The Cubs and the 800-Pound Gorilla

For those not familiar with the analogy of the 800-pound gorilla, it is describing something that is so obvious that no one can ignore it, but at the same time so frightening and terrible that it is incomprehensible to acknowledge. The Cubs are now living with an 800-pound gorilla, and what they do with it will determine the future course of the franchise.

So what exactly is the 800-pound gorilla for the Cubs? It's an idea that, for many people, seems absurd.

To explore this, we need to start at the beginning, when Cubs owner Tom Ricketts hired Theo Epstein as his Team President. In trying to build the Cubs organization from the ground up, Epstein assembled a management team that would redo the entire set-up, including establishing a “Cubs Way” to do everything from finding your locker in spring training to executing a suicide squeeze. Part of the “Cubs Way” was an idea of how to supply the minor league system, a concept called “position redundancy”. Under this strategy, the Cubs went from a “one position-one prospect” philosophy to a line of prospects at each position, with each one ready to fill in should the one ahead of them falter.

The notion of position redundancy caught the fancy of many Cubs fans. For years, they had been told that their minor league system was barren of talent (it wasn’t true, but that is a story for another time), and their top prospects had a tendency to fizzle out as they either approached or were summoned to the majors (again, there were reasons for that, but now is not the time to discuss it). Position redundancy seemed like a good insurance policy against that happening, as well as the inevitable injuries to prospects that seem to come at the most inopportune times.

And the concept seemed to work well. First up were the acquired prospects of Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Hendricks, and Addison Russell. Soon to follow were drafted players such as Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, and Albert Almora. Even some inherited talent like Javier Baez, Willson Contreras, and Matt Szczur made their way to Wrigley. The results were a young core of players that helped the Chicago Cubs to the Promised Land, a World Series Championship.

But bringing home a title for the first time in 108 years did not stop the steamroller of talent from chugging in the minors. From this previous fall through spring training, the Cubs faithful have seen even more prospects such as infielders Jeimer Candelario, Ian Happ, and Chesny Young. There has even been a glimpse of some of the pitching talent like Trevor Clifton, Oscar De La Cruz, and Dylan Cease. But where was there to put them all? The Cubs roster seemed airtight, with only one retirement and a couple of free agent losses that were easily replaced.

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Although off to a slow start, Chesny Young has the hitting ability, speed, and versatility that can be an asset to the Cubs/photo Tim Sheridan - Boys of Spring

It was as if this was a result unexpected by the front office. There seemed to be few misjudgments, especially with the position players. It was considered a “good problem” by some, usually unaware of the oxymoron they had uttered. “Great commodities to use in trades” was said by others, not knowing that recent deals had led to shortages at some positions in the minors.

In fact, the idea of position redundancy has taken somewhat of a hit, as trades of outfielders Billy McKinney, Rashad Crawford, and Donnie Dewees along with injuries to Eloy Jimenez and Jacob Hannemann have placed several outfielders above levels they were expected to begin at, to which they have predictably struggled. Trades of infielders Frandy Delarosa, Marco Hernandez, and Gleyber Torres have also created gaps in the middle of the minor league system.

Such matters are usually met with a shrug, as both the distance and the percentages have followers giving little consideration to minor league players, with the exception of the most hyped. But having a well stocked and competitive minor league system is not just a philosophical matter, it is also practical. Having players experiencing high leverage situations aids in their development, and brings them to the majors better prepared.

So how do you remedy a situation in which a prospect appears to be blocked? Well, no prospect is ever truly blocked unless that team’s front office chooses to do so. Openings on a major league roster can be made, usually by a well placed phone call.

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Switch-hitting Ian Happ already has seven home runs and is fourth in Triple-A with 41 total bases. He may be major league ready sooner than expected/photo MLB.com

And there is the answer to what is the Cubs’ 800-pound gorilla. As frightening as that solution is to some, it could be the only way the franchise will be able to maintain “sustained success”.

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  • fb_avatar

    Great article again, John.

    I still think that management was caught by surprise by just how many of these guys have turned into "MLB regulars." Obviously they really liked the talent they saw and we have discussed their focus on "character" before as well. So they knew they were getting players who were as likely as possible to make it to the majors and have an impact there.

    However, on the position player side, I think the fact that Bryant and Schwarber rocketed through the minor leagues as fast as they did along with Almora continuing his development and Baez as well. Followed by Contreras suddenly "figuring it out" led them to this point. In short, there wasn't nearly as much "prospect attrition" as most would suspect.

    But I think something else happened too. The trade market didn't develop like they thought it would. One thing about positional redundancy is that it is set up so that you can trade a prospect and have someone else that is a viable candidate to take their place as "top prospect at position X" and have it be a viable prospect. IF something happened to Kris Bryant the Cubs step down to Candelario (or Baez?). That is a pretty soft landing for losing your top guy at a position. But I think the Cubs expected that when someone like Candelario made it to AAA and started "raking" he would become a valuable trade chip. I think the Cubs believed they would be able to trade for what the lacked by using some of this positional redundancy. Obviously I don't know if that was their plan, or maybe he is a hot commodity and they don't want to give him up for anything. But it hasn't worked out that way (trading prospects for other prospects to fill needs) with the exception of Butler and Mills and, of course, Montgomery and we have yet to see how they perform over the long-term.

    So, in an odd way, their positional redundancy plan worked--they now have multiple players for each position scattered throughout the minor leagues capable of playing at the MLB level. But it didn't work in other ways--they have lots of pieces and nowhere to put them on an MLB roster full of talent and the trade markets really haven't shaped up like they probably anticipated.

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    In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Sorry, Tom U.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Thank you

  • I'm new to this term of "position redundancy". So I'll opine with this. If you have light hitting batters either in the lineup, or blowing bubbles on the bench, it's time to think about the team going forward. Do they still try to trade Matt Sczcur, or demote Tommy LaStella to AAA to get him some at bats? I would do both moves within days of each other if I could. Their both hitting weak. Bringing​ up Happ and Zastryzny would fill an immediate problem, and make that 800 lb Gorilla lose weight. I know Matt is out of options, and TLS, says he'll be a man now and accept going to AAA. We need a good bat off the bench, period. TLS only has 1 hit that I know of so far. Unbelievable! And why are our starting pitchers stinking up the joint in the first inning or two? Arrieta gave up 4 in the first, 3 of them earned runs. Lester, Lackey, Hendricks, et al have looked human. Seems the other teams have been studying film, or our Cubs pitchers partied too much this winter.

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    In reply to LRCCubsFan:

    ???
    TLS was sent to AAA on Friday I believe so that part of your post is already covered.

    And you are making judgments based on 8 PAs for Szczur and 6 PAs for TLS. That seems a little harsh. But if you want to go ahead an check out what Rizzo and Bryant did in their first 8 PAs of the year--or 6 if you'd like.

    If you want to include last year that is fine, but please remember that both of them came in at a little above replacement level. Which is a polite way of saying, "Decent bench players." Especially when we consider that they are being paid league minimum.

    I am all in favor of trading Szczur to give him a chance to play more as I think he could be a decent player given 450 PAs, but that is just my opinion. I also have a history of defending TLS and I still like him as a ballplayer.

    But I try to judge players in the context of their skills. Neither of these guys is likely to SLG more than .450. But that doesn't mean they don't provide significant skills.

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    The gorilla could come back and bite you if you're not careful. You might think the player you are trading is expendable and he could turn out to be better than what you kept.
    Not saying the cubs are not in unique spot, just saying don't be in a rush, it's still early in the season.
    As an afterthought, do you want to trade good young players for an upcoming young pitcher(Snell or Beede) or a more experienced pitcher(Archer or Quintanna)

  • In reply to tater:

    Tater, I nominate you for the comment of the day! In your response, you seem to grasp the delicate nature of the situation, but are open minded on the solutions.

    The Cubs are no longer in a position in which they can replenish their system easily through the usual channels, so any trades that bring more upcoming talent are welcome.

  • Still not happy with how I do things? But that shiny World Series trophy and rings we just passed out sure look good with the Cubs name on it.

    I love hear complaining of us having too many good players, sure beats complaining of a bad 25 man roster with no good players in the minors ready to help, yet you are still complaining we have holes in the system? Just no pleasing you.

    Are you the same Tom U that said Javy Baez wasn't very good on defense and had attitude problems??

  • "something that is so obvious that no one can ignore it, but at the same time so frightening and terrible that it is incomprehensible to acknowledge."

    I thought that was the elephant in the room. Or maybe the king in his new clothes.

  • In reply to markw:

    I apologize for mixing my metaphors. I will do better next time.

  • I suspect that the Cubs at this point are in the enviable position of not having to make any phone calls--well placed or otherwise. They'll be too busy fielding incoming calls to worry about making any. I think what's holding things up is the nature of their biggest need: young, cost controlled pitching. The list of names on the Cubs roster who could readily fill that need probably begins with "Schwarber." The Cubs, for obvious reasons, will be reluctant or very slow to pull the trigger on that kind of a deal--despite the fact that LF is probably the single easiest position for them to fill from the organization. Along with 3B.

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    In reply to markw:

    I would argue that 1B is the easiest to fill based on the reasoning that if you can play 3B or LF you can likely cover 1B. Not at a "platinum glove" level but better than the average 1B at 3B or LF (just watch Matt Adams).

  • Well, Candelario is just recently as in late last yr showing to be "ready" for big league jump. We still don't know if he'd continue raking up here or not... That's where the "gorilla" is subjective.... Happ also hitting like a machine but is jack of a few defensive positions but apparently master of none. So we still have time with both players.

    The nice thing about Happ with keeping him on the farm, he's not going to be FA the same time the other big guys come due. He's then followed by Jimenez maybe 2019... But I don't see them being able to keep Happ down next season.

    So instead of waves, they can stagger these guys for when contracts are up, injury insurance or trades. My opinion is that the "gorilla's" not quite here yet.

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    In reply to Milk Stout:

    Right now the Cubs don't even have to put Happ on the 40-man roster for a few years. Then he has 3 "option" years left. I say make him break down the door Bryant/Rizzo style. Unless he is going to come up and truly outplay Zobrist, Baez, Schwarber etc. leave him at AAA where his playing time and positions can be controlled. DON'T pull him up and put him on the bench next to Matt Szczur and Tommy La Stella.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    That's not really true, there is a point of diminishing returns on development but he certainly can stay there all year this year. Some of this will be moot come July because if this team is going to truly contend there will need to be trades made.

  • Huh? An 800-pound gorilla is something so big it can do whatever it wants. "Where does an 800-pound gorilla sit?" "Wherever it wants!" I'm honestly don't get the point of the article. The Cubs have too many good players in the organization?

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    I see your point as well as Milk' s and Joel's. Right now we have time to let it play out. Probably for the year.

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    Yeah, I think he meant "the elephant in the room"

  • If I'm following the premise of your article correctly, you are talking about trading from the major-league roster to "unblock" prospects and to replenish a system that has been depleted by recent transactions. I don't know how you do that while defending a Championship, but you didn't give a timeframe, so we may be in agreement there. I've advocated trading one of the young players prior to free-agency, and after careful evaluation, but that is a complex topic for another time and still a year or three away. That won't happen now.

    We could trade La Stella to open a spot for Happ, and I've been consistent in my belief Happ is taking his spot this year anyway, my guess being after the AS break. But I think La Stella has zero trade value, so that deal does nothing but open a spot. He's not very good (relatively speaking) and his long track record of throwing fits, quitting and threatening retirement when he feels he's not being valued by others as highly as he thinks of himself will deter a GM from giving up much talent.

    We've long anticipated the possibility of a Szczur trade, so that's more of a 10 lb. Chihuahua than an 800 lb. gorilla. He will bring back something, though I think it's obvious the FO hasn't found anything they consider to be equal value. Regardless, he's not blocking any prospect.

    We're already facing huge holes in the rotation and pen after this season, so unless we want to punt this season (we won't), there isn't surplus there to deal from. Montero, Zobrist, and Heyward don't have enough surplus value to make a trade feasible or worthwhile, so that narrows us down to pieces of the young core.

    Again, you didn't specify a time frame, so we may be somewhat in agreement, but we're not close, IMO, to making those choices.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I don't think Happ can replace La Stella. You're talking about a guy that really needs to play everyday somewhere and if he replaces TLS on the bench he won't get that opportunity. Now Happ could replace Baez if he were moved in a deal but since he's the only other guy on the team besides Russell who can play SS you'd have have to make a second move to do that. He could also replace Zobrist if you moved him but you can't because he has a full no trade through at least this year. I don't see Happ playing for the Cubs this year but maybe he's the piece you move and make no mistake if they want to contend for at least the NL pennant in 2017 they will need to trade for pitching.

  • In reply to TC154:

    How can you know that to contend in 2017, that the Cubs will need pitching? I'm not saying that you are wrong.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Obviously I don't know, I suspect. I was worried about this starting rotation going into the year and I'm more worried now. I also didn't think Washington was this good and thought that the lack of a closer would haunt them early and often. It hasn't, despite being a serious problem. As I said in another post I hope I'm wrong.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Why does the team that boasted the best pitching staff in baseball last year, and who improved an already great bullpen, need to trade for pitching to "at least contend for the pennant?"

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    You've watched the pitching thus year right? Lackey looks done and Hendricks looks to be regressing. I won't even mention Anderson. I'm not worried about Lester and Arrieta should be ok but this team will need pitching to contend with Washington and maybe even LA.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I've watched it. Until the recent 5-start stretch the Cubs SP had a collective 2.83 ERA. Now they're at 4.21. That tells me we're dealing with way too small of a sample.
    They've thrown 3 or 4 games each. Lackey has had 1 "fine" start, 1 great one, and 2 lousy. Anderson is a contact guy (again he's thrown 3 games with mixed results: one good, and 2 with loud contact), and Hendricks... yeah he's been bad but he was also arguably the best SP in baseball last year. His fastball is down and it's early.
    They may need SP at some point, but the results after 3 starts for each guy do not tell us anything one way or another.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    I admit to not ever being a Hendricks believer. He's tough not to root for but without stellar command he's hittable. Going into this year I was worried about him and Arrieta but I'm starting to think the latter will probably be effective enough as a #2 behind Lester. You're right on the small sample size and I could very well be wrong, but pitching and defense were what put this team over the top last year but both look to be serious concerns this year.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Eh, agree to disagree on Hendricks i guess.
    I have to disagree that the defense is a concern. Yes, they've been a bit sloppy but this is the same defense as last year, with an upgrade in CF.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I don't agree that adding more pitching is a requirement for the Cubs to contend. This seems like cherry-picking a particularly small and bad stretch of starting pitching to be critical. Just 3 days earlier you could have been saying the same thing about Rizzo being toast this year. You still have time to say that about Schwarber, if you want.

    Of course they will trade for pitching this year, maybe minor additions to the BP, maybe major adds. All contending teams do, for the most part. But to say they can't contend with the pitching they have now is not correct. I agree with Madden, if they stay healthy they will be good this year.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    Last year went perfectly from a SP perspective. Very few minor injuries, Hendricks performing way above expectations, historic defense. This year has already shown some expected regression - SSS, but this had to be expected with the ages and workload of the staff over the last couple years. As a unit, they're not likely as bad as they've been over the last 6 games...but we shouldn't expect perfect conditions like 2016. The margins are smaller, and we shouldn't expect the offense to score 5+ per game against the good staffs they'll meet in October. The Cubs could very easily be staring at a 1-8 stretch against non-competitors if not for some late inning magic that you generally can't expect against playoff bullpens (game 4 NLDS not withstanding).

  • In reply to Stubbs:

    I don't see that the margins are smaller. Same rotation with an arguable upgrade in Anderson/Mongtomery over Hammel. They have returned the same defense (very likely better with Almora and Jay in CF).
    I mean, yeah they're older but it's only really a concern with Lackey. And he was good last year. I don't think we should expect him to age 10 years overnight. I suppose the October workload could catch up to them.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Happ may be traded for pitching. If he is, that's the end of that discussion and he provided value to the team.

    If he is to stay with the Cubs, his role for the next year or two will be as a Baez-type utility player. The only way he'll get a full-time spot is if Schwarber, Russell, or Baez is dealt (or Rizzo or Bryant, but that's not happening). I understand the argument of leaving him in Iowa to get reps in the field, but a player also has to learn how to be a part-time player if that is going to be his role, which I believe is the case. He is certainly not going to be used of the bench in Iowa to "learn" the role, so bringing him up without a clear starting position is a foregone conclusion in my mind anyway, so I'd like to see it prior to September roster expansions to give him more time to get comfortable in that role for the (hopeful) postseason roster.

    I want to be cleat that I'm saying he takes La Stella's roster spot, not his role. Happ will not be brought up to pinch-hit 2-3 times per week. He will play in the last couple months of the season, both due to injury and the anticipated rest given to the veteran players after we've secured a comfortable lead in the NL Central.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to BarleyPop:

    I didn't get that Tom was advocating trading from the major league roster, or the minor league one. I thought the premise of his article was simply to point out that we will have to watch and see what happens over the next several years. Because right now we have a lot of talent in the minor leagues. I don't think it "advocated" anything.

    As for TLS, I don't recall him having a long history of throwing fits and threatening retirement. I know about the situation last August. But that isn't a long history. That was 1 instance. Do you know of others?

    I agree TLS has limited trade value right now for multiple reasons. But I am still staunchly against pulling up Happ to ride the bench, which is TLS role right now. If he is pulled up to play over someone else then I am fine with it. But I can't see an advantage to pulling him up to let him sit on the bench and get 4-6 PAs/week.

    To me I am not at all concerned about "blocking" players. For instanced, right now the best version of this team has Rizzo at 1B, Baez or Zobrist at 2B, Russell or Baez at SS, Bryant at 3B, Schwarber in LF, Almora or Jay in CF, Heyward in RF. But right now we don't know if Heyward will still be here next year. Maybe the Cubs move Bryant to RF and put Candelario at 3B. Or maybe Happ comes up and covers an infield spot moving either Baez or Zobrist to 3B. And that is just making 1 move (Bryant to RF instead of Heyward). If Happ plays so well that HE becomes a member of "the best version of this team" I will gladly cheer for him. Until then I will enjoy reading about his exploits at AAA and salivate over the years of control we have over him. Just this past week we saw Zobrist was on the bench nursing a sore/stiff back. So we had Baez. When Baez slumps we will have Zobrist. Both technically "block" eachother. Yet, I wouldn't be shocked if, at the end of the year, they both have 400+ PAs. Not bad for a "blocked" player.

    The closest to "blocked" right now are TLS and Szczur. Right now TLS is in AAA getting what he probably needs: more PAs and reps in the field. Imagine if he can learn to play a passable 2B, 3B and LF. Szczur would likely be there too but he is out of options. I do think that the Cubs will trade 1 or both of them eventually this season. Though I doubt we get much for them. We may just have to live with that.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Completey agree, bringing up Happ to replace La Stella is not even an option. Doesn't make sense to bring up a still developing player to get limited work. He may come up in the event of an injury but even then I think Candelario is ahead of him. We keep forgetting he is having the better season by a pretty good margin. Happ HRs get the attention, but the numbers other than that are all Candelario.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    A gold star for you Joel.

  • Im looking forward to Candelario/Happ for Archer trade in july/august

  • In reply to CubfanInUT:

    I think it's hard to project who will be available at the deadline. Tampa is .500, so no guarantee that Archer would even be available. How good is he now? That's not meant to be argumentative, I honestly don't know. I do know that he has a very reasonable contract, so will be pricey in terms of the players the Cubs would have to give up; much more than Happ. Typically, but not always, players dealt at the deadline are rentals. So a guy who jumps out at me is Cueto, who still won't come cheaply. Everyone wants the Cubs to trade for a young, TOR, controllable pitcher, and that's easy to do.

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    Cueto is an interesting name. Never in a million years would I have thought the Giants would be a seller but the idiocy of Bumgarner might have assured that. As far as Archer and the Rays who knows? That division could be wacky all year and it's entirely plausible that 3 teams could make the playoffs. If he is available it will be expensive. If he's traded in July that would amount to 4 1/2 years and $33 million which is dirt cheap but the prospect cost will be substantial. Sonny Gray is nearly back from injury and will almost certainly be available but will he be any good? It's going to be an interesting few months.

  • In reply to TC154:

    A Giants beat writer came out with a story today: Should the Giants wave the white flag and tank 2017? I think definitely yes. I actually picked them to miss the playoffs (although not be this bad). Why? Outside of Panik, they're old, or at least past peak. It happens. It will probably happen to the Cubs in 2012, 2022. It would be cool if the Cubs could get Cueto for Candelario, but my fear is that he'd would cost Baez or Happ. The team I do think is for real is the Rockies. Rookie SP Antonio Senzatela looks like a stud. Freeland is another good SP. Gray is hurt, but if he come back: look out. They have the best bullpen in the NL, the best offensive lineup (or right there with the Cubs and Dbacks), and a really good defense. It's still early, though. So early!

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    I'd think Cueto would be a tough deal to work out, even if the Giants want to sell. One would imagine they would sell him as a pitcher with multiple years of control (even though he'll almost certainly opt out after this year). It would be difficult to pin down his true value.

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    You make a very interesting point, although it is way too early for them to consider such a thing. The Giants FO won't consider bailing on the season until maybe (maybe) a few weeks before the trade deadline. They are not a knee-jerk organization. I know MadBum's been huge for them, but he wasn't really the key cog on that team last year and they made the playoffs.

    But if they are on the bottom half of that division come July, they may be sellers, and Cueto makes the most sense as an asset who could be on the market. If so, the Cubs have to be considered a possible trade partner for him.

  • In reply to HefCA:

    Of course you're right. It's way too early for essentially the entire discussion on this thread :).

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    In reply to Cubswin09:

    Cueto is an interesting name. As you point out, the most likely guys to be traded are guys that are "rentals." I wonder what he would wind up costing if multiple teams get to bidding for him.

  • In reply to CubfanInUT:

    The Rays laugh at that offer. IF they sell, they will need to be blown away. Take out Candelario and start with Schwarber, as Baez probably won't improve his value enough by July. Schwarber and Happ keeps them on the phone I imagine.

  • fb_avatar

    G Torres and Soler were young blocked talent that has been traded to fill an immediate need. Torres won't be a star in Chicago (he will be in New York), but he was a big part of the Cubs WS. Soler won't get a ring if the Cubs repeat this season, but he will be a big part considering Wade Davis is a stud.

  • believe Archer is a free agent. Cubs want a young starter to anchor the rotation going forward. Not saying the Rays can be a playoff team, but it seems unlikely in that division. typical small market team who trades upcoming free agents for prospects. it seems like the obvious fit

  • In reply to CubfanInUT:

    Archer is signed through 2019 with 2 club options for 2020 and 2021. If they're out of it they'll certainly listen to offers but he'll be expensive and frankly they might not be out of it in July. That said, I love Archer and hope the FO can snag him.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Archer will demand a higher price than what Sale got.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    Agreed. The offseason was the time to look at Archer. Need to set sights much lower at this point.

  • In reply to Stubbs:

    The market for good pitching is insane. I'd be shocked if the Cubs worked a deal for a "good" SP. They've shown the ability, since 2013, to put good rotations together on the cheap. We've already seen them stick to that this year with the Butler and Mills acquisitions.
    I'm just a nobody, but if I had to guess I'd say they stick with what has worked for 5 years in the SP department.

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    In reply to Kramerica20:

    As the price of pitching continues to increase, you are probably right, but Chris Sale is far better than Archer.

  • In reply to Eli Roth:

    Sale is probably better, but Archer is younger, on a friendlier deal.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    I was unaware of his contract. Archer isnt getting traded anytime soon

  • He's where we need Michael's color-coded updates.
    I'd respectfully disagree that anyone at Iowa is forcing the issue of being "major league ready" at the moment. It is still small sample size with 17 games, but Candelario has the best position player stats and he's still struck out twenty times in sixty AB with 3 errors. Happ just got to AAA and probably needs 200 AB to prove he can adjust to league adjustments and work on his fielding. Caratini might be the best bet to get his feet wet in September and backfill Miggy in 2018. I don't get the Rob Z love from his brief stint last year. He's been lit up for 9 runs (8 earned) in 12.1 innings with 7 walks against 9 K's; early but five outings. Rollins and Mills are the only guys with WHIP <1.00; Butler looks to be the most promising of the starters.
    When other GM's start calling, maybe we can pick up some power arms for spare parts, but if Jed has to initiate don't expect to get anyone that will move the needle.

  • I see two things resulting in these blocked prospects.

    The first is that the Cubs have had a ridiculous number of prospects succeed. Let's be honest, if you look at the players they've brought up in the last three years, did we really expect all of them to pan out? Even if we did, how many of us thought they would all succeed at such a high level? Even guys we traded are looking pretty exciting.

    Second, since these call ups are succeding, the core team at the majors is extremely young. How many teams have so many young players who have experinced success at their positions with playoff experience. When Javier Baez is arguably the worst young player on the team (with a higher ceiling than most), how do you move up even more young players - especially if you high priced underperforming free agent right fielder suddenly starts performing well.

    It's a tough call. It's like the Castro vs Baez situation. Castro was a solid young player with a long term contract but Baez was unproven with better potential. It's a tough call to make especially because both Castro and Baez have glaring flaws. Ultimately, I think the right decision was made and that is what will have to be done by the team. Hopefully, they'll keep making the right decisions.

  • Please, more on the " top prospects had a tendency to fizzle out as they either approached or were summoned to the majors "

  • In reply to TheCHISportsFan:

    Maybe in a future article.

  • At least we have an 800 pound gorilla now. For too long the Cubs have had to deal with 8 pound chimpanzees as far prospects go.

  • I don't really see the "800 pound gorilla" for this year, at least. Maybe next year. The two guys playing the best at Iowa right now, Happ and Candelario, aren't even ready in my opinion. Maybe Candelario is, since he's been in the system for 7 years. But he has been a "meh-hitter" for most of those years, and that is his best ability. Maybe, like Contreras, he has finally figured it out and has raised his hitting to another level recently. But I also remember Felix Pie looking like Rod Carew when he was in the PCL.

    Happ has a really high ceiling, he could be a star, but he is not exactly tearing the league up hitting-wise, even with the impressive power he has shown. He can use some more development at Iowa, so he's not exactly being blocked yet.

    Our other possible future star is in Myrtle Beach, so Eloy may need a couple years before he is knocking on the door.

    There are other prospects, too, at Iowa. But none of these guys are really kicking the door in either. They could all play a full year at Iowa and everything would work out fine regarding their development. Probably Caratini may be called up in the summer just to groom him for Miggy's replacement. But there isn't any pressing need to bring these guys up.

  • In reply to HefCA:

    As for Happ, I agree He still has work to do. I think we're getting ahead of ourselves sometimes with him.

  • When the stockpiling of prospects began, I thought we would be seeing a higher trade value at this point. What we are seeing is a demand for the players without the intention of paying fair market. Every GM sees that the Cubs have a log jam. They are hoping to grab a prospect on the cheap because of the log jam.

    If the Cubs are initiating the deal:
    Any team trading the Cubs a needed piece is going to want an overpay in prospects. The overpay will reduce the log jam.

    If the other team initiates the conversation:
    You have 2 options.
    1. Another team needs to fill a hole due to injury. But this gets complicated. If you are the 800 lbs gorilla, do you want to help the 700 lbs gorilla with a bad knee. Or do you want to bury him. (I have to stop either the analogy.)
    2. You trade 1 top prospect for 2 up and coming prospect that will extend your system.

  • I think the bigger issue in regards to trading guys from the big league roster is that even with Rizzo locked up in a couple years they are going to demand salaries beyond what can be afforded. How do you lock up Schwarbs, KB, Russell, Baez and Contreras and still have $ for pitching? No matter who they deal it is going to be a tough decision. It's also part of the reason I still don't like the Heyward sign even if he does get his groove back. If he's making 20 mil and the Cubs have a couple championships it would be hard to opt out if he likes playing in Chicago.

  • In reply to TheMightyGin:

    That's why you have to be hoping the young pitchers come through. Then you pay for the bats and get the pitching cheap. Otherwise you're talking a $300 mil plus payroll and I don't believe you'll ever see that.

  • In reply to TheMightyGin:

    Three gold stars for the Mighty Gin!

  • "Before we got to Chicago,” Hoyer said, “I remember having some really long conversations with Theo. I was still living in San Diego and he was still in Boston but we knew this [the Cubs job] was going to happen. We had a number of in-depth conversations about the Cubs job, and then we took a few days without talking and we both evaluated the Cubs system, going through everything we could about the Cubs from top to bottom. Then we talked again and we both had come to the conclusion that it was a lot more barren than we had originally thought. The biggest thing was that the middle and upper levels of the minor leagues were not going to help us anytime soon. That was the conversation that I remember the most because that was when we really understood that this process was going to be a full rebuild and that this was going to take a while.”"

  • "So when the Cubs dream team finally decided to accept the challenge that running the Cubs presented, they found the job much harder than even they had anticipated. They found a minor-league system so devoid of prospects that Epstein and Hoyer were taken aback at how far away the Cubs were from even being competitive.

    “Once we made the decision to come to Chicago, I remember sitting in our offices at Wrigley Field shortly after we started and mentally at that time we thought we were on a two-year timetable [2014] to be competitive. We were looking at the boards on the wall, one that listed every prospect in the organization and one that listed the upcoming free-agent classes. Theo and I both said nothing is going to happen between now and 2014 that is going to allow us to be competitive. It was obvious that this was not going to be a two-year turnaround.” The Cubs new brain trust started to construct a plan to acquire as much young talent as they could in almost every deal that they made, hoping to jump-start their plan with an infusion of prospects who could be core pieces of the Cubs’ future. While Epstein and Hoyer dug their heels in for the lengthy overhaul ahead, they also knew that they had a blank canvas to build their organization however they wanted it."

  • In reply to Theo Epstein:

    Cool it, Theo. You've already made your point. You don't agree. We get it. Not all of us have to agree but we show respect on this site and if you can't do that, then this isn't the place for you.

  • Love the article Tom - good stuff as usual.

    IMO though, the Cubs really only have two pieces at the moment that might qualify as a roster "Gorilla" of any size for 2017. And as long as TLS plays his part and does the option shuttle like a good trooper - Matt Szczur is the only really roster-related problem that is difficult to handle.

    Candelario is very likely MLB-ready today. But fact is - the Cubs do not have to do anything with him this season either. And is it better to give him his at bats in Iowa to keep his development steady, or have him slug it out for at bats and playing time against Team Leader-type Rizzo and reigning league MVP Bryant? Barring (deity-forbid) injury to one of those two team leaders - this question is intended as rhetorical of course.

    Candelario and Happ, and possibly Zastryzny and Caritini all will give the team things to think about as regards the roster crunch over the next Winter,.... Happ has some work to do yet especially defensively from all I read here and elsewhere. But with Lackey, Montero, and likely Szczur and TLS having to find work elsewhere next season,... those problems can be addressed then as well.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    Thank you, it was just something for people to ponder. Sometimes the best choices aren't the simplest or easiest. Quite often, they are the ones that are the most painful.

  • I thought the gorilla was a reference to Epstein.

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