The cool thing about being part of World Series Dreaming is the fun and insightful conversations we have with each other (and our commenters and followers) re: Cubs and general baseball. We have been of the mind that eventually, the Cubs will have to transition from focusing on just the farm system and start working on both the minor and major league fronts. As the prospects (like Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, etc etc) transition to the majors, there needs to be some fill-in signings around them to bolster the offense and provide a veteran presence/leadership/grit/intangibles/whatever. There is a fundamental disagreement as to how that fill-in method should work, and that's what we'll talk about tonight.
In baseball, there are two main ways that you win the ball game:
- Score more runs than the other guys.
- Prevent runs better than the other guys.
The first point deals with offense, the second with defense and pitching (but more heavily on pitching). Our conversation today dealt not with our earlier blog about potentially going after a middling free agent like Scott Kazmir, but rather with using additional money to go after a huge impact free agent. Our disconnect was based on whether we should target on point #1 or point #2 above.
Blow their load on offense
Previously, Moe provided us with a profile of Shin-Soo Choo. Given the recent news that Choo and his agent want the sun and the moon as well as a pony, if the Cubs were to go after him, they would need to really spend some serious money. Since a lot of the Cubs' top prospects and existing players can plug in easily into the outfield, there's not a huge need for a Choo (bless you), but I wouldn't complain if the Cubs decided to give it a shot. There's the issue with draft pick compensation tied to Choo since he is likely to decline the qualifying offer. As a guy who profiles to be a platoon bat later on in his career it might not be the best signing in the world, but since most pitchers are right-handed, any weaknesses with regard to Choo's splits may be mitigated somewhat.
Dabynsky and I have a difference in philosophy when it comes to another free agent tied to draft pick compensation: Brian McCann. Moe will set up a free agent profile for McCann soon, but suffice it to say that as the best hitting catcher on the market is going to get a buttload of money. Like Choo, McCann is left-handed, and his value is increased by the fact that he mans the toughest position on the diamond and where it is the most difficult to find a competent bat. Dab likes McCann's lefty power, but I'm a bit skeptical of the platoon-y stats he has shown over the past season. Still, I wouldn't be too upset if the Cubs decided they needed that power at a premium position.
The problem is, what do you tell Welington Castillo? The Cubs had made statements of using Beef Castle as their primary catcher and it seems kind of wasteful of a good young talent to relegate him to backup status, even if you could do a rotation around first base and catcher between Beef, McCann, and Anthony Rizzo as Dab suggested. I think that setup reduces the impact of Rizzo's bat and I don't really like it anyway since Rizzo's a good defender and you want him to learn how to hit lefties eventually...how's he supposed to do that on the bench?
Blow their load on pitching
The other idea that I had was to let the position guys ride, since the Cubs are heavy on potential impact bats (and hoping for bouncebacks from Rizzo and Starlin Castro). However, the Cubs are paper-thin at major-league ready pitching. With very few good free agents on the market that are of the right age and ability (unless the Cubs really want to try to bring back Matt Garza, who probably isn't worth it), we've been looking at trying to grab a guy like Masahiro Tanaka. This would necessitate an aggressive bid to outcompete the Yankees or Dodgers, but the reward would be a young player entering his prime who may be considered one of the best pitchers in the world. Moe will also write a profile on Tanaka so I won't say too much more.
What'll it be?
The question becomes what to do with a theoretical pot of money that the Cubs might be sitting on. Do they blow nine figures on an aging outfielder or an aging catcher to boost offense while hoping that the patchwork pitching can take care of itself? Or do they blow nine figures on an unproven yet intriguing young arm to solidify a rotation and hope that the patchwork, developing offense does its job?
What would you do?