom of the order. If he does learn to walk, he moves up in the lineup. Almora is going to have to be terrible overall on offense not to be their everyday. Offense is not going to be an issue with this team. They carried bad offense in LF and C (pre-Contreras) last year. Almora shouldn't be that bad and he will add tremendous defensive value, especially because it keeps Heyward in RF.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John, one of the better points made.

  • In reply to 1147wenonah:

    I don't either, but I think the possibility does exist. If he winds up being the Heyward from 2012-2015, a 4 year span in which he averaged just over 5 WAR and he is just in his late 20s, you'd have to think today's market would be awfully tempting and he could beat the 5 year/$105M or so left in his contract. The Cubs structured that deal to make it easy for him to opt out after 3, much of that money was paid upfront. If he repeats this past season, he will stay because he won't beat that deal, but hard for me to believe a just turned 29 Heyward, still in his prime, couldn't out do the remainder of his contract on the open market if he produces as he did earlier in his career.

  • In reply to drewsky:

    Drew,

    If Heyward's bat returns and his WAR is back around 6, then he could if he wants to. I highly doubt Heyward doesn't improve his offensive production (double meaning intended) going forward. That said, so long as the Cubs stay good, I don't think he'd want to leave.

    It's also important to note that he can be traded in 2019 or 2020 if need be to make room for Eloy or whomever.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Quedub:

    Thanks, Quedub. You saved me some typing. If Heyward gets his fWAR back up in the 5-6 range he CAN do better than what the Cubs will still owe him on his contract--and collect his $20M signing bonus immediately I believe. Don't be fooled by one year of poor performance. I am sure there will be teams lining up to re-sign him if he comes back to more normal production.

  • In reply to drewsky:

    I think there is a chance. We tend to have a recency bias in which he factor in the most recent data/info too heavily. If Heyward returns to the Heyward of 2012-2015 (avg of 5 WAR per season), it's hard to believe he wouldn't beat 5 years and $105M coming off his age 28 season on the open market In fact, if he does return to being that player, there are going to suddenly be a lot of fans getting nervous that he might leave. The Heyward of those years would be such a great fit for the team, which is why they got him to begin with.

  • In reply to drewsky:

    If he starts to hit, maybe he opts out and returns to Atlanta? That's his hometown, and their rebuild could be hitting its stride just at that time. But on the other hand, the Cubs would still have a really good situation.

  • The Cubs can always trade near-ready prospects to fill pitching or other needs on the MLB club, but they can also trade prospects for prospects. Since success means dropping in the draft order, trading surplus MLB-ready prospects for great talent at lower levels is a way to help keep the pipeline producing.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Prospect for prospect deals would work, but they are just so rare. There is a bit of pride/ego involved. Nobody wants to look like the team that got hosed in that kind of talent trade.

  • fb_avatar

    Why not deal Major League talent if prospects are ready? For instance (not that I want to do this) once Happ is ready, look to deal Baez who can bring a larger high level prospect return. This can keep the pipeline strong.

  • In reply to David Kraft:

    Because Baez is part of their short and long term core. He can fill a number of roles over the next 5 year roles to help them win. Why on earth would they trade him for a prospect package?

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    I would not make that specific deal, just using that situation as an example because Happ seems close to the major leagues. The best teams seems to trade their better players a year early rather than a year late.

  • In reply to David Kraft:

    Because Happ isn't as good as Baez?

  • In reply to Quedub:

    This was much better than I put it. Baez is so much better than Happ right now. That is not to say Happ won't one day be a better player than Baez, but he has a long hill to climb, especially in a multi-position role. The Cubs are going to play probabilities and that is going to side with players who have already seen MLB success.

  • For me, as hard as it would be, Javier Baez is the one big blue chip prospect I would use to get cost controlled pitching.

    Couple of reasons:
    1. Baez's value is very high coming off a postseason where he was able to showcase the glove and power.
    2. Despite #1, he still has a bit bust factor. Maybe he turned the corner last season and in the playoffs but maybe he just had a 2015 Soler moment.
    3. I'm a big Happ fan. He can be a top of the order force that brings something different and dynamic to the lineup. While the defense will take a hit, I think he can settle into being an avg to above avg 2B. He also doesn't have baez current trade value.
    4. It delays the Zobrist decision and keeps Zobrists bat in the lineup. And when Happ is ready, he can be mentored and groomed to take over in what should be zobrists last season.

    I also think trading Schwarber to an AL team might make a lot of sense. I just don't think this organization will. If there's one guy theo has an unnatural and special love for... it's schwarber.

  • In reply to ripiceman:

    You are proposing moving Baez and Schwarber for cost-controlled pitching. Why, when the Cubs have, if anything, money to spend on pitching? I just do not understand or buy into that argument. We are so spoiled with the cost-controlled position players that almost by default there is a reaction that the Cubs must have cost-controlled pitching. If we have learned anything it is that Theo and Jed will actually spend on starting pitching. I do not see that changing anytime soon. If we get lucky and a Hatch, Cease, DeLaCruz, or Underwood develop into TOR types, then trading may make some sense. But until we actually bring our own SP to the big leagues I do not believe we trade any prospects for pitching. And I agree with this. Spend FA dollars on pitching and keep the Offense as the cost-controlled portion of the payroll. Injuries to young pitchers are too frequent to trust your team to lead the way. Everyone is envious over the Mets--one year later that bet is not so good as Harvey, DeGrom, Wheeler, and Matz have all gone down. I would not want their future. They are set up to be a "what if" era of Mets baseball. Position players are more stable and Theo, Jed, and Jason have hit home runs with our hitters.

    I respect your view and I know there are others who agree with you. IMO, the price to get them is too high and injuries too frequent for my comfort level.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    ^^^This!! There's no reason, imo, to pay the huge price in prospect currency for pitching.

  • In reply to ripiceman:

    Idk, you do realise that Baez lead the NL in runs saved with 1/3 as many changes, plays several positions equally well. Of course there is the question about his offense, and if he will be able to recognise pitches, but there is probably zero chance that he will be traded.

    As far as Schwaber, people make a huge deal about Kirk Gibson's home run with bum knee, but he at lest played that year. Kyle sat out the whole season before he stepped into the box and raked in the World Series. The front office is not going to be in a hurry to trade either.

  • In reply to ripiceman:

    We cannot trade Baez. He's the only viable back up to a Russell injury. See the article on SS prospects.

  • In reply to Gunga:

    gooood point!

  • In reply to ripiceman:

    I don't think you can trade Baez bc he is the only player that could take over at SS for an extended period if Russell is injured. They have Kawasaki in the minors who could fill in for a couple games, but I'd in no way feel comfortable with him as the everyday SS on a contending team. I don't want to see Schwarber traded bc he's my favorite player on this team. I can't be unbiased with him so I'm not going to try & come up with reasonings besides I'd be really sad.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Bamacub:

    I am comfortable with Kawasaki at SS. But not thrilled about having that bat in the line-up.

  • In reply to ripiceman:

    I wouldn't hold my breath on the Cubs trading Baez. One reason trumps all 4: Baez is part of the team's core to win now. They may not make it past SF without him and he was a big key vs. LA as well. He is a uniquely talented player and he has found his niche. He adds so much value to this team. He is not Soler because he is much more than a one tool guy. He is a bit like Heyward or Bryant in that he adds so much outside of his hitting (defense, versatility, baserunning, and unique talents such as the tags). I also like Baez as an eventual leader, or at least one of the guys up front, whereas someone like Soler preferred to be more in the background.

    Happ will be a huge dropoff from Baez defensively and in terms of versatility. He is more likely to be a Zobrist replacement, but not young Zobrist, more of the so-so, less versatile defender we see today. That's not a bad player, of course, but Happ cannot replace what Baez does. Late career Zobrist and early career Happ would duplicate each other too much. The Cubs like to maximize their roster.

    Schwarber not going anywhere. As long as he can catch anything near him, his bat will be in the lineup. And as I have said many times, he is worth much more than that. When you look at guys who will lead that clubhouse after Ross leaves, it's not Bryant and maybe not even Rizzo. I think it's Schwarber and Almora.

  • In reply to ripiceman:

    Here's where I really disagree with people that say Baez still has a high "bust" potential...he's so good defensively, good base runner, can steal, can bunt...even if his offense stays what it was last year (90-100 wrc+ range) he's a 3-4 war player. That is the farthest thing from bust potential.

    Soler is the prototypical high ceiling low floor, bust potential player. He's not good defensively or on the bases so it's either he's good to great offensively or he's a bust.

    Baez is a very safe bet going forward imo. His floor is basically a 3 war player if he's playing full time at 2b.

    And if the offense does get to a 110-120 wrc+ range then he's all of a sudden a superstar.

  • In reply to Trent00:

    That's a good way to think about Baez. Put another way, his floor is now basically Darwin barneys ceiling, who some people thought should be a cornerstone as the 3rd best hitter on a horrible offensive team, where Baez floor is the 6th best hitter on a great offensive team.

  • In reply to ripiceman:

    I fully agree on Baez. I think it's significantly more likely than not that his value to the team is at its absolute peak. I made the same 2015 Soler comment on a prior article. The new luxury tax is gonna make it painful for teams to buy an entire rotation. If Baez + gets a young ace or number 2 to replace Arrieta, do it. Yesterday.

  • In reply to ripiceman:

    Don't think you're giving him enough credit for his defense. Rarely a game goes by where Baez doesn't have a run saving play--often 2 or 3. Much like the point John made about Almora, his defense alone is adequate to keep him in the lineup. To even suggest that he won't at least retain his hitting skills is well ????

  • fb_avatar

    You have to remember with the new collective bargaining agreement the cubs won't have the ability to go out and outbid teams for players anymore, plus where the cubs are picked to finish at or near the top they aren't getting any shots at top draft choices.
    I think the cubs chances to keep filling the pipelines are taking advantage of players who performed above expectations and turning them for prospect talent. I think you have a situation with Arrietta where you either ride him for his last year and lose him essentially for a 3rd rounder or if you can't extend him you trade him for some young pitching or prospects, remember tis better to trade too early than too late..
    It's not easy to repeat and to think everything will fall into place is not reality, we have to keep turning over to stay healthy.
    Taking this a step further, if you have to resign our players in 21 or 22 to contracts, we really won't have the money to sign them all, pitching is going to be too costly by then, you can't have $20M per year players at all the positions the cubs have plus pitchers at a higher cost.

  • In reply to tater:

    In all probability Arrieta will sign for more than 50 mil which means the Cubs would receive a first round pick as compensation.
    The cost for the signing team would be either a second and fifth rounder or a third rounder based on varying factors

  • In reply to ericccs:

    That's not accurate.

    The pick a team gets as compensation for losing a QO free agent depends on their market size and whether they're over the tax threshold.

    Small market teams that qualify to receive revenue sharing funds will get a compensation pick after the 1st round.

    Larger market teams like the Cubs will get a pick after Compensation Round B (which follows the 2nd round) and before the start of the 3rd round.

    Teams that are over the salary cap (which the Cubs were in 2016) and pay a tax will receive a pick in between the 4th and 5th rounds.

  • fb_avatar

    Baez for a Tehran odorizzi type pitcher then put zobrist at second. Not sure what you mean on unnatural love for Schwarber. Hit .412 in World Series after only playing 2 games and sitting out with knee injury. Projected 45 hr 120 RBI guy. All gm's would have love for him.

  • In reply to Mikel Grady:

    Agree on Schwarber part. That's why everyone asks for Schwarber first (or Baez).

    But no way do I do Baez for Teheran. So much upside, so much unique talent/value for an overrated pitcher that I think they can duplicate at much less cost. Baez isn't going anywhere and definitely not for Teheran.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Hear, hear!

  • Awesome article! Great way to spend Sunday am. Several Comments:

    1. I think this FO and Madden think about 9 starters for 8 positions. Currently Zobrist/Baez is in this role, depending on how you place the pieces. In this scenario there is room coming up for another player when Zobrist contract is over or if he declines with age.

    2. We don't know that Almora makes it at the ML level yet. He doesn't get on base except when he hits, and we'll have to see if that tool plays at this level as it did in the minors. His D may keep him here regardless, but it could mean he's more a 4th/5th outfielder than starter. Hence a possible second spot.

    3. The FO seems very focused on the full 40 man rather than just the 25, and looks for impact depth to address injuries throughout the season. I don't see them trading off the 40 man just because someone is blocked. For example, if Candelario is blocked, but is the main piece to back up Bryant, I think he'll stay.

    4. It seems the world of trading devolves into whether you are the approacher or approachee. Being the approachee gets a much better return (i.e. Chapman or Sale trades). The Cubs got to where they are by being approachees in trades -- Feldman, Dempster, Shark, etc. They've transitioned into being approachers for final pieces -- Chapman, Davis. It would be ideal if they can get back to being approachees with impact young talent, like the Patriots w/Jimmy Garoppolo. You could argue that Montgomery for Vogs was one of these.

    5. The Cubs got here with impact talent -- nearly all of whom are first round picks -- Russell, Bryant, Baez, Schwarber, Almora. You could argue that Soler was an equally prized talent. Only Contreras and Hendricks developed from less prized starting points. Looking at the next crop, only a couple on the list appear to have that same opportunity -- Jimenez and Wilson. (I don't put Happ in that category yet -- his stats in the minors don't approach Schwarbs or KB). Perhaps a couple off this list develop into impact players a la Contreras, but most seem to be 'Just a Guy.'

  • In reply to Gunga:

    Thanks. I figured this would be a fun one to comment on and it links to the prospect series, so a good fit for a Sunday. Watch some football and talk baseball in between...though I have to say I rarely watch football these days :)

    1. I don't know if it necessarily has to be 9 starters for 8 spots. If circumstances dictate, it could be 10 starters with a 4th OFer such as Happ (who also plays 2B, of course) or Zagunis or Dewees. And there could be that extra infielder who rotates in, such as LaStella or maybe Young, eventually. The 9 guy scenario would definitely call for Happ, but it's really Baez who makes it all work.

    2. I think the Cubs will view Almora offense as a plus. That is not to say he won't hit, because I think Cubs fans will start to see that he can as long as he is healthy. They just won't expect him to be 2016 Fowler. It wouldn't surprise me if he learned to walk over time. He has never been in one league long enough to learn the pitchers and get settled,

    3. Agreed. I think they do look at the 40 man as an active tool to rotate players in and out because of depth. At some point, though, what they can get in return will exceed the value of that depth.

    4. Absolutely. "Aproachees" get to set the market.

    5. Agreed again :)

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Gunga:

    I am not prepared to put anyone in a par with Schwarber or KB as far as minor league production.

  • There is no way you can trade the guys already on the MLB roster. Baez is easy to look at & see him as a guy without a position but he is also the only player that could handle SS for a championship team if something happened to Russell. There are no prospects anywhere close to being MLB ready that could take over. A lot of guys will have to be added to the 40 next offseason so I could see the FO being aggressive on the trade market. I also think they might wait to see how their arms in the minors progress& then determine what kind of moves they need to make. If the arms are progressing well they might could make some moves similar to the Braves this offseason & trade for arms with 1 yr left on their deal instead of going after a huge trade for starter with multiple years of control.

  • Three Windows:

    The overarching window to win started in 2015 and lasts through 2021. The Cubs may extend that window by picking and choosing which of the current position players warrant a mega contract, and building around that. Within that epoch (in baseball years), I believe there are three distinct mini-windows, each defined as a period of pitching. It makes sense -- as the Cubs book is defined by stability in hitting, the chapters will be defined by stability in pitching.

    Supporting this approach, I think the FO believes that the shelf life of pitching is - 3 years. Planning for a rotation beyond that window is impossible. Some pitchers will excel beyond that window, but on a whole, most staffs will need to be recreated every few years. Even the Giants have seen significant turnover among their impact starters across their 5 year run. The Mets are seeing the first parts of their staff turn over.

    Chapter 1 is the Arietta / Lackey / Hammel window. We're in that one, and it's brought the Cubs a WS win, a NLCS and whatever happens this year.

    Chapter 2 is a bridge it lasts for 2018 and maybe 2019. How do the Cubs get enough pitching until their own top-end prospects write Chapter 3? I don't see the Cubs signing another Lester-type in this window due to the financial impact in future years. Perhaps we see Jake sign a 5 year deal with an opt out after 2019 (unlikely, unless the $$s are high enough). Perhaps Lackey is fine with a 1 year deal? Maybe the Cubs find another couple willing to take 1 or 2 year deals a la Hammel / Lackey. Maybe a Rob Z, Ryan Williams can step in as a 4/5 and plug holes for a year or two.

    Chapter 3 is the arrival of the Cubs farm system for SP in 2020 and 2021. Most of the top prospects are low level impact arms. They should be here for this chapter, and not soon enough. Arbitration will be expensive -- enough to push the Cubs into luxury spending. Among Cease, De la Cruz, Clifton, Albertos, Hatch, Hudson, Underwood can the Cubs find 2-3 TORs to augment an aging Lester and Hendricks (assuming they both last that long).

  • This was very well written with respect to the inventory available for sale. To me, trading is a 2018 issue when Jake and Lackey could be gone. Any trade discussion is premature until after Jake's arbitration and Tyson Ross signs somewhere. If Jake accepts a Lester range package and Ross signs, there is no urgent need. If it is clear that Jake is testing the market and Ross goes with the Rangers, then it makes sense to trade for a controllable starter as both insurance for 2017 and to fill one of the 2018 holes. Signing one free agent is doable in a reasonably strong class, but two is problematic. I'm not counting on any of the internals (either prospects or rehabs like Brooks) to press the issue, if they do that is gravy. The picture should clear before spring training.

  • In reply to charactercounts:

    Thanks. I agree. I just don't see that urgency to pay today's prices on a cost controlled pitcher. If it becomes desperate they can big later, but it is not desperate now, so no need to make a deal unless it makes sense.

  • In reply to charactercounts:

    I don't think you can count on Ross for anything considering that he is injured & is only seeking a 1 year deal. He really doesn't do anything to help the Cubs beyond this year bc he is really just trying to re-establish his value for next offseason when he is a FA. Some team will give him the 1 year deal he wants so if he signs with the Cubs I think it will be for 1 year only. He is essentially a rehab project himself. I've seen several scouts say that they wouldn't sign him this year bc he has trouble throwing strikes & his arm action makes it very likely he gets re-injured again.

  • In reply to Bamacub:

    Sorry I wasn't clear, but I wouldn't sign Ross without a club option for 2018, likely variable tied to 2017 innings. Doubt other clubs would either. You may be right that someone else blinks.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to charactercounts:

    I wouldn't be surprised to see the Cubs take a flyer on Ross. He would be some insurance in the 2nd half allowing them to possibly not have to trade for anyone.

    And the FO seems to really like the sound of having LOTS of funds free for the 2017-2018 FA crop.

    I'm not advocating this as a strategy but simply saying it is plausible that the Cubs will do it.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Don't understand why you think they would need to trade for another pitcher this year. Seem to be set with the rotation that has the lefty replacing Hammel. Bullpen is stronger. Signing Ross would be overspending vis a vis cost and value.

  • In reply to veteran:

    I think they're two starting pitchers short. Yes, I'm talking back end but Ross could be given time to rehab while Montgomery is in the rotation, then use the six man rotation for stretches and then the better pitcher stays at 5. Honestly injuries worry me this year if for no other reason than this staff has been so healthy. The law of averages will crop up eventually. The general consensus is that you need 8 starting pitchers between the big league staff and depth at AAA that can start in MLB.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to veteran:

    Thanks TC. That is kind of my thinking. The more good starting pitchers we have at the MLB level the more less likely we will be subjected to a AAAA pitcher making significant contributions or losing development time that might take him over the hump.

  • In reply to veteran:

    I think the potential Ross signing is a hedge on regular season depth and the ability to have a viable 6 man rotation for the stretch run as the Cubs did this season.
    The FO just can't assume the good health of the starting five for a second consecutive season. We were fortunate in 2016. And if we know anything about this FO, they leave very little to chance

  • Great read John! Trading players is a hot button issue. I can't see the Cubs trading anyone who is a young cost controlled starter on the MLB level, Baez included. I know some have suggested trading Baez now while he's at peak value, but that creates holes at the back up position all over the infield. Baez can handle first, second, SS and third all at a gold glove level, no drop off. No one wants TLS or Kawasaki filling in more than 1-3 games at a time. The team got lucky with the lack of injuries last year. Baez is the best defensive insurance policy the Cubs, or any team, has.

    As far as the prospects who aren't at the MLB level, I think at some point someone will go. There's not a lot of room for the near ready guys, no matter how much we grow attached. While we can't flip all of them, obviously depth is needed at AAA, they are valuable pieces. At any time, a pitcher could go down with a season ending injury. I certainly wouldn't want to be in a position where we have to overpay because Lester went down for the season, it'd be nice to know the ability is there.

  • In reply to Mom2futurecubs:

    I agree. With only 3 bench spots, Maddon has to have guys that can fill multiple positions, & if the Cubs are planning to compete those players need to be better that just an MLB average player. Baez is to valuable to trade. He also isn't getting a TOR arm on his own. In a trade he might be able to get a good MOR arm with 3 years of control with the way the market is right now.

  • According to Arizona Phil these are all the players that need to be added to the 40 man roster this offseason or be exposed to the
    Rule 5 Draft
    Zagunis, Black, Rademacher, Young, Ryan Williams, Jimenez, Clifton, de la Cruz, Paulino, Ryan McNeil, Stinnett, Tseng, Farris, Juan Carlos Paniagua, Zach Hedges

    These players would be minor league FA if they aren't added to the 40 man
    Dairy Toorez, Acevedo, Jeffery Baez, Pedro Araujo, Johnathan Martinez, Andreoli, Concepcion, Taylor Davis, Mullee, Rosscup

    The Cubs currently have 2 openings on the 40, but could free up to 12 more spots if they allowed all their FA leave & out their project arms on waivers. The thing I'm concerned with is that they are having to burn minor league option years on players that are blocked & will start losing a lot of the 25 man flexibility they've had where they can move guys up & down to avoid having to place guys on waivers.

  • In reply to Bamacub:

    That is going to be a factor in some decisions but the Cubs have been pretty good about keeping roster flexible. Barring breakout seasons that change the equation, the must adds are Jimenez, Zagunis, Clifton, and De la Cruz. Four is manageable and I think they could do more. They could have done more this past season had they wanted to. That leaves room open if someone like Paulino, Stinnett, Williams, or Young force Cubs to protect more. Whatever happens, it seems certain the Cubs will lose talent simply because they have so much depth right now.

  • fb_avatar

    Can anyone remember a team with such a young, successful team at every position? Excluding Heyward and Rizzo, most of these players would still be in the minors. Some of our top prospects are already their age. However, as we've seen, injuries happen and players are called up. I said before, in yesterdays thread, that to me the only "untouchables" are Eloy and Cease and possibly DJ Wilson. These are maybe the only game changers that I see in the minors.
    I hope that our minor leaguers get off to great starts and then their value is higher and if we trade them get more in advance.
    When does a prospect get brought up to be on our bench to replace Coghlan or TLS or Szczur? The younger players need at bats, but could learn a lot at the ML level too.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    I really cant. We are spoiled right now. theres at least one positional player at every position at the MLB level that's 27 or younger that you can't help but get excited about. Even Heyward. I fully expect a bounce back.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    I am not yet a big DJ Wilson supporter. I like him fine as a prospect. But at this point I don't know that he has much "impact" ability. That could change. But he seems so far away that his range of possible outcomes seem to include as much "AA ceiling" as they do "MLB Impact player." He's worth watching but if I am given a decent return I would pull the trigger on him. JMO.

  • When I look at the current list of prospects, I see trade chips.

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    Better way to put this is, "I see every prospect as a potential trade chip". Semantics, but it's a more accurate portrayal of Cubs situation. DJ Wilson, for example, isn't a trade chip when you look at him. But if there is a team out there that likes him as much as I do, maybe he is. But even if they do like him, it's as a sleeper/high risk/high reward guy that teams don't give up a lot for, so I don't see that as a viable chip as things stand today. But when we start to say, "potential trade chip", we don't have to speak with such certainties or such clearly delineated labels. Here is what I mean using a different player as an example. If a team thinks EJM is the next Andruw Jones and wants to pay accordingly, then he becomes a trade chip -- but that is unlikely. A more likely scenario is that they really like him but because of the obvious risks, maybe he's their 2nd or 3rd player they want as part of a package and without him, it's a deal breaker. Then he goes from potential trade chip to actual trade chip. But when I see a guy with so much uncertainty, so far from where he needs to be, and no urgency to deal, I would hardly say, this is a chip we should cash in right now.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I'm fully capable of determining the best way to structure my sentence. No edits required.

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    Not so much editing as context and the idea that value is relative or conditional, not absolute.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Okay. I'd just say that despite the sad direction or country is headed, I am still allowed to own my thoughts. And that's what I think. I'm okay if you disagree.

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    I am actually trying to find a common ground, thinking maybe this was something I would agree with if put in context. I was more or less trying to clarify it for myself to determine if I agree with it or not. But if your thought is, everyone is a trade chip as an absolute regardless of context or condition, then yeah, I disagree. I think that's too rigid to be practical. I do think what you meant is that every prospect is potentially tradeable, which aligns with me saying no prospect is untouchable, so we'd be in agreement.

    Also, as an aside please refrain from anything remotely political. I understand how you feel and it's not at all a matter of me agreeing or disagreeing on a personal level when it comes to politics. It's just I don't want to invite that kind of discussion here from either side.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    It looks like we agree. I'd suggest not being so pedantic. It's a bad look.

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    Just clarifying, it was a broad statement and my point is there's nuance. Not saying you didn't understand that, but your statement makes that unclear. Not trying to show you up if that's what you took from it, just trying to determine if we were on common ground by looking things through my personal perspective. I flesh that out through my own writing. I am often a thinking out loud person (even if out loud is actually writing it down in this case). Didn't think it was reason to get on the defensive. Your response wasn't the reaction i expected.

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    Fair enough. I butt heads with you too much. Sorry. It's your blog. Obviously context matters. Thanks for pointIng that out, it's an important clarification. Good article.

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    It's cool. Like anyone else, I like like-minded people/comments, it's a fun discussion because we can support and supplement each others knowledge... but I also like people who can disagree with me intelligently. If I butt heads and go back and forth with you or anyone else, it's because I respect what you have to say even if I don't agree. To me those kinds of exchanges are just as interesting because you pick on things by being challenged to defend your point and also because someone who sees things differently may have picked on something I didn't. If I thought you were a troll or didn't think you knew what you were talking about, I wouldn't waste my time. In this case, I suspected we were actually on the same wavelength, but I wasn't clear on that.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I think we get caught up emotionally in prospects. I felt the world had ended when we traded Torres for Chapman, and in a greater sense, Castro, Torres, Billy McKinney, Crawford, and Warren for Chapman! I wanted another solution. I went ballistic in a way, and yet the Championship can not be under-estimated.

    Articles like this bring things more into perspective. And some trades are losses not gains. The Ian Stewart trade comes to mind. The Castro trade at least in part. That is surely investing too much emotion into the process. I would view Jimenez to be an implausible trade, just like I did Torres. And all the rest potential trade chips. But These articles bring me down to earth a little.

  • In reply to Quasimodo:

    We do, Maybe because we just sort of grow up with them. Also because we dream on what they might be, which is usually bigger than reality I was pretty mixed on the Chapman deal. I mean, I wanted him, but I didn't like that we had to give up Torres, not because I didn't want to give him up at all. He really had no place once Javy emerged. It was more that I didn't want to give up that much for a rental when he would have been a great piece to get the starter they need. Right now Torres is more likely to headline a deal for an SP than any Cubs prospect. Not that I wouldn't do the trade again because it was needed, but wish the trade could have been made for other prospects and save Torres for a bigger trade. But the market was what it was and so was the need. The Cubs did what they had to do.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Cubswin09:

    Once again, I believe you and I will be on opposite sides on this one (SUPRISE!!!). I certainly see some potential trading chips. But I am not in favor of "shopping" all of them unless it is in the sense of, "EVERYONE is tradeable...for the right price." But I think that Candelario or Happ could both be valuable as "4-corner" players. When I look at a roster try to come up with the best 25-man combination that I can. And to do this I value versatility a great deal. Therefore, a player who can play multiple positions and hit from both sides has enormous value to me.

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    In the sense that any of them winning a roster spot at this point is a way out there long shot at best. Sure. They've built a WS winner. Giving a guy a spin isn't an option for the foreseeable future. We all agree that's a good problem to have. But way too early to give them away for pennies on the dollar.

    That said there's a lot of potential in the pipeline. One of many examples is I'd love to see is Happ taking LaStella's job in the near future. SH with more flexibility in the field. He could give Maddon options he doesn't have today. DJ Wilson? We all should all hope he pans out. The dynamic lead off man of our dreams.

    Point being the Cubs are now stacked at the MLB level as far as position players are concerned. There's no reason to rush any of them at this point. And if my guess is right a pitcher or two is going to surprise us. Bats had a couple years head start. Guy tweaks his grip, finds a new pitch, arm slot, spot on the rubber and shazzam. Happens all the time.

    Bigger point is the top picks have been panning out. Top picks from 2011 to '14 are currently on the 25 man. That's huge in any sport. If a handful of the rest turn out to be productive MLB players these drafts are off the charts good. Then there's international FA's. One brought us Chapman and another Davis.

    Let the kids play. Cream will rise to the top.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Cubmitted:

    I agree there will be little/no "rushing" guys to the majors because they are, while not completed projects, far better than what we were subjected to in 2013-2014. I could see Happ and Candelario moving around the diamond trying to make them more versatile. Tell Happ he needs to be at least "passable" at 2B and maybe some 3B (though I don't think he has played there much) as well as 3B and corner OF. He will never be the fielder that Baez is. But could he be passable, if only for a few innings, at each of 4-5 different positions? That and a switch hitter will be very valuable.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I think Happ is already "passable" at 2B and CF. He is better at LF and RF though. I think 4 positions is enough for a power switch hitter with good OBP to be valuable.

    Candelario can back up 3B and 1B and he is another power switch hitter.

    After this year and Montero retires, we can have Caratini be a backup switch hitting catcher with great OBP.

    I can see the grin on Maddon's face already. :-)

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John57:

    I doubt it is as big as the grin on my face. I have been advocating a "versatile" roster on this board since at least the 2014-2015 offseason. To me it allows the team to give PAs out and get everyone their appearances to stay sharp and allow them to produce at their best level by maximizing their strengths and hiding their weaknesses. With a sufficiently flexible bench (R/L balance--this is where switch-hitters are SO nice, plenty of back ups) a 4-5 man bench is actually plenty and even a 3-4 man bench can work for a few days PROVIDED there is still the ability to move guys around. What makes this work is that Bryant and Zobrist can both do infield and OF and Baez can float all around the infield. Without that flexibility it is exceedingly hard to get by with a "short bench." Too many spots are occupied by guys who can really only do 1 thing well.

    When Montero leaves the other big thing that does it it means that, with Caratini, we would have 3 catchers on the roster (presuming Schwarber can catch, at least emergency) and all could play another spot--if only marginally in Caratini's case.

  • Excellent article, John. This gives us a look at the organization from a front office perspective by looking at the bigger picture. Of course the front office does this type of analysis throughout the system.

  • fb_avatar

    My personal preference is to let the core group grow together- Don't trade from it. Almora is the only question mark, and if Heyward bounces back, the defensive runs saved are worth the questionable bat/BB rate.

    I would actually be more willing to trade Jimenez over Happ for controllable pitching. Especially next offseason, once we have more clarity regarding Jake. If Jimenez is the centerpiece that nets us Archer, I'm 100% okay with that.

    Happ seems to fill a multi-positional need (even if the defense at 2B is sketch) With Zobrist aging and Baez taking on more time at 2B, Happ seems like he'll have greater value as a role player on a team already featuring so many big bats.
    Jimenez may very well be a talented power hitting outfielder, but Bryant can also play RF with Kyle in LF. He's the guy I take offers on, while Happ & the A-ball arms remains off the table.

  • In reply to Eric Foster:

    I wouldn't get your hopes up for Archer. The Astros were rumored to have offered 3 of their top 4 prospects (29, 35, & 47 rankings in top 50) plus 3 more good prospects & the Rays asked for additional pieces. The Cubs couldn't afford that price, without trading either Baez or Schwarber in addition to Jimenez, Happ, & Cease. That's probably the price for controllable TOR SP right now. Unless their is a drastic shift in the market, the price is to high for a trade. Their best option is signing FAs or trading for a controlled arm that has struggled at the MLB level & hope Bosio can get them to improve. I could see them go after Lackey type arms as stopgaps & just not have an ACE in the rotation if Cease & de la Cruz keep improving

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Bamacub:

    I don't disagree. Archer is just an example- Jimenez still needs to prove he's an elite level talent before we'll get anywhere near that kind of return.
    There are still other TOR options out there...

    If all the stars align, and Jimenez proves to be an elite level talent, there's no reason that he couldn't headline a deal. We've got enough cost-controlled position players from a successful farm system to sweeten the pot.
    Much like Tampa's SP depth gives them flexibility to overvalue their market. The Cubs are in the same boat based on position players.

  • In reply to Eric Foster:

    Spot on. 100% agreement.

  • fb_avatar

    I think Albert A is going to surprise us with his offense this year. He doesn't walk much, but could with seeing this team around him, but also doesn't SO that much and slugging is good. We've seen his baseball IQ and while I don't see him being Dexter Fowler with an OBP at .390, a few more walks, fewer SO and hitting behind the runners, tagging up and playing GG defense, he is going to be a pleasant surprise for us.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    I couldn't agree more. I have been an Almora fan since day one. I am super excited to watch his development this year.

  • Thanks, John, for a great article for a frozen Sunday morning. Warms the old bones to be reminded that we are loaded for the next 5 years or more, with potentially great spare parts in the event of injury.

    1. Will people ever stop suggesting the spectacular, sensational, great Javy Baez as a trade chip for SP? Hopefully, after next season when he makes his first of many all star appearances on his way to superstardom. (I still can't get over the fact that he is the first player ever (ever!) to make a name for himself for tagging ability -- the Javy "Super Tag").

    2. My main prospect focus next year will be on our SPs in the minors. Looks like we have a few high impact young arms that we could be seeing in our rotation by 2018. Exciting stuff.

    3. I have nothing but gut feel on this, but I expect Jake to take significantly less money and years to stay with the Cubs and this core group.

  • In reply to TTP:

    With Boras as an agent - I can't imagine Jake staying unless his performance terribly suffers - and then I'm not so sure the Cubs would want him pending the price...

    I can't imagine trading Baez with the amazing multi-positional depth he gives and Joe's prognostication that he won't come into his own for another 2 years...

    But baseball is funny...

  • In reply to TTP:

    1) If Javy is playing full time, unless he completely and unexpectedly wets the bed, he'lol make the all star team. No doubt in my mind.
    2)I hope there's an impact arm come by soon.
    3) I think Jake gets resigned, but I don't think he'll be giving that much of a discount. Aside from staying with a winner, there's not a lot of incentive for him to take a discount. He had another good season (although not the otherworldly of 2015), he was great in the playoffs and has been injury free. Like Fowler, I think Jake wants and has deserved a big payday. He may give the Cubs some sort of discount, but I can't see it being significant. Also, isn't Boras his agent? That makes me feel even less hopeful.

  • In reply to Mom2futurecubs:

    I think the problem with signing Arietta will be length of contract more than total $ which could be key. Time will tell.

  • In reply to Cphil:

    Frankly I can't imagine Arrieta being resigned. I think he'll want too much money for too many years and to be entirely honest he scares the heck out of me. For most of last year I thought I was watching a slightly better version of Baltimore Jake and on top of that a velocity decrease is inevitably coming. Either the Cubs see the same thing or they see something better and sign him. I'll trust their judgement but I am not bullish on the prospects of several years of Arrieta right now.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Agreed. I've never viewed Jake as a hometown discount kinda guy. I'll be shocked if he's back for 2018. The SP situation makes me very nervous after this year with Jake and Lack both gone. I hope Theo and Jed have a master plan in the works.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to criggilyk:

    My guess is that the plan looks something like this: Between Arrieta, Lackey and Montero we are looking at freeing up around $45M. If Schwarber can be the LH back-up catcher--and I haven't heard a definitive statement that he can't from the Cubs staff--we would then have money available to spend on the starting rotation. And if we do need to sign a back-up catcher I think that can be done for <$5M. The team will have other needs to address as well, but I think one of their goals is to have as much financial flexibility as they can going into an off-season with a much better FA class. Yes, it will take money to replace them. But the team will have money to spend as well.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    The problem is who will be available going into next year. So far the only TOR starters on the market for sure are Arrieta and Darvish. It's pretty likely Cueto and Tanaka will join that group with opt outs. Now there will be a pretty big pool of MOR type guys ranging from pitchers who have underperformed due to injury with higher risk higher reward to fairly safe bets for 4th and 5th starters. I'm hoping they can trade for the TOR guy they need and spend on the MOR.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to TC154:

    And it might be worth the Cubs while to snag 1-2 of those MOR guys. They might sign for $10-15M less AAV. If Hendricks can be a #2 and the Cubs can squeeze 2-3 more years out of Lester money saved not trying to get a guy for $25-30M AAV for 6-8 years could pay dividends.

    What the Cubs have is lots of options and depth in their line-up. Which allows them to not go in and be desperate. I think next year will be a bigger year for FA news for the Cubs.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I would replace Jake with Cueto in a heart beat in a FA signing. It would be less years and likely a less AAV. Hendricks slots higher so all you are really replacing is Lackey at #4. I don't think they need to trade right now acquiring a TOR type to keep the World Series train on the tracks. With $45M there is room to play.

    I think the bigger piece is the bullpen after 2017 with Davis gone, Strop likely to be gone, and who knows where Rondon is at physically.

    At least we are both consistent--haha!!! You want to deal and get a young TOR guy(s) and I don't want to give up our hitters. I think this is the most intriguing piece in the coming year for the Cubs.

  • In reply to TC154:

    The issue with Cueto is he'll need to be sure of making more than 4/$88 mil which is what his contract is now. Would he take 5/$125 or would he be looking for more like 6/$145? The other thing is that I think ideally Hendricks is a #3 at best. I don't expect him to continue the kind of numbers he had last year because those are extraordinary for that kind of pitcher. I don't think he'll fall off the map either but I am wary. I also think Lester's decline is coming soon, maybe not in 2017 but would you be comfortable with him at 34 or 35, not just as a valuable piece but as your ace? I would not. I don't mind the idea of Cueto but I don't think he's an ace. I'd probably lean Darvish there anyway but I'm not sure he's an ace either. This team needs a #1 starter within the next 1-2 years and I don't know where that's coming from.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I would say who is the next John Lester? There will be a FA pitcher available that we are not thinking of 2-3 years from now. That is where the next ace comes from (although I hold out hope Cease or DeLaCruz take a huge Doc Gooden leap forward). LHP seem to age fine and I think Lester is the exception who will continue to perform as an ace well into his mid-to-late-30's. I think Johnson and Schilling led the DBacks as both were into their mid-to late 30's. I think Lester is cut from the same competitive cloth. I am not worried as much about the 2018 and 2019 campaign today as some stuff still needs to be sorted out from our own pitching ranks. Another John Lackey type may pop up and we can slot him the middle of the rotation for 2-3 years too.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Joel, let me add a couple things to your plan. Agree with freeing up $45M plus Strop, Davis, another $15M. It would be nice to resign Davis, but they seem to be leaning to CJ Edwards for 2018. With the new CBA and the Cubs budget constraints due to Tribune Co. until 2019, they will be trying to stay below the Cap. They will not want to lose a 2nd and 5th round draft picks for signing a QO free agent starting pitcher.

    My thinking is they will try to extend Jake and fail. we will receive a 2nd round pick for him.
    In 2017/2018 Free agency we will pass on any position players, but will go after SP without QO. So more MOR type SPs.

    Our FO, will not want to go over the Cap and lose 3rd and 5th round picks. They will also try to sign All the position players to long term contracts.

    2018 Rotation;
    Lester,
    Hendricks,
    Montgomery,
    Ross, (if we can sign for 1 year and option)
    Hatch/Clifton/Rob Z
    (if we do not sign Ross, we will go after MOR SP without QO)

    2019 Rotation;
    Lester,
    Hendricks,
    Montgomery
    Hatch/Clifton/Rob Z
    Paulino/Cease/de la Cruz/ Manuel Rondon/2017 1st Round Pick

    I would expect that the 2017 Draft with the 27th and 31st picks, we will go for the Best Pitchers available. This is a golden opportunity to pick up a College Pitcher and a High School Pitcher. We need to start to develop Waves of SP internally versus Free Agency.

  • In reply to criggilyk:

    Personally I am not too concerned with the future loss of Lacky. He has value but it is decreasing rapidly and I think he can be replaced fairly reasonably via trade or free agency or hopefully replaced within the system.

  • In reply to Cphil:

    Right. It's not really Lackey himself I'm worried about losing. It's more about having to fill 2 holes in the rotation in the same offseason. Whatever happens, the rotation will look very different in 2018. The lack of DL time by Cubs starters over the last two years has been pretty amazing. I hope we get one more year of that. This rotation has been very durable.

  • I agree with much of this. I think Eloy is destined for a long Cub career (given continued projected development) far more than Almora. I expect the ONLY thing moving Jimenez is a young cost controlled starting arm.

    Am I mistaken or is Zobrist only guaranteed to remain untradeable through this year? I could see AA moving to a backup bench position with Z gone - and then in 2019 trading a major piece (yes, even KB if he isn't too expensive) for a treasure chest of new prospects to replenish the system...

  • In reply to TheCHISportsFan:

    They say you should never say never. But, trading Bryant for prospects in 2019 will never happen. He will still have 2 years of control. Although it will be slightly costly and they should still have the "core positional" players we have now on the roster (barring injuries). They will have a new TV contract. Don't see that happening.

  • In reply to TheCHISportsFan:

    I think you, and a lot of other folks, are severely underestimating Albert Almora.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to TC154:

    He hasn't produced "eye-popping" numbers but he has been 2.5-4.5 years younger than league average most of his career. Put on top of that potentially getting significant fWAR simply through his defense plus showing the ability to make contact I don't know that he will be a "black hole" on offense. I could see him slashing 0.260/.310/.420 or something like that. Put that together with solid defense and that is a solid ballplayer. If he is the best on your team you are likely a 2nd division team. If he is the 6-7 best player on the team (not far fetched with this roster) that is a pretty darn good team.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    His minor league numbers and the small sample size of 2016 lead me, and a lot of others, to conclude he'll exceed that slash. Even if he doesn't improve his BB/9, which I believe he will, I think he could be a doubles machine bringing his SLG up. If he slashed .275/.325/.450 this year with a .330 wOBA I wouldn't be surprised at all. With his defense, and the fact that the Cubs only need him to be a deep in the order guy I think you're looking at a guy who could put up somewhere between 3-4 WAR in his prime. Remember that this kid's work ethic is said to be outstanding.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to TC154:

    I can imagine your numbers as they only increase things 5-10% so, since we are talking estimates I can accept yours as plausible.

    What gives me hope that he will exceed my numbers is he has a history of being able to make contact and that is a skill that, I believe, translates to MLB decently. If he can do what you are describing and hit 35-45 doubles I will take that without hesitation since he is a very good defender at a premium position.

    And to me he would be a perfect guy to bat in front of the pitcher. If you want to "pitch around him" then fine. Be my guest. It masks one of his "deficiencies" on offense (not taking BB). But he also might swing at a pitch AND make contact on a pitch outside the zone and possibly drive in or advance a runner where Baez might swing and miss or Heyward would simply let it go by for a ball to give just a couple of examples.

    Don't worry. I am bullish on Almora. Though maybe not as bullish as you.

  • In reply to TheCHISportsFan:

    The goal is not to "replenish the system" but to win World Series titles. Why trade a major piece for farm system additions? Makes no sense. I have no desire to win the BA "MILB Org of the Year" or post 5 guys in Keith Law's Top 50. We are in the win now mode at Clark and Addison. World Championships are the metric and moving a KB for future players would be unacceptable.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    What if it looks clear that he's heading towards a $500-$600 mil contract in 2021 and you could move him 2 years earlier for younger talent? You don't trade everybody but if there are guys you do not think you can afford and still field a competitive club it has to be explored. I have assumed from day one that this team won't be able to afford to sign 2 Boras represented players in the same year which Russell and Bryant will be. Still all that is a long way off and there will hopefully be at least 1 more World Series title before then.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to TC154:

    I agree. We don't want to hamstring ourselves. Rather than simply looking at what we are subtracting let's look at what we could potentially gain. I would look for adding a controllable established starting pitcher as a STARTING point in negotiations. Think Chris Archer/Chris Sale type pitcher/contracts + premium prospects.

    So, let's say Bryant is a 8.5 fWAR player. Let's say the Cubs have, in Candelario, a 3.5 fWAR player (I don't know if that is realistic but we are talking 3-4 years down the road). So if we can get a pitcher who is on a decent contract for 3-5 years and then tack on a couple of really good prospects it would certainly get my attention. Not saying I would do it but I would consider it. And I admire and respect KB as much as anyone.

    The main problem with the scenario I laid out is that the only teams interested in making these kinds of trades would likely be another CONTENDING team so we would be helping our competition AND they would be helping their competition. Any rebuilding team isn't going to want to pay that kind of premium for a guy getting close to cashing in.

    Any player, including Bryant, could be replaced without, necessarily, destroying the team. We survived just fine without Schwarber this season DESPITE not getting anything in return for him. I would demand a great deal in exchange for him. But I would also give strong consideration to a deal that would be worthwhile.

    Finally, that doesn't have to be the deal that is struck. Sometimes the discussions for one player change to discussions for another. Last year it was reported that the Cubs were interested in Miller. I believe part of the reason they were able to trade for Chapman is that the Yankees already had a "head-start" in what the Cubs had to offer in their farm system. To preclude discussion by simply saying, "We aren't going to trade Bryant under any circumstances because he is a 'core piece'" might hamstring us in another way. Maybe we get an offer for Bryant we consider far too low. But suddenly it could devolve into a "smaller" deal involving a less player(s) on both sides.

    I will grant you that this is a somewhat different situation as I would include a controllable starting pitcher with a track record of MLB success. But I believe anyone is tradeable. If you could acquire the next Kris Bryant + some other interesting prospects FOR Kris Bryant it would be silly not to at least consider it. Especially since it could potentially open up some PAs for someone like Baez as it would cure the log-jam many are worried about in the line-up. Not that this is a "reason" to make the trade but it is a happy side-effect.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I don't see a $500M-$600M contract in 2021. KB would be 29 years old. That would be about $50M-$60M a year. I could see $35M-$40M a year for 10 years maybe. Now is that to high?

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    You've got to look at what's out there and what will be out there. Scott Boras is already throwing out 10 year $400 mil plus for Bryce Harper after 2018. Depending how he bounces back from a tough 2016 that could very well be his price and I think Bryant is going to be a better, higher WAR player. Giancarlo Stanton signed a 13/$325 mil contract a couple of years ago. People are talking $350 plus million for Manny Machado. If Mike Trout were a FA today I wouldn't be surprised at 3/4 of a billion dollars. So to answer your question your figures may be a bargain but if your core is all late 20's early 30's at that point you may be looking for younger talent. Theo's contract is up after the 2021 season and the team could do something completely different but if everyone in this core is still here in 2021 I'll be more than a little surprised.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Younger talent as in MLB ready talent? Maybe, but I do not want to trade the MVP of the NL during his prime. That's my position. The OP wrote to "replenish the farm" which I would disagree with. It may be a hard choice to let KB walk without trading him early to get something, but it may be the best thing as for winning a championship.

    We'll see how Harper and Machado unfold as they are nearly identical situations happening before KB's time is up.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    You're absolutely right, Harper and Machado's deals will certainly clarify the market. Until then it's just speculation and not even that educated a guess..

  • In reply to TC154:

    Harper and Machado are also younger then Bryant will be in 2021. No way Trout would get $750M. You wouldn't be able to find insurance for that kind of money.

  • Could they trade a prospect for international bonus pool money to sign Otani after this season.

    2017-18 International Bonus Pools
    http://www.baseballamerica.com/international/2017-18-international-bonus-pools/

  • In reply to ucandoit:

    In this coming IFA signing period (July 2, 2017 to June 15, 2018) the Cubs are prohibited from signing anyone for more than $300,000. They can trade for as much IFA cap room as they want, but can't spend more than that limit on any one player.

    The best hope for the Cubs getting Otani is if he waits to sign until July 2, 2018 or later. Another possibility is if MLB changes their position and creates a different IFA agreement for the Asian market (or a specific loophole for Otani). The longest shot is that Otani wants to play for the Cubs so badly that he signs for $300,000.

    Right now, it doesn't look good, but man do I want him on the northside...

  • One other thought. The riches from the new TV contract (I believe) start rolling in around 2020. I wouldn't be shocked for the Cubs to spend big in 2018 for Free Agent arms that seem durable (Lester-like) trying to leave the inventory intact for a continuing swing door of closing arms and emergencies.

  • fb_avatar

    I thought all the trade Javy talk would stop after the WS win (that still thrills me to write it).
    The only reason that Javy is without a position is that he can play so many positions for years. Others can fill in but after a while their deficiencies show up. That wouldn't happen to Javy.
    Was it last offseason in winter ball that he played CF? He also caught in HS. It wouldn't surprise me if he didn't pitch at some point. We shouldn't look at him as a super sub but rather as a supremely talent baseball player at every single position.

  • Great article John! Off topic a bit. When does the Cubs TV contract expire? Happy New Year to everybody! It is nice to read about all of are "problems".

  • John, who do you think starts leadoff this year?

  • fb_avatar

    It is articles like this that keep me coming back to this site. Thanks, John. It was even-handed and not fostered good and constructive discussion.

    The usual ideas are presented: Trade Baez (he likely has almost as much trade value as anyone on the Cubs' roster). Keep Baez (there's a REASON he has as much trade value as anyone on the Cubs' roster). Jiminez will be the next Big Star for the Cubs. Happ will be the next big star for the Cubs. DJ Wilson will be better than any of them. DJ Wilson has had a good season at Short-season A ball. But even though these are well trodden paths it seems someone comes up with a unique insight.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Joel Mayer:

    *and fostered good discussion

    Not sure where the "not" came from.

  • At some point, like a year from now, I'd love to see the Cubs pull off a trade, a la the Nationals 2 seasons ago. They sent off hot Steve Souza Jr and got back Trea Turner and Joe Ross.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to berber31:

    I remember when I first read about that trade i was stunned. Not by the players involved but the rules involved. At the time Turner wasn't eligible to be traded. What happens if he gets a significant injury that might affect his speed, or a change made to his swing to "add power" that would suddenly adversely affect his ability to make contact. Things like that.

    But one thing that I liked about it was it made baseball change its rule, or at least its time frame, for trading players drafted that year.

    Personally, I would LOVE for teams to be allowed to trade their draft picks. With the current "slot" system it would discourage abuse and I think MLB FO are mature enough to make informed decisions on how best to handle their draft picks.

    I recall in 2014 Hoyer commenting he wished he could trade his high draft pick. It turns out he believed that he could drop 4-5 spots in the draft and still take Schwarber. Though he would have lost some slot money and it may have cost him 1-2 of the pitchers he drafted later (Steele, Sands and Cease) it might have netted us another 2nd or 3rd round pick.

    We could progress to it in baby steps. Say "You can only trade draft picks in the next draft" but I would eventually want to take those training wheels off too. Imagine how much fun it would be to be a team with 2-3 first round picks because you traded away your star player with a couple years of control and you are a rebuilding team. Meanwhile, the team doing the trading isn't really "losing" anything other than future gains. They won't have lost time/effort/resources they have put into developing a guy that they have had for a couple years.

    Just my early morning thoughts.

  • John, you are a content machine, thanks for your efforts.

    I think the real difficult problem is how do you maximize prospect value to get the best possible return given you will have to trade some of them? Clearly best value will be from MLB caliber players with years of inexpensive team control remaining. Theo and company faced this exact conundrum with Soler and were fortunate to get 1 year of an aging, albeit elite, closer with health concerns. There is such limited playing time on the big club getting Happ and Candelario regular playing time to demonstrate mlb success and extract maximum value will be basically impossible barring an injury.

    It must be quite difficult to find comps for when a team is so stacked that it's biggest problem is getting value for blocked prospects. Maybe the Yankees of the 90s. They probably have a year or 2 before the 40 man really gets crunched but by that time or trade partners will have us over a barrel. Because of that i see them making a move sooner rather than later, it will be interesting to see how they handle it.

  • In reply to CubsDynasty:

    Thanks! It is going to be difficult to get max value for any of the upper level prospects simply because everyone knows the Cubs are going to need to trade some of them. The Cubs can play poker, but their hand is there for everyone to see. The best that can happen for them is that these guys have great seasons and get multiple teams interested, That will give the Cubs some leverage even with teams knowing they have some motivation to sell.

  • What hasn't been mentioned about Baez (at least I didn't see it) is that he is the most "electric" player on the team. Don't think for a moment that doesn't rub off on the rest of the team. They have to love watching him play.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to cubs1969:

    No one is proposing we trade him to re-acquire Darwin Barney and a flyer on a Short-season A-ball 28 year old reliever. We would demand getting something pretty special in return. The team might be pretty excited to see that too.

  • A little off topic: It occurred to me this morning that an article by Theo or Jed on their approach to hiring people would be extremely interesting - and extremely useful to managers in all sorts of businesses, not just sports. Clearly, they've been very successful in hiring the right people for their job openings; and to see in detail what they look for, and how they go about their evaluations, would be enlightening. (Of course, they may not want to spill the beans on their techniques, but a guy can hope.)

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Nemo:

    They could write an article on general concepts without giving any specifics for what they look for. For instance, they could talk about hiring the right people for the "fit" you desire without listing what they look for in a "fit" beyond hypothetical terms.

  • I've done my best to stay out of this whole thread the last couple of days, somehow I knew what might be suggested. And I was right.

    You guys (you know who you are) are hurting my soul.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    It's such a difficult thing with prospects. Want them all to pan out and wear Cubs uniforms -- but at the same time, we all know that is not possible. There's a fine line for me though. I don't like to think of them strictly as currency or commodities.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I meant the trade Javy stuff :)

    I'm fine with trading prospects.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Javy not getting traded. I know I have said that many times, but still some fans who want to see it happen. It won't.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I nearly dropped in a "you will Michael upset with this" when those posts reared their ugly heads. Haha!!!

Leave a comment