In the novel, “The Old Man and the Sea”, the main character, Santiago, is considered terribly unlucky. He hasn’t caught a fish in 84 days. For fisherman, that is a drought of Cubs-ian proportions. Of course, Santiago winds up venturing out alone and miraculously ends up hooking the big fish. He dreams of what it will mean for him and what it will bring on the market, only to see the sharks attack. And while he puts up a great fight, in the end he is left with nothing but the skeletal remains.
Maybe Hemingway was a Cubs fan.
Yesterday I wrote an article that generated a lot of discussion and some unexpected debate. I don’t mean to say unexpected because people shouldn’t have dissenting opinions, but because it was sometimes interpreted as the Cubs shouldn’t spend at all or the Cubs should try to lose on purpose to get draft picks. That’s not what I said at all. The title states that the Cubs don’t need to spend indiscriminately.
I’m also not saying the Cubs shouldn’t make moves to improve the team though trade if they can find away to extract surplus value.
With that, this is a piece that may soothe those who think I’m saying the Cubs should sit around and take their lumps while waiting for prospects. For the most part, I believe the Cubs can improve with some shrewd under the radar signings and trades, which I have written about at length on several occasions. I think these kinds of moves are essential. You can improve at the margins with very little risk and long term cost while keeping the long term goals in tact.
But some of you are asking,”What about the big moves?” Here are three that I could see the Cubs considering…
Trading the Shark
The rumors are beginning to grow and while I hear that the Cubs plan to sit down again with Jeff Samardzija again to hammer out a deal, the possibility remains that the two sides will continue to disagree. If that is the case, then it becomes very likely that the Cubs will look to salvage value. The Cubs like Samardzija a lot — the stuff, the competitiveness, the relatively young arm but it could come down to a question of value. We often talk about core players and assume that only means the teams best players, but value also plays a role. Samardzija is a potential core player, but only if he gives them long term value.
It’s also possible a team comes up with the offer the Cubs just can’t refuse. There are 4 teams who have reportedly shown interest: the Nationals, Diamondbacks, Pirates, and Jays with rumors that there is at least one more team involved.
The general consensus is that prospects like Lucas Giolito and Archie Bradley are out of range, but Professor Parks tweeted yesterday that he believes obtaining prospects like James Tallion and Aaron Sanchez are possible.
If the Cubs can’t get Giolito, there is also A.J. Cole. He’s a good young arm with some projection left. One scout told me he has the present arm speed and size to succeed, but he needs to improve his secondaries, which may be a matter of “getting the grip strength to sheer off the ball and get depth.” That part of his analysis intrigued me because one of Bosio’s strengths as a pitching coach has been to work on and tinker with different grips. It could be a good match-up for a project who at the very least should be a late inning reliever with the potential for more.
One concern may be that Cole did not take well to being traded the first first time around. How he responds to another trade would be something the Cubs need to consider.
The Cubs are potentially in a good position to trade Samardzija if that’s what they choose to do. There is increasing market competition among a group of teams who are in win now mode. The hope is that those teams may be willing to give up a little extra to obtain a low cost #3 starter who is controlled for 2 more seasons — especially given the high asking prices of the available free agents as well as the high expected trade cost of David Price.
Splurging on Masahiro Tanaka
It’s only money, right?
There is wide range of opinion on Tanaka. One highly respected scout believes he is as good as Yu Darvish. Another scout said he would take Tanaka over any available pitcher, listing only David Price as better but that the prospect cost of Price makes Tanaka the better value overall. That certainly makes sense for the Cubs.
Some worry about overuse, but on talent alone, I haven’t talked to anyone who believes he is less than a #3 starter and most think he’s around a #2.
In my opinion, he is still the best fit for the Cubs but they are going to have to fight off some pretty high market sharks to bring this one home.
Gambling on Jacoby Ellsbury — if his price comes down
This is one where you’ll get a lot of mixed opinion. In a vacuum, Ellsbury is a good fit. He can provide them with a LH bat, speed, solid OBP skills, and some occasional pop. There are the obvious connections to the front office, so they know all about Ellsbury — from mental makeup to what they feel he possesses in terms of long term value.
Then there was this tweet on Wednesday,
Source says Mariners have “no interest” in Ellsbury. Market looks thin, but source adds that Cubs are stealthily waiting in the wings.
Of course, we’ve heard that refrain before, so I dismissed it out of hand. Yesterday Dave Cameron tweeted,
Filed a piece for ESPN Insider/FG+ on Ellsbury comps and how they aged. Idea of speed-and-defense OFs falling apart is a total myth. I think I’ve officially talked myself into Ellsbury as a free agent value. Even at $120-$140M.
Whether that’s a good fit for the Cubs may be a different question. A team in their position would not benefit as much from Ellsbury in the next two years, yet if Ellsbury can sustain some kind of value, perhaps even tap into that power, he could be a part of the puzzle in LF when Albert Almora is up and the Cubs (hopefully) are ready to contend. It would be the Cubs version of the Jason Werth signing.
There is also the question of a high 2nd round pick, which has higher value to the Cubs than a late first round pick does to a win-now team. The counter argument there is that the Cubs could gamble on Ellsbury and if the Cubs don’t turn it around by 2015, they can trade him off for something significantly better than a 2nd round pick. If scouts agree with Cameron and believe Ellsbury will still provide good value as he ages, then he could bring back a lot from a contending team willing to take on salary.
One scout I asked said the Cubs should wait until January when they should be able to find some bargains after the feeding frenzy subsides. While he wasn’t specifically referring to Ellsbury, that would fit with Feinsand’s tweet that the Cubs are “waiting in the wings”. There is also some industry concern on making such a big investment on a player with that kind of recent injury history. If Ellsbury’s price comes down enough to make him very tradable should the situation not work out with the Cubs, then maybe you can talk me into signing Ellsbury.
Maybe. And only if the price goes way down. All in all, it’s an unlikely scenario.
There is big risk involved when you try to land the big fish. For the sake of all Cubs fans, I hope it works out better for Theo than it did for Santiago.
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