Cubs should hang on to Castro...and Valbuena, Ruggiano. My plan to build the offense/defense for 2015 and 2016

It’s trade season and for all intents and purposes, it’s really over for the Cubs as far as adding impact talent.  The biggest trade chips have been cashed in and the Cubs got their impact prospect in Adam Russell and a nice secondary piece in Bill McKinney.  You cannot argue with the deal from the Cubs standpoint, even though it will be difficult to replace Jeff Samardzija.

For all the talk about Starlin Castro, the Cubs front office people have said they have no intentions of dealing him.  That hasn’t stopped teams from inquiring on him…why wouldn’t they?  But from what I understand, the Cubs have not been shopping him at all.  They have essentially told teams, “You want him?  We won’t negotiate on it. Give us your best offer and we will get back to you.”

That is another way of saying they will not trade their 24 year old All-Star shortstop unless somebody decides to do something absolutely insane.  With other shortstops on the market, including 2 in Arizona, it seems rather unlikely that teams will pick up the gauntlet the Cubs have thrown down.

And that is perfectly fine with me.

You cannot move forward with rebuilding if you continue dealing pieces of your foundation and starting over.  You have to start building on that foundation sooner or later.  You cannot keep selling current assets and building for the future.

So the Cubs should and probably will keep Castro unless somebody makes them decidedly better and eliminates any and all risk.  Prospects don’t do that.  A single good pitcher, even a young, promising MLB pitcher does not do that either.  So don’t hold your breath on a Castro deal.

But it isn’t just Castro.  The Cubs should hold on to Luis Valbuena, Justin Ruggiano, and maybe even Chris Coghlan.

No, they are not core players but it’s not just core players that have value.  There is value in players who can bridge the gap until the first wave arrives.  There is value in players who can easily transition to lesser roles (and provide short term insurance) once the young talent is ready.  There is value in players who both understand a rebuilding situation and can provide leadership without becoming impatient to win now or earn a big contract.

There is value in continuity.

Does that value outweigh prospects or cost control the Cubs might gain in a trade of Valbuena or Ruggiano?

I believe so.

And if someone wants to offer surplus value for role players, then by all means the Cubs should take them up on it.  But after seeing players like Jeff Baker and David DeJesus bring essentially nothing in return and the team receiving similar paltry offers for the productive, cost-controlled player Nate Schierholtz was at this point in 2013, do you honestly believe that will happen?

Teams would love to have players like Valbuena and Ruggiano, but that doesn’t mean they want to pay good value for them because it defeats the purpose.  Those players hold good value specifically because they don’t cost you much, so why would you pay a premium for them?

There are times when players hold more value to their own teams, even rebuilding ones.  I think that is the case here.

The Cubs essentially have 4 players that you can pencil into the everyday lineup in 2015: Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, Welington Castillo, and Arismendy Alcantara.  That leaves 4 spots to fill.

However, the Cubs have two top 5 prospects in all of baseball that will be ready, possibly by Opening Day but more likely at some point within the first 2-3 months of the season.  So if you are thinking long term, the Cubs really only have 2 spots available by midseason for 2015.  Addison Russell makes it one less by the end of that year and certainly by 2016.

You cannot load up on veterans who have or will want long term deals.  You cannot load up on guys who will be hard to move, whether it’s by trade or to the bench.  We remember how difficult — and expensive — that was with Alfonso Soriano.

So why not keep Valbuena, Ruggiano, and Coghlan for now?

You can end the 2014 season looking at this kind of lineup

C: Wellington Castillo

1B: Anthony Rizzo

2B: Luis Valbuena

3B: Mike Olt

SS: Starlin Castro

OF: Justin Ruggiano

OF: Arismendy Alcantara

OF: Chris Coghlan

It lessens the urgency to spend big in free agency and fill holes with players who may want 5 year deals and potentially block the next wave of prospects.

Here is what I would do in the offseason….

  1. Sign Chase Headley to play 3B with the understanding that he will move to LF if the Cubs decide they will keep Kris Bryant there.  Headley is athletic enough to play a good OF — and he has some experience there — should he be asked to move.  He has a good relationship with the front office, has the kind of approach they like (career 10% walk rate), and he is a switch-hitter, a trait that could help a lineup that still lacks balance.  He is having a poor season so perhaps the Cubs can get him on a 2-3 year deal and overpay him on AAV.  It’s not like the Cubs don’t have tons of short term payroll flexibility.  They are not going to come close to maxing out their 2015/2016 budget anyway — even if they do sign someone like Jon Lester. 
  2. I would look at another RH role player for the OF to platoon with Coghlan.  I think they can get Chris Denorfia cheap and he fits the philosophy.  You can platoon the two and both can easily move to bench roles.
  3. I don’t see Mike Olt or Junior Lake as having much utility off the bench, particularly Olt.  But they could start the year and get another shot, but if they don’t succeed, then they each have options for next season if the Cubs need room.
  4. I’d bring back Emilio Bonifacio but strictly as a bench player and team him with Logan Watkins as my utility infielders/supersubs.  Bonifacio has some value as a veteran leader the players respect, switch-hitting, speed, and defensive versatility
  5. I would like a veteran to pair with Welington Castillo.  Kurt Suzuki is ideal, but he could probably start somewhere.

As far as young players, I would keep ALL the shortstops and leave them in the infield.  Mike Ferrin of MLB Radio made a good point the other day (and I believe Jed Hoyer said it as well), that with the defensive shifts employed in the game today, you have your infielders all over the place.  They are no longer at set positions.  A 3B, for example, isn’t always a corner infielder anymore, he may have to play somewhere in the middle of the field.  Your 2B may need to play up the middle, range right, and possess a stronger arm than what was required in the past.  Imagine having 3 shortstops to move around the infield for shifts?  The Cubs would have a huge advantage as a team who can not just position players well, but put great range and arm strength at all of those spots.  What other team can say that right now?  The Cubs can be ahead of the game here and given the scarcity of true shortstops in baseball, especially ones who can also hit in the middle of the lineup, it’s possible that no team will ever catch up.

So your early 2015 Opening Day roster (position players only) could shake out as follows:

C: Castillo

1B: Rizzo

2B: Valbuena

SS: Castro

3B: Headley

OF: Alcantara

OF: Ruggiano

OF: Coghlan/Denorfia

Bench:

  • IF/OF: Bonifacio, Watkins
  • Vet catcher
  • Olt or Lake

When Bryant and Baez are ready, you have Lake, Olt, and Watkins with options or you can find a take for Bonifacio.  I love that Bryant has improved and I think he is good enough to play 3B at the MLB level, but for the team’s sake, he will be the one who eventually moves.

Mid-season 2015 Roster

C: Castillo

1B: Rizzo

2B: Baez

SS: Castro

3B: Headley

LF: Ruggiano

CF: Alcantara

RF: Bryant

Bench: Bonifacio, Valbuena, vet catcher, Denorfia, Coghlan

At this point you could make trades if you want to keep your young players but the Cubs may also want to keep veterans on the bench if they are competitive.  They will have to play it by ear, in my opinion, so that bench could look very different depending on how the season goes, but I hope it looks like the one I listed above.  It would provide depth and insurance at the MLB level while allowing Olt and Lake to get much needed everyday ABs in the minors.

2016 Opening Day Lineup (starting lineup only)

C: Castillo

1B: Rizzo

2B: Baez

SS: Addison Russell

3B: Castro

LF: Headley or Jorge Soler

CF: Alcantara

RF: Bryant

The Cubs will have all kinds of options by 2016.  They could trade a SS, they could trade Castillo and get pitching, then replace Castillo with a vet who can manage a game (who needs offense, really?), you could trade what could become a surplus of OF talent.  Having Headley on a short term deal gives you that flexibility.

Asking Castro to move for Addison Russell is the tricky part here.  He has indicated he has been willing to move in the past but I think to make it an even easier sell, you can sell Castro on the fact that traditional defensive positions are outdated and that the Cubs are essentially playing 3 shortstops in the infield.

But that is too far ahead.  For now, let’s keep Castro, Valbuena, Ruggiano, and all the top prospects and see how it all shakes out.

Pitching?  We’ll save that for anther day.

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  • Love it! Although I am not as sold on Headley as a stopgap. Would rather see Olt kept on (assuming he can get the batting average up closer to his body weight) and since reportedly he could play a corner OF spot or 1B as a backup to Rizzo as well.

    But am in complete agreement that Castro especially should not be moved just for the sake of moving him, and that Ruggiano & Coghlan & Valbuena have value into at least mid-season next year.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    I tihnk the Cubs need a veteran and Olt is an extremely high risk right now. Play him at the end of the year and see if he shows progress, if not, you have to move on.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    your analysis is well thought out, but flawed in that you think there is any value in Olt. he will IMO never succeed at this level he makes far too little contact. The main problem is that all of your proposed line-ups have no pitchers which ids what Epstoyer justpeddoled for more prosp-ects. we need starting pitchers above all else and some of these prospects or a heap of cash will have to go to get some.

  • In reply to BLOOMIE1937:

    John said he would cover pitchers another day. So your answers are coming, be patient.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I like the headley idea (switch-hitter, if-of flexability). But I also think Soler could leapfrog Bryant & Baez to Chicago because of his situation.

    I think Mike Olt needs to play everyday. Is he really going to hit worse if he plays everyday? The next 3 months will really be his only window to be a regular. We know he can hit for power and play a very good defense can he make adjustments to foul off tough pitches? Lets find out. If he isn't playing everyday then send him down.

    I have always liked Junior Lake amazing talent. But cant or refuses to ease up on his swing when he needs to just make contact. If he doesn't somehow fix this he will be out of baseball in 2or 3 years.

  • 2016 Opening Day Lineup (starting lineup only)
    C: Castillo
    1B: Rizzo
    2B: Baez
    SS: Addison Russell
    3B: Castro
    LF: Headley or Jorge Soler
    CF: Alcantara
    RF: Bryant

    mmmmmmmmm. Cookies

  • In reply to Rob Letterly:

    That is a delicious looking lineup with lots of money and surplus left over to buy pitching!

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    So you don't see schwarber up by 2016?

  • Cubs need a LF and a RF for one more year.
    Coghlan and Ruggiano or someone else is fine for that.
    I keep Rizzo, Castro and Castillo.

    Alcantara should be up this year and play CF.

    Bryant should be up early next year and play 3B, Valbuena to 2B.
    Baez next, playing 2B. Valbuena to bench.

    Soler and Russell up in 2016.
    Bryant and Soler replace Coghlan and Ruggiano.
    Hopefully that makes 8 good players.
    No more scrubs start for the Cubs after that.

    I don't trade for pitching right away, I buy or reclaim it. When there is a clear position player surplus, then trade it for pitching.

  • In reply to hoffpauir6:

    They will have all kinds of prospects and payroll flexibility to get pitching. I don't think it will be an issue for them.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    What's great about this whole thing is they already have other top prospects in their system (Almora and Schwarber) and a top pick next year (bet it's another bat).

    Then there are the lesser known prospects and IFA's.
    Down the road some of them could make it.
    We got a lot of backup plans in case of prospect failure.

  • In reply to hoffpauir6:

    What about Almora

  • If Soler stays healthy and keeps hitting, I'd assume he would be up by, at the latest, middle of next year. As next year is his last option year, I would guess the Cubs would want him to get some MLB exposure before 2016.

    Otherwise, great work and lets hope all the top prospects work out....it may turn out to be one of the best offensive machines ever.

  • In reply to springs:

    I think it's more necessary to get Soler reps and development than a cup of coffee. He might be up by the end of 2015 along with Russell.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    If it is reps that Soler needs, they you would bring him up this September, after the minors shut down after Labor Day. There is absolutely nothing to lose, and reps to gain.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    There is also the fall league that is much more laid back than the majors to get him more reps/comfortable too.

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    Rosscup up, Parker down.

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    In reply to Ray:

    I wonder if a trade of Russell or Wright to the Braves is imminent....that has been rumored, and they really need LHP.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    IDK, I think the BP is kind of taxed and they're trying to get as many looks at the guys as possible. While we may in fact move one or both of Russell/Wright, I expect the shuttle between Iowa and Chicago to keep logging some extra miles the next 6 weeks...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Yup. Parker had to go two innings yesterday so I am sure he was unavailble today which leaves the Pen thin.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    I thought the same thing after the Thursday's game, Irwin.

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    I agree in that I don't see the point of trading lesser players like Valbuena, Coghlan, Ruggiano. We need impact prospects, not another fringy A-ball guy, and we've already made the trade that will get us impact prospects. (I don't think we should trade Castro).

    I am Ok with dealing Wright or Russell, because I think that is as much about clearing a bullpen slot for someone like Rosscup who deserves a shot. We would get minimal return for either.

    We don't have a veteran trade candidate on our roster that would bring much back either in prospects or $$$ savings. So I think we should only make trades to clear roster spots for younger players (and maybe Barney fits in that category)

  • In reply to Zonk:

    The only reason to trade someone in the Ruggiano/Coughlin category is if their contract expires at the end of the year, and you have decided not to renew it. In that case, you would be silly not to take anything at all.

    But as far as I can remember, there really are no position players that fit that situation.

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    In reply to DaveP:

    At this point, the only one would be Schierholz, and he has no trade value. Coghlan and Ruggiano are still under club control, if not under contract. Bonifacio is a FA, but he is also hurt right now. Emilio is a positive guy to have around, and i see no reason to trade him anyway. I would rather send Lake down than do that.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Thanks, Zonk.

    It is very unlikely that Bonifacio will recover soon enough to have any trade value, but in the off chance that he does, and there is an offer, if the Cubs are not going to resign Bonifacio, I hope they take the offer.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Sometimes taking gambles on high-risk low tier guys in the trades works though...see Corey Black (for Sori) or Chris Archer (for DeRosa) for example. Keepting Valbuena makes some sense to me, but I'd trade Coghlan and Ruggiano for a hard throwing A ball pitcher lottery ticket for sure.

  • I won't argue about Castro. However, the rest appear to be what was called in wrestling "enhancement talent" or "jobbers."* As I noted in the prior post about Alcantara, I think that the fans would rather see the young talent up here than the enhancement talent.

    A certain number of baseball teams remind me of when the Roller Games had jobber teams, but at least they were all teams that were perpetual visitors. A team with home dates should not rely on "up an down from AAA" and waiver players.

    _____
    *When some AWA wrestler died, they said "he fought against the best." They also didn't say "and lost to all of them within the TV time limit."

  • I just have this feeling that Soler is really going to take off if he stays healthy and could be in the Majors in 13 months.

    I am split with the Headley idea. Certainly fits the profile the FO wants, but his drop off has been so dramatic, I am not sure he has anything left to offer. May need to look at some other options for that role.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    Headley has really had only one year where he excelled. There is always a chance that he returns to his 2012 form, but what will he cost in salary and years. My guess is that he will cost more in both than he is worth to the Cubs.

    One year, 10 million? Great.

    4 years, 40 million? Forget it.

    I suspect that it will go quite a bit beyond that. And there is still the very real possibility that he will get a QA from San Diego, rendering him even less useful to the Cubs.

  • Soler has a chance to break camp as the starting RF...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Is he capable of it? Absolutely.

    Will the orgainization ever allow that? Absolutely not.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    It's not inconceivable that he could get a cup of coffee in Sept. He's already on the 40 man roster and there is no business decision involved. This FO has proven that they will circumvent some development time if there is no financial risk and the prospect plays well (see Lake last year and Olt in ST).

    So if he does well in his cup of joe, winter ball, etc and then has a strong ST... I'd say it is a definite possibility.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I am definitely of the belief that the FO does not truly believe in the strict adherence to plate appearances that they set down during Rizzo's development. I'm sure that was a guideline and a perfect world type scenario that they would like to follow but I think that was mostly a legitimate excuse to slow down Rizzo's service clock so that it would align more closely with the those of prospects later in the rebuild and they also wanted him to get as comfortable with his altered approach as possible before recalling him. Additional struggles out of the gate may have set him back.

    I do think they believe that exposure to every level is a good idea though. I understand Soler has no financial issues given his unique contract situation, but that is all the more reason to handle him properly. They can truly do what is best for him. This is a guy that has not only barely played at AA, he barely played in A+ and before that barely played A ball. Letting him finish the year in Tennesee (even if they give him an MLB look after that) and then giving him at least a 1-2 month exposure to AAA is the right thing to do.

    Lake and Olt justify nothing in my mind. Lake was brought up because they needed a warm body last year, and this year they obviously still needed warm bodies given the futility of the OF play. Olt actually did get a decent amount of AAA time, he just sucked. Neither of those guys were special prospects. They were victims (or benificiaries depending on POV) of circumstance. They got their chance before they were ready, but it was mostly because the chance presented itself and there was simply no one else available. Even if both started in the minors at the begining of the year, I'm not sure either would be in any better shape as far as a future outlook with the team. They would just be getting bypassed by the top guys anyway. Olt was never going to beat out Bryant/Baez and Lake was never going to beat out Alcantara.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    just two years ago, A.A. didn't even break our top 20 prospects list and junior Lake was very comfortably established in our top 5-10. W/O their internal scouting information/reports, one can not comfortably say that they didn't expect Lake to out perform A.A. just last year when AA finally started putting it together and burst onto the prospect scene.

    Secondly, Olt was once a high rated prospect. Who clearly had not established the general guidelines of success at the AAA level to earn a promotion to MLB. His promotion was solely on the merits of his contract situation and the fact that even if he becomes a 3 WAR player, he's under contract for his prime years. That and having 2 legit prospects behind in AAA/AA warranted that bump up to MLB.

    So "IF" Soler stays healthy, and "IF" he continues to hit like he has at every level when healthy... I can't see them leaving him behind. Because there's no reason not to take the best 25 from camp, unless you're protecting a player from the super two date ala Baez & Bryant.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Agree wholeheartedly! Soler seems quite polished to boot.

    I believe we will see September lineups that feature Mendy, Rizzo, Castro, & Soler. Other tham health, Soler should be our next cookie!

  • In reply to mjvz:

    If the organization thinks he can handle it, they will not only allow it, but they would be crazy not to do it.

    There are no contractual reasons not to do so, and he already has a firm free agency date, so they get no advantage from keeping him in the minors.

  • You are right, don't trade any top prospects until at least July 2015

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    I agree completely on the veteran catcher. We need a good defensive catcher and hitter to pair with Castillo....really a better hitting John Baker would be ideal. We'll have to spend a bit for that. Rafael Lopez probably is not it, but we'll see.

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    In reply to Zonk:

    No reason not to call up Rafael,we're not going on an extended winning string, so lets see what he brings to the team.

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    In reply to Loren Ronzheimer:

    He'll probably get a call in September, but Lopez does need a 40-man spot, so somebody would have to be DFA'ed first (or traded)

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Yes major league clubs don't carry 3 catchers until September. So the only option is getting rid of Baker or wait until September.

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    I just foresee the cubs having trouble signing any vet that is an upgrade over the utility players they have on a 3 year deal. If a vet signs that deal with the cubs isn't he essentially conceding that he will start for one year (possibly one part of one year) and then be regulated to the bench for the last two years of his deal? I know not all prospects work out but Soler and Almora aren't in your immediate plan. With a dearth of solid talent within the grasp of the MLB team why not just roll with the utility players you advocated for above?

  • I want to keep all the SS prospects and Castro as well. That athleticism to play all over the field along with all of their respective hit/power potential is mind boggling.

    I agree that we'll need pitching, but with a FA signing like a Lester to go along w Arrieta and perhaps another mid-rotation starter like Hammel, for example, that'd be a solid 1-3. Then Wood is your 4, and let Hendricks or whoever shows the most promise settle in the 5 spot. You've got the makings of a decent rotation there for 2015, where we all pretty much agree that the Cubs move closer to a .500 ball club instead of .420. It allows Pierce, CJ and others to potentially emerge/re-establish themselves. Then in 2016 is when you would hope the Cubs would challenge for a playoff spot.

    Also, what happens to Alcantara and/or Almora when Almora is ready in… let's say mid 2016 or so? Do you just turn Alcantara into a super sub, assuming he's performing well? Trade bait? I would think Almora gets the nod since he's a potential GG winner out in CF. But Alcantara seems to show more extra base pop in general, and wheels on the base paths. Plus, the fact that he is a switch hitter can't be overlooked in a system chalk full of righty bats. Such a quandary to think about… A good one, but so many exciting factors to look forward to in the future!

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    In reply to Jamato:

    Couldn't agree more!

  • In reply to Jamato:

    I agree with the pitching part of this. My target would be Brandon McCarthy. He has had a bad year and we shall see how it plays out the rest of the way in NY, but he fits and I would like to see him and his personality on the staff.

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    In reply to Jamato:

    If the Cubs are going to avoid being sellers next year, they're going to have to sign a significant free agent pitcher, in my opinion, or trade for a solid starter.

    And this assumes Arietta is a legitimate horse and they are able to make another Hammel-type signing.

    Sure, the offense might be better, but probably not much better for the first couple months if they keep Bryant and Baez in Iowa.

  • John, I love the idea with Headley. I've been thinking for the last 18 months that he'd make a great transitional figure for this group. The plate discipline and LH are two very attractive components.

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    I'm assuming Almora is traded in this scenario? If it were me, I'd like Almora starting in CF full time while Alcantara becomes the ultimate utility, bonafacio type player who gets 5-7 starts a week at multiple positions. I'm a big fan of Alcantara and Almora and I would hate to see one or the other get significantly less playing time, but that's what happens when a team is stacked with high grade prospect laden talent.

  • In reply to Bobby1005:

    It's just really interesting for me to think about. I don't want to see any of them go, but given the FO's penchant for assessing talent if they do trade any of them I won't be mad more than likely.

    It's just hard for me to see a scenario in the near future where the FO would want to give up one of those SS unless they were getting one of the best SPs in the game. As it's been stated so many times, pitching is taking off, and offense is dying. Russell, Castro and Baez all are such different players to me that I believe they could profile well at the following position: Baez's bat/power profiles really well at 3B. Russell at SS being the best defensive SS we have, and an above avg hit/power tool for a SS. While Castro could slide over to 2B, and put up above average offensive numbers.

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    In reply to Bobby1005:

    Right now, Almora doesn't project as being in the majors until 2017 or 18. That may be why he isn't factored in.

    He could be traded, but even if he finishes the year strong it's tough to see them getting good value for him in a trade package at this point. Perhaps they could if they packaged him with a Baez and Russell, but then you would want a lot back.

    Perhaps the Cubs could deal those three for Zack Wheeler and a top Mets pitching prospect. But even that wouldn't be enough to get back.

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    In reply to Gregory Shriver:

    Oops. Meant to alter that to Almora and either Baez or Russell for Wheeler and a top Mets pitching prospect. All three would be outrageous and stupid.

  • I'm thinking by June 1st 2015 it will look like:

    1) CF - Alcatara
    2) RF - Soler
    3) 1B - Rizzo
    4) 2B - Baez
    5) 3B - Bryant
    6) SS - Castro
    7) LF - Ruggiano/Coghlan
    8) C - Beef

    When Russell is ready, he can bump Bryant to LF and take over 3B, a case could be made for Baez at 3B and Russell at 2B. I'm not convinced he is going to displace Castro @ SS. maybe, but who cares with him, Baez, and Castro playing 2B, SS, and 3B thats solid to plus defense and plus plus offense...

    I don't think we need Chase Headly. Unless Soler proves to be unable to stay healthy.

    We need to land tow new SP's in FA. One needs to be of the Lester, Scherzer, Shields, etc., "ACE" mold and if we can rid ourselves of E-Jax then one of the Maholm/Feldman/Hammel mold...

    Hendricks/Beeler can fill the 5th SP and emerg 6th starter in Iowa roles/ Wada looks to be an acceptable replacement for the Moosetache. Rusin/Jokish destined for 7th extra emergency starter or Loogy replacements if we move everyday jimmy/Wright.

    The way Baker has played the last month or so, he's an adequate b/u catcher for me. Especially with the boost in offense from the top prospects arriving....

    But I agree with Bonifacio & Valbuena on the bench...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I would really like this lineup if we are able to add one or two top FA veterans pitchers this offseason. I don't think it will work without that because there would simply be too much pressure on a young lineup to produce runs every game. Having a Lester at the top work allow them to just go out an produce.

  • In reply to KC Cubs Fan:

    I would like a top FA Sp too. But they really only need one assuming there's no regression from Arrieta. Which might be a very dangerous assumption, but.

    A rotation of Lester, Arrieta, Wood, EJax, Hendricks/Beeler/Straly wouldn't be terrible. Though I'd like to see them admit they were wrong on E-Jax and discard him for another Maholm/Feldman/Hammel reclamation project for Bosio. Then again, that could be Straly...

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    The Cubs have Alcantara playing at second base again. I'm pretty sure "the plan" was for him to keep CF warm for Almora but, if continues to play at a high level at 2B the rest of the year, I can see "the plan" changing and Javy logging some hours in LF as the rest of the prospects sort their way through the system.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I don't see it. 2B is going to be held by one of Baez/Russell or maybe Castro. There are far more 2B options in the immediate future than there are CF options. They can't pin all of their hopes on Almora in CF. He is the furthest away and while I have no doubt in his long term future, he is the prospect struggling the most right now.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Playing Alcantara at second for a year or two does not mean that he could not be moved to CF if Almora fails.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    But it would mean moving a better player off 2B to accomodate AA and then if Almora failed, moving AA and then forcing the other player to return to 2B.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    AA moved off of SS for Baez because Javier is the better SS. That skill set will make him the better 2B too. He looked good out there yesterday, but looking at his whole body of work, this really isn't a close call....

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Yes, I forgot to mention this too. He is the worst defensive option of the 4 as well.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Dont get me wrong, any of the 4 can play anywhere... I prefer the term "not the best defensive option" vs "worst"... but AA is also the fastest which lends itself to CF best and that's where he is needed.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Fair enough. I also did not mean to imply that he is bad defensively or could not handle it. He's the least good. How's that?

  • In reply to mjvz:

    LOL, least good is perfect!

    I'm just looking at the 36 errors in Rookie, 22 errors in Boise short season, 40 errors in Low A, 35 errors in Daytona, 33 errors in TEN, etc... he seems to have cleaned that up a bit so far this year as he' on pace for 22, but still that could be due to the increased time in the OF this year. IDK w/o looking at the advanced defensive metrics if he's gotten better or not. But, he just plays and fits for us better in the OF. His MiLB career fielding % is .950 for 2B and .908 for SS.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    A lot of his errors came from throws at SS. He seems to have a better handle on that at 2B where he has more time and less distance (though arm strength was never a problem). His hands are good enough. Alcantara actually has all the physical elements to play a decent SS let alone 2B. The game just seems to play a little too fast for him at SS. I think his defensive profile is below avg to bad at SS, above average at 2B, potentially well above average in CF or LF. And since his bat profiles well above average at 2B or CF, you may as well have him concentrate on the position he fits best (and also happens to be the greater org need).

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Well Junior Lake "actually has all the physical elements to play a decent SS let alone 2B." too.... Bottom line is in 181 career MiLB games @ 2B, he has made 39 errors. Thats a .950 fielding % at second base which is not going to negate some of his offensive value there. He's better at 2B than SS, but I think I made my point already.

  • Your thinking aligns pretty closely with mine.

    1 have wanted the team to sign one solid veteran position player as a starter and a viable backup OF (along with 1-2 SP). Headley doesn't inspire much confidence. But he does have some position versatility and as a switch hitter does present options. Hoyer would be familiar with him, so if that is the route they go, I would be fine with it. A vet OF on a 2-3 year deal would function similarly though. Seth Smith was my choice, but he resigned with SD, so I guess Headley makes as much sense as anyone left. The other options will probably be looking for longer term.

    I agree Ruggiano should return and hold down a starting spot at the beginning of the year. I've been in favor of signing Denorfia. He is a solid 4th OF and he gets Junior Lake off the team. I'm not sure Coghlan can keep up his current production, but if he manages through the rest of the season, I could see him as an option, however since Sweeney is already signed he may just get that spot by default (assuming he has anything resembling a decent 2nd half). Bonifacio is not a good player, but as a versatile 25th guy I'm okay with it, but I think Watkins could provide the same value for less cost and I don't see any reason to have both on the roster. Neither should see the field often. I would also like to see a veteran catcher added, but the options available will either be looking for starting jobs that they can get elsewhere or are fairly terrible veterans, in which case keeping Baker or promoting Lopez make just as much sense.

    I've been pretty adamant that I want Baez and Bryant up as soon as possible next year. Waiting until the super 2 date would upset me. They will be ready before then and if you wait until late June you throw away any chance at competing next season. I know it would be a lot of pressure to count on those two to produce right away, but I think they can. If you keep them down until the end of April and use Olt and Coghlan or someone as stopgaps I'm cool with that though.

    As long as by May the team looks like:
    CF Alcantara
    3B/LF Bryant
    1B Rizzo
    2B Baez
    SS Castro
    3B/LF Headley
    RF Ruggiano
    C Castillo
    Bench: Denorfia, Valbuena, Watkins/Bonifacio, Sweeney/Coghlan, backup C

    Soler and Russell can work their way in if and when they are ready and push out Watkins and Sweeney.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Do you think Nelson Cruz can still play the field well enough? He will probably demand a multi-year deal after this season, but he can definitely still hit.

  • In reply to KC Cubs Fan:

    I do not think he should play the OF. DH only. And while the Cubs can definitely afford to overpay some guys in the near future, Cruz is going to get massively overpayed for a career year at his age, and will in all all likelyhood be able to get overpayed by a true contender.

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    In reply to KC Cubs Fan:

    He is a truly awful fielder who is best fit for an AL club. Also, not exactly a clubhouse model. Pass on Cruz.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    If not anything else, I like the moxy Bono brings.

  • I agree there is no rush to trade any of our young players. As this FO always says, it's about getting maximum value in return. And we aren't in a position to try to use the farm to plug immediate holes because there are too many to plug until young players prove whether they are here to stay. So the best thing to do is to play as many of them as possible and build their value either as "keeper pieces" or to leverage for multiple major-league-roster-ready assets. But if someone is going to offer us the right value now or during the off-season involving major league ready players, I'm certainly a very willing listener... just as the FO has indicated. For instance (and this may be pie-in-the-sky, but it's illustrative), trading Castro to the Giants for Hunter Pence, salary relief on Pence's $18.5M per over the next 4 years, a major league-ready pitcher and a one solid mid- to low-minor pitching prospect is something that would intrigue me depending on the pitchers involved. You get two starters for one and the needed veteran clubhouse presence in Pence. But I agree, I wouldn't just flip a cost-controlled, young three-time AS in Castro for more prospects who may or may not pan out.

    In terms of Chase Headley, the Cubs have the money to spend, yes, but Headley is sure to get one of the ridiculous long-term contract offers from a contender that the Theo/Jed are so reluctant to give. In addition, Headley despite all the man-love thrown his way has only had one standout year and, despite it being his contract year, seems on a steady decline. He'll be 32 next year. So I don't see him giving the Cubs a discount on years/salary AND having to wait another year or two for the chance to sniff the playoffs.

    In terms of Suzuki, not very probable that we would be able to sign Suzuki to be Castillo's backup/platoon partner. He'll get a Russell Martin/Saltalamachia deal somewhere to start and at starters money. Backup or platoon catcher is not a position to overpay on. This FO though has shown a willingness to overpay for pitching though. I see them plowing their dollars into trying to add one or two of the FA pitchers on plus-market offers. That said, if you trade Castillo and can get greater value in return, then Suzuki is exactly the kind of veteran catcher that is always available thru free agency for a two or three contract to be your starter.

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    Great minds! I, too, pegged Chase Headley. If he's willing to move to LF, he makes perfect sense for the Cubs heading into 2015. Left handed, good plate discipline, high pitches/PA, history with admin, bounce back candidate... Makes sense.

  • I really hope they bring up Bryant and Baez for the last few weeks and just let them play. No pressure situation, it gives them a look at MLB pitching going into 2015, and maybe even lessens the hype in '15 if they were to make their debuts then. Then if they earn it in Spring Training, they are both in the opening day lineup and we give a playoff run our best go. If they aren't ready, then that's fine and they spend more time in AAA next year.

  • In reply to cubsker:

    I hope they don't bring them up. That means two less players that can be protected in the rule v draft this December.

  • If Soler stays on the field and keeps doing what he's doing I'd think it's feasible he cracks that 2015 mid-season lineup. Is it way off to expect him to start at AAA next year?

  • If Soler manages to stay healthy, I'd like to see him called up in September as soon as Tennessee's season is over. There won't be anywhere else for him to get at-bats, and he's clearly not being severely tested by AA pitching.

  • In reply to cubsin:

    He could get at bats in the AAA playoffs with Baez and Bryant.

    Also, lets wait more than 2 weeks before we determine if AA pitching is going to challenge him.

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    John, I'm NOT in love with the idea with Headley getting signed to the Cubs this winter. Your plan looks to be saying 2015 will be a competitive team but not one to push for a playoff spot. This may be true but why sign another position player as a "stop gap?" Don't we have guys that could do the same thing without costing us money that could be used better to shore up possible pitching holes?

    We have Olt and Valbuena that could be that same stop gap at 3B until our final solution is made. A solution that I believe will be Addison Russell. I'm reading more and more things that folks in the industry believe he may fill out out more. If so his hands and power would play better at 3B, imo. This also allows Castro to remain at SS.

    I see Bryant possibly winning a spot on the team out of Spring training but this FO still sending him down to get a few games played out in RF with his teammate Soler getting reps in LF.

    I think Alcantara starts in CF for 2015 with Watkins getting the nod at 2B until Baez comes up. I also want to see the results of Schwaber in the Fall Instructs at catcher before I decide if we need another catcher. Lopez may be my backup for 2015.

    If I'm running this ship (probably a good thing I'm not), I'm throwing all my cash at pitching free agent market.

  • Boy, I have to say that I would be awfully surprised if Soler isn't up at some point in 2015, assuming he is healthy the rest of the year.

    It is also crazy to think that Almora might be the odd man out.

  • In reply to JB88:

    i don't think it's crazy when you consider the others are further along with their development than almora is. and if all are producing when almora is ready, he'll likely get traded.

  • In reply to RizzowiththeStick:

    I disagree. If Almora comes up and is ready. Whoever is currently playing his position will be traded or put on the bench. You always get more "value" for a current producing ML player than a prospect. I do not see Theo selling "low" on Almora or any high ceiling prospect.

  • I'm not sold on Castillo getting team to the World Series. You need a great catcher for that. Maybe he'll get there. But I'd commit to the extra development time for Schwarber at that position for a sustained contention window. I've got Soler in right, Bryant in left. Coghlan has been impressive. Money on Soler to beat the curve and excel right out of the gate. Keep all the shortstops, but yes, plant Mr. Russell there. Eventually, Castro or Baez is going to be traded for ace pitching and I hope it ain't Castro.

  • In reply to wastrel:

    Castillo will never get the Cubs to the World Series.

    But Castillo could be part of a TEAM that gets the Cubs to the World Series.

  • I like your idea, John, about infield shifts making it more desirable to have athletic infielders at 2b and 3b also. I never really thought of this before, but makes a lot of sense.

    For the sake of debate, I have a few alterations to your plan:
    + both Bryant and Baez will begin 2015 as starters for the Cubs. Super 2 status has zero meaning to the FO regarding these two players. They will be on the team when they are ready, and they'll show that they are ready in ST.
    + Bryant plays at 3b, and won't move for someone like Headley.
    + Soler is up before the All-Star break, assuming his health holds. He'll get development time in fall/winter baseball, which will be enough.
    + The Cubs will go after starting pitching and OF help in the off-season. That will be their need going into next year, and they will aggressively go after people to fill it.

  • In reply to HefCA:

    I could see the Cubs sticking wth Bryant at 3B, by all accounts they really like him there. But what happens when Russell is ready? You have make a deal or move Baez to the OF, but the latter costs you on defense.

    I think Soler could benefit from more reps and development in the minors. They have a year and a half to keep him in the minors, might as well use it.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Regarding Russell, they'll cross that bridge when they arrive at it, not earlier. It'll take a year to see what Russell brings to the table as an MLBer. By then, one of their prospect infielders could be traded, so now isn't the time to move Bryant. For all we know, he still may be the best option for the Cubs at 3B.

    You're probably right on Soler, I'm just anxious to see him in a Cubs uni, but if another year in the minors improves his development that should be the priority.

  • In reply to HefCA:

    I like this as well. I would prefer the FO spends money on pitching over Headley, personally.

  • In reply to HefCA:

    Baez and Bryant will not be brought up until the early part of May (at the earliest) so the Cubs gain the extra year of control for both players before they reach free agency. If they are ready in the front office's mind, I think they would be brought up before the "super 2" date. If either (or both) player is as good us Cubs fans hope, the AAV of their free agent contracts will approach $30 million. It just does not make any logical sense to break camp with either of these players when an extra year of control is gained by keeping them in AAA for a few weeks at the beginning of the season. By bringing either of them up prior to the "super 2" date, it would seem that the Cubs putting forth some goodwill towards them by granting them the extra year of arbitration for the extra year of control. There is no guarantee that either player will turn into star worthy of such a contract, but is an extra few weeks at AAA worth that risk. An extra $10 million (possibly $20 million) paid in arbitration is one thing, but an extra $30 million (maybe $60 million) in free agent contracts a year sooner than is necessary significantly impacts the teams resources when the Cubs should be at the apex of their competitive window in 2022.

  • In reply to rdacpa:

    I didn't know they actually get an extra year of control if they only delay until May. If this is true, then I can definitely see them doing this. I just don't think the Super 2 thing means a whole lot for these two, but the extra year of control is pretty valuable. Good point....

  • In reply to HefCA:

    Per the MLB CBA, a year of service time is equal to 172 days... and there are about 185 days or so in the typical major league season (From April to Late Sept.) So if a team wants to keep a prospect from accruing a full year of service time, then they just keep him in the minors for around 2-3 weeks.

  • So are these the waves we are going to catch?

    Wave 1
    Alcantara
    Hendricks
    Beeler
    Straily

    Wave 2
    Free agent pitcher (or 2)
    Baez
    Bryant

    Wave 3
    Russell
    Soler
    CJ Edwards

    Wave 4
    Almora
    Schwarber
    Hanneman
    P. Johnson

    Wave 5
    Eloy Jimenez
    Gleyber Torres
    Jeffrey Baez

    If so, we are going to need a big surfboard.

  • In reply to Hoosier Gus:

    Don't forget about the riptides inbetween the waves with mid-level prospects like Bruno, Amaya, and Hernandez capable of making major league rosters down the road.

  • Won't dispute that Headley would be a good fit, however, I would assume that a team like the Yankees will overpay for him. Also would like to think that both Soler and Schwarber will move quickly and as an LH, Schwarber may have some precedence over some of the other great prospects.

  • I like Baker and he is challenging Castillo for playing time right now. He is a good veteran teammate and sees a lot of pitches. I hate to say it but I've seen enough of Lake and Olt. I'll take Denorfia and Headley though.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Rizzo cited Baker and the Moosetache as the 2 veteran leaders in the locker room that keep everyone at ease and focused on what they can control. There's VALUE in that right there and with his defense, I don't care if he only hits .200 as a b/u catcher on what should be a decent offensive team with the Bombers we've got coming up...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I think I remember reading somewhere that when Baker failed to make the Padres last year there were other players crying. He may not be a great player but he is apparently one hell of a guy.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    I'd be ok with Baker, esp if Castillo can start providing offense again.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Actually C is where I hoped that the Cubs would try to improve themselves this offseason. Russell Martin is a FA and I'd like to see the Cubs sign him.

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    In reply to 44slug:

    Baker is a thoughtful guy and probable future coach. He's a good receiver. Not much of a hitter, unfortunately.

    I think the intangibles are why we kept him over Kottaras, a move that was criticized at the time

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Agreed, & Baker's hit in tough luck this year. I think he's a passable hitter.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Who does the Cardinals have to replace Molina for the rest of the season? Are they going to have to trade for a temporary replacement?

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    In reply to DaveP:

    Well, they just claimed the aforementioned George Kottaras from the Indians!

  • I would go after Yasmani Tomas who defected from Cuba last month.
    He's in the Dominican Republic. Let him go the Academy and work on his game. He can play any corner outfield spot and some centerfield.
    He can play left field until Schwarber comes up.
    Let Alcantara play CF until Almora come up.

  • I really like the idea of shifts essentially putting three shortstops in the infield. However, I think that if that's the case then Castro should stay at shortstop since he is the veteran of the group, essentially making him the captain of the infield. I likened it to the 4-3 defense in football. The will or sam may be better than the mike, but usually the mike is the one with the most experience and he is the one to make the calls and checks.

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    Another excellent article.One quick question and I am curious to see everyone's opinion.

    We have an insane amount of payroll flexibility. I believe we are saving ~$15 million this season that will be used for future additions and next year's payroll is only at $30 million as of today. Rizzo and Castro are already signed long-term and I do not see up spending money on a free agent position player in the near future.

    Who is the first guy to get a $100,000,000 contract from the Cubs?

    My guess is Jeff Samardzija 2016.

  • In reply to Daniel Rosenberg:

    Kris Bryant.

    I really don't see the Cubs giving a $100M contract to any pitcher in their 30s so that pretty much rules out any FA because the Cubs should not need to throw that type of money at a veteran hitter anytime soon either. So unless another Darvish/Tanaka type becomes available in their mid 20s or they trade for Stanton type player, I figure the Cubs next big contract will actually be to one of their current prospects. And since Bryant is represented by Boras...

  • In reply to mjvz:

    jon lester

  • In reply to RizzowiththeStick:

    sorry, was meant to be a reply to daniel's comment.

  • In reply to RizzowiththeStick:

    Possible. But I think the most they would offer would be a 5/100M and I think he will be able to get better offers elsewhere. I don't think the FO will give out a contract longer than 5 years to any FA pitcher unless they are 25-27. I think Shields on something like a 3/55M deal is more likely this offseason.

    While I think the team has a chance to start competing next year, I don't think they are ready to gamble a 6-8 year 150M+ contract on either Scherzer or Lester yet. That is the type of move you make to put you over the top, not when you are begining to enter your window.

  • John, just a couple of questions before I compare my plan with yours.

    1--How is Castillo progressing.., and not just defensively. I just keep thinking he is a decent back-up. Whats your take on him after 70 games?

    2--Headley numbers down last 2 years.., Especially HR's. Could he be an ex-steroid guy? and what kind of comeback contract wouls you say is fair?

    3---Denorfrio is old(er) amd not hitting this year. What do you see in him + 1 year older next year?

  • Soler - good grief. How can anyone miss as many games as he has with various physical problems. AND THEN just step back in the lineup and just resume wailing away as if nothing happened. This guy is a major talent. Do whatever we need to do to get/keep him healthy. Keep him. Bring him up as soon as possible. Do not trade him. Could be a superstar.
    Get him his own full time personal trainer. Bubble wrap him when he is not at bat.

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    I really hope the DH comes to the NL. That way if Schwarber does not stick at catcher then we can slip him in at DH.

  • The one guy they really need to try and move this summer is Jackson. Villanueva and Schierholz, but they have no value.
    Keep the rest.
    Put me down for Bake Man Baker as the backup. He has really impressed me the last month, and has developed into a team leader.
    If they do trade Wright or Russell, got to get someone of value. Both will be in the 3.5 mil. range next season, so the cost is pretty solid for two very good lefties. Rosscup can bring it though, so I suppose they want to open up a spot for him.

  • not sure why so many people are forgetting about dan straily when it comes to the 2015 rotation.

    my opinion, the june 1, 2015 roster could look like:

    c - castillo
    lopez

    1b - rizzo
    olt

    2b - baez

    3b - bryant
    valbuena

    ss - castro

    lf - free agent bat
    ruggiano

    cf - alcantara
    bonifacio

    rf - soler

    sp1 - free agent (lester)
    sp2 - arrieta
    sp3 - straily
    sp4 - wood
    sp5 - hendricks

    long relief - rusin

    relief - schiltter
    strop
    rosscup
    ramirez
    rondon
    vizcaino

    june 1 is about the time that bryant and baez should be up, so in the meantime, you have olt and valbuena at 2b and 3b with some bonifacio sprinkled in. i want soler to be an mlb regular out of spring training. so, why can't that be a play-off contender next year? i mean, if you consider what this team did once arrieta went to the rotation, this was a .550% team. i am not suggesting that they be favorites to win the division, but i think this team could potentially win 90 games next year.

  • No thanks on Chase Headley unless he is willing to take a two year deal at a reasonable salary. 2012 is looking like a clear outlier in his career. He was mediocre last year and has been even worse this year. We'll see how the 2nd half goes but my thought is he is not worth what he will be asking for.

  • In reply to Eric:

    Headley is a good player who needs to be in a different ballpark with a general change of scenery. He fits best what they need as far as leadership, versatility, makeup, and approach at the plate. Guys like Cabrera and Rasmus do not. Markakis would be nice, but that will be a long term deal at a lot of money -- and we know how well that has worked out so far for the Yankees.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    In 2013 Headley actually had a better OPS at home (.763) than on the road (.731). This year his OPS is equally horrendous regardless of where he is hitting (.649 at home vs. .653 on the road).

    I feel he is getting far too much credit for one great year when he has otherwise been nothing special. It's like the people who kept expecting Ellsbury to hit for power again - it's probably not going to happen.

    I'm not completely opposed to him and I'm not saying options like Cabrera, Rasmus or Markakis are much better. I also understand the need for a veteran presence with all the kids arriving soon. If he wants to come here for 2 years at $20 million then sure, why not. Otherwise, no thanks. Just my opinion.

  • Headley this year? .225/.299/.352 Not sure I'm up for that. Are we sure Olt doesn't have just as much a chance to turn it around with a season of experience under his belt than Headley does to come back after the league seems to have figured him out? My line-up thoughts are always tenuous at best but right now I think the only differences in my thought process are that Bryant definitely starts off at 3B when he comes up early next season and Baez takes 2B. By the middle of next season Soler will be playing next to Alcantara in RF. LF will be manned by the platoon until Bryant gets pushed to LF when Russel comes up late '15 or early '16 to play SS with Baez moving to third and Castro to second. The only reason I think that is that Baez looks like a real stocky young man to me and I think he may outgrow. At that point the only thing that will allow a lefty bat in the outfield is a trade that puts Bryant back at third. That goes a bit too far out in time to predict accurately but that's my 2 cents.

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    Good stuff, John! tboy, you're right...Soler looks like a man among boys at AA.

  • In reply to Bob from Salem:

    He's a big guy. He's built like a superhero.

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    I like a lot of this post. Don't waste time trading guys who aren't going to bring anything back, check. The three shortstops, check. The timelines for bringing guys up, check, although if Soler stays healthy I think they might want to get a look at him in 2015 since it is his last option year.

    Headley is interesting but I don't think I'm down with that. I still think Bryant moves to right fairly quickly after he is brought up or before - he's just to big for third. And Alcantara is in center when Baez and Russell arrive to fill out the infield.

  • Great article! I agree with almost all of it besides a couple of secondary points, but I am on board for the plan as a whole. The only things that I would do different if I was playing GM would be...

    I would go with R. Lopez (27 years old) next year He's lefty, and he has held his own hitting and on defense this year, and he is cheap with 6 years of cost control if he comes up next year. He's my choice as backup for next year. Also the Free Agent Catchers next year all pretty much stink as well, i.e. John Buck, Ryan Doumit, Gerald Laird, Russell Martin,Wil Nieves, Miguel Olivo, Ronny Paulino, A.J. Pierzynski, David Ross, Geovany Soto - No Thanks!

    Also I think that Soler has a good chance of being up by mid-2015 with Baez & Bryant. No more fluke hamstring injuries (or any other) and a good showing the next month or so in AA, and he could join B&B in AAA to make a run in the playoffs. Send him to the AFL, then half a year in AAA again and he will be chomping at the bit to get to Wrigley along with Baez/Bryant. So I would factor him in more prominently in the forecast if it were me.

    I'm also one of those who is undecided on whether Castro should stay at SS and Russell go to 3rd as Russell would be a stud their, most likely a GG if he plays to his potential, and I think as he matures his power (30 HR's?) will let his bat play their easily.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    I must have said "next year" about 15 times, sorry about that....times like this I wish their was an edit function.

  • Another crazy thing is that 2016 lineup is stacked, but the crazy thing is that at that time Schwarber, Almora, and McKinney might very well be in AAA already and looking for a promotion to Wrigley!

  • Enjoy most columns John but this one exceptionally fun to read and certainly has spurred some conversation. My main concern? Living to see it unfold!!

  • Go watch Addison Russell take infield practice for 5 minutes, and you will realize he is going to be playing shortstop in the big leagues for a long time. And that is no knock on Castro, who has improved greatly and played the position well. Castro is starting to fill out, and will be better at 3B long term anyway.

  • Law and Parks have no doubts of him sticking there.

  • I see almost nothing about Schwarber in these comments and projections. Regarding pitching: as difficult as it is to get TOR pitchers who don't go down with arm problems, with all the offense that seems to be coming, maybe a whole bunch of young pitchers developed in our own system would be enough. Let the Tanaka's of the world go elsewhere.

  • I think that the Cubs future pitching needs are going to be largely satisfied in-house.

    Especially if they stretch out Rivero, Ramirez and Grimm to see if any of them can perform well as a starter.

    In addition, they have a lot of interesting potential starting pitchers already in the lower minors.

    Zastryzny, Johnson, Paniagua, Tseng, Blackburn, Underwood and Skulina all have potential to be better than average starters. And you can add to this a half dozen from this year's draft that have very interesting potential.

  • Baezs bat plays better at third. Russell Castro at ss/2b. Can figure that out when needed. I think soler is a better rf than Bryant. So put Bryant in lf. Almora in cf. Alcantara a super sub. That's how I see it

  • In reply to CubfanInUT:

    As long as they're in the line-up it doesn't matter where the bat plays better. You want to field the best defensive team possible.

  • Don't agree with opening bit. You can argue against cubs on the trade. Cubs got a good prospect and a nice/risky prospects for 2 high quality starters. And at a time where the cubs are very thin in starting pitching. While I think we'll see in a couple of years who wins or a push.

    The end of the year and beginning of next year line up is sad. Not sure I agree on vet catcher when we have couple chances if guys in minors. Save that money for arms and if they think Bryant is ready that soon leave at 3b. Save money on little guys or more stop gap guys. FO has said last year of being sellers so let's start getting legit guys.

    Do the cubs pay for renovation? Or is it from a tiny payroll that we spend money on ball park but not ball players?

  • This is fun argument starter column. I'd like to see the Cubs get aggressive with promotions, Marlins-style. Break camp with:

    Alcantara - 2B
    Russell - SS
    Rizzo - 1B
    Bryant - RF
    Joc Pederson - CF (acq'd w/ Ethier for Castro)
    Soler - LF
    Baez - 3B
    Castillo - C

    Bench: Ethier, BJax (last chance!), Valbuena, glove-1st SS

    Scherzer
    Shields
    Arrieta
    Wood
    Hendricks

  • In reply to h vaughn:

    Makes no sense to lose an extra year of control on Bryant and Baez to have then them on the team an extra 3-4 weeks. If they are ready bring them up late April/early May.

  • In reply to Eric:

    They can still lose control up until the beginning of June. Bringing them up in late April/early May does not guarantee them keeping the extra year.

  • In reply to Jimmie Ward:

    Wrong. Per the MLB CBA, a year of service time is equal to 172 days... and there are about 185 days or so in the typical major league season (From April to Late Sept.) So if a team wants to keep a prospect from accruing a full year of service time, then they just keep him in the minors for around 2-3 weeks.

    If you are talking about "cost control" and super-two status that's a different story, in that case the prospect usually needs to be kept in the minors until July to prevent them from losing a year of league minimum salary instead of arbitration....but "cost control" and "control" are two completely separate things.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    I am talking about super two and it's June, not July.

  • In reply to Jimmie Ward:

    Actually you're right. I confused super two with control.

  • In reply to Jimmie Ward:

    Super Two is a moving scale that's dependent upon the service time accrued by the top % of players with between 0 and 1 years of service time, there's no specific cut-off date. Therefore the safe route is to hold them back until July to guarantee avoiding Super Two status. Although it's certainly possible that a June call-up wouldn't qualify for Super Two, it's just much more risky and could wind up costing the club $5-$10MM for an additional 2-3 weeks of a player.

  • In reply to MKE cubs:

    June is a guarantee.

  • In reply to Jimmie Ward:

    Most likely. But again, it's dependent upon 2014 September call-ups throughout the entire MLB and how many of those players make Opening Day rosters in 2015, and how many of those players stay in the big leagues for the entire 2015 season.

  • In reply to Jimmie Ward:

    You're right. It's made with the assumption that the Cubs don't call them up this September.

  • In reply to Jimmie Ward:

    RE: " it's June, not July."

    No, it's actually mid-June to mid-August, I said July because it's around the middle.

    Here is a chart MLBRumors did last year that is a good example of when the normal super-two cutoff dates are...

    http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2013/02/service-time-considerations-for-top-prospects.html

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    It's later if the player has service time. Bryant/Baez aren't expected to have service time by then.

    Since we're discussing Cubs players it's June, not July.

  • In reply to h vaughn:

    You can't pay Ethier $18 million a year to be a back-up OF.

  • Can we add a veteran leader, stud to this mix? Yadier Molina type. Understand it won't be him. Likely in the outfield. Catcher would be fine.

  • I'd break camp with Baez and Bryant with both of them having a September cup of coffee to get their feet wet.

    To get that extra year of control that everyone so dearly wants they would have to keep the kids down until June to guarantee it. Bringing them up late April/May guarantees nothing.

    Keeping them down until June and rolling the dice with the Barney's/Olt's/Valbuena's of the world for the first two months doesn't sit right with me. Plus the kids have the learning curve once they get up so it's another throw away season in my eyes.

    I'll go with an opening day line-up of...
    C- Castillo
    1B- Rizzo
    2B- Baez
    SS- Castro
    3B- Valbuena
    LF- Ruggiano
    CF- Alcantara
    RF- Bryant

    Lake and his sub-.250 OBP doesn't cut it for me. Olt shouldn't even be considered at this point. I know the Cubs said they want Bryant to stick at 3B but the OF has more pressing concerns in the immediate future.

    The pitching staff has far too many moving parts to have any idea what will happen.

  • Headley is an interesting idea. I wonder if the Cubs could get Kendry Morales on the cheap from his down year this year? Could be primed for a bounce back year with an actual spring training. Obviously would love Lester but not holding my breath. A couple pitchers that we wouldn't have to throw a ton of years and money at would be Hammel (obviously tricky coming back after just traded), Gavin Floyd, Masterson, Volquez. Could make for a solid rotation with Arrieta, Wood, Hendricks/Jackson

  • Never bring up a top prospect to soon so it will cost us 1 extra
    year of control

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Cause that extra year of control is the most important of all considerations? If Bryant continues to rake this year and is dominating in spring training I'd hope and expect FO to get crucified if they keep him down because that move is about nothing but money, instead of putting the best possible team on the field.

  • In reply to TTP:

    I believe the control thing is overplayed in the context of a high revenue team like the Cubs. I can't foresee them struggling to keep or peremptorily extend premium talent.

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    In reply to h vaughn:

    Two words: Robinson Cano.

  • In reply to h vaughn:

    The Cubs are not a high revenue team. They are middle of the pack right now, but are working to get to be a high revenue team. They need the new signage and a new TV deal.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to TTP:

    It's NOT about the money. It's about trading off three weeks of his services in 2015 for a year of his services in seven years.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Right, it means the team (and us fans, too, woo hoo!!) are guaranteed to have the guy an extra year. Saves money, too, but an extra year before he can walk. That is important.

  • Fascinating article, and one I am sure we all have thought about. How do we proceed in the best way going forward with all of these moving parts and possibilities?

    Here is what I would propose for 2015:

    This winter I would target and sign specific veteran free agent position players who add talent, experience and character to the clubhouse at key positions of need, on as short of term contracts as possible. I like the following guys for us:

    1. LF Melky Cabrera, 2 year deal, team option on year 2 if possible....might stretch money wise but not year wise if at all possible.
    2. C Russell Martin, 2 or 3 year deal if need be. Overpay if need be.
    3. OF Jonny Gomes, 1 year deal.
    4. 2B/INF Emilio Bonafacio, 1 year deal.

    I view Cabrera as a quality left hand bat who can be had on a short term deal to play left field until our other guys are ready. If someone jumps up to take his spots, we can use him as a flip type contract as we have done with starting pitchers the last 3 years.

    I view Jonny Gomes as a right handed hitting veteran who can play off the bench, so we don't ask a young player who needs regular at bats to fill that role. He can platoon with Cabrera in left.

    I see Bonafacio as depth at multiple positions on a short term basis, and who seems to be a good clubhouse presence. I think beginning next season he can even be a starter on a short term basis until someone takes his position eventually.

    A huge target for me would be Russell Martin, catcher. We need a better catcher at handling our staff and being a better game manager than Castillo, who simply isn't that good with the bat to make up for his mediocrity defensively in calling a game. I'd be ok with bringing Castillo back as a 2 day a week or so backup catcher, but I am also ok with using him as trade bait to improve the pitching staff.

    I believe Martin would be a better hitter than Castillo for sure, but even if he wasn't, the defensive upgrade as a game caller/pitch framer etc would be well worth the investment, with the added bonus of it hurting a division rival.

    Pitching free agents:

    1. Brett Anderson, on a low risk short term deal.
    2. Kenta Maeda, on a longer term deal but not for "ace" money.
    3. I'd take a run at Jon Lester, but doubt I'd be the high bidder, so I won't include him.....but I'm willing to go 5 years 125million personally. (though I doubt our front office is.)
    4. Kyuji Fujikawa 1 year minimum deal as possible.

    Anderson is young and talented and left handed, so I'd gamble on him despite the history and see if Bosio can make another quality pitcher out of him.

    Maeda is the current Japanese best pitcher, though he is slight of build and likely won't be an ace here, I still believe he will be a quality major league starter, and he has upside to be better than I am giving him credit for.

    I'd also stretch Justin Grimm out during spring training to use him as a starter in Iowa, as depth if needed going into the 2015 season instead of in our bullpen.

    Either at the end of this month or in the offseason, I'd try and trade Darwin Barney and Ryan Sweeney, among others.

    OPENING DAY 2015 ROSTER:

    CF Arismendy Alcantara
    3B Luis Valbuena
    1B Anthony Rizzo
    SS Starlin Castro
    LF Melky Cabrera
    RF Kris Bryant
    C Russell Martin
    2B Emilio Bonafacio

    Bench: C Castillo, OF Ruggiano, OF Gomes, INF/OF Watkins, 1B/3B Olt.

    Rotation: Arrieta, Wood, Maeda, Jackson, Hendricks.
    (Triple A rotation depth: Straily, Grimm, Anderson, Beeler, Wada.)

    Bullpen: 7 players of this group: Rondon, Ramirez, Strop, Vizcaino, Wright, Rosscup, Russell, Schlitter, Parker, Cabrera, Parker, Rivera, Fujikawa.

    THOUGHTS ON WHY I SUGGESTED WHAT I DID:

    I like starting Bryant with the big club next year, but holding Baez, Soler, Addison Russell, etc back in Iowa. Reason being, I think Bryant is just more ready than Baez, and I think his power will translate immediately. I also think that I like the idea of Bryant's service clock starting at a different time than everyone else's, so he and the other top prospects are staggered a bit for future payroll sake. Lastly, our outfield is amazingly terrible currently, and I think options in fixing it are difficult to see without adding Bryant to the mix immediately.

    I'd start Russell and Almora in AA Tennessee briefly next year so they can play together, and so Russell and Baez can both play shortstop at their respective levels. I'd also keep Schwarber at catcher for now, and play him at Tennessee, skipping Daytona all together. Assuming Russell gets off to a good start in AA, I'd move him quickly to Iowa to join Baez and Soler. When that happens, I'd move Baez to 2nd base to get him ready for a mid season call up. If Soler seems healthy and tears up AAA, I'd consider moving him up as well and using Gomes and Cabrera as flip candidates next summer or in the winter of 2015.

    I like signing Cabrera and Martin a lot, because we need better players at those positions, and because I don't want our rookies to feel like they have to carry the entire club offensively. That is why I had Bryant batting 6th initially, until he gets his feet wet and adjusts to his new surroundings, position, and higher caliber competition.

    What say you, Cubs nation?

  • Alcantara... so exciting. I knew he was gonna steal 2nd.
    Single, steal, single, Cubs win. See how easy that is??

    Of course you gotta have players who can actually do that sort of thing.

  • In reply to hoffpauir6:

    Exciting, indeed! He's gotta stay in the line up!

    Does he catches that Double leading off the if he's in center instead of Lake?

  • In reply to TTP:

    Maybe. They didn't show us Lake's path to the ball.
    It would've been a SportsCenter highlight had he caught it.

  • I can see the scenario you've laid out happening. It would be good.

    But for whatever reason, I do believe Castro will be traded for a big leaguer (like Stanton). I just don't see Castro at 3B. And I don't think he would really be happy in the slightest about having to move. Nor do I think that telling him they're basically using 3 short stops would work. I imagine he wants the SS next to his name. A pride thing.

    I think I'd pull the trigger on a Stanton trade (Castro + Soler?+ lesser pieces), and make a trade for pitching in the next year or two that involves Schwarber +. I'd say Schwarber at catcher, but like John said, with that much offense, why not go for a defensive-minded catcher? And then line up Baez, Russell, Alcantara, Rizzo in the infield, and Bryant, Almora, and Stanton in the outfield. Of course, I might be inclined to keep Soler, and trade some of these guys (Castro, Alcantara/Almora, Schwarber/Castillo...) for pitching.

    Then again, I might be playing too much MLB: The Show.

    But whatever. This is a good problem to have. I just hope these problems actually happen!

  • fb_avatar

    Just for fun we could have an all-infield defense. It would be composed of players that played significant infield innings and only moved because there was another player "blocking" them. The all under 25 defense (and all infielders other than catcher):
    1B Rizzo
    2B Baez
    SS Castro
    3B Russell
    LF Olt
    CF Alcantara
    RF: Bryant

    In a late inning situation you could pull in Alcantara to play up the middle to protect against a slap single, or even Bryant. While there is some question whether Alcantara could really stick at SS he is certainly a solid 2B.

    I love the flexibility of the line-up you listed. I would even be willing to wait another year for Schwarber to get competent at catcher. Then our LF is also our back up catcher. Our "starting" catcher would be a defensive specialist that the pitchers would love and it opens another spot. I would fill that with someone like Watkins who can play multiple positions or someone like Olt as a power threat off the bench.

    Either way, Renteria would have A LOT of bullets in his gun that he could mix and match according to whatever is needed.

  • That would be a great bench John, and potentially a significantly improved lineup. Lester making it to free agency is far from a given, but the Cubs could make some real progress quickly now and actually compete in 2015 if they can add a starter of that caliber, plus another "Hammel", assuming that the Jake of late is what we will continue to see. One thing though, I like to dream as much as the next Denizen about the Cubs future "murderers row" but the chances of all of those prospects making it is pretty slim, let alone being above average big leaguers. Just trying to keep things in perspective.

  • John, I like the Headley idea, unless Olt starts playing everyday and shows improvement beyond the HR power the rest of the way. Someone said Headley is 32 but he's actually only 30 and has the potential to become another change of scenery guy who finds success with the Cubs FO. His road splits are pretty darn good, .290, .377, .848 over the past three seasons combined.

  • In reply to WSorBust:

    Olt and Lake are not seeing the ball through to the catcher's mitt. That is why they have holes all over their approaches and the league has found them and exploiting them.

  • Everyone needs to simmer down and keep the faith. Five more short years...tops.

  • In reply to Hey Hey:

    Hilarious troll! These posts just never get old. What kind of pathetic existence must you endure in order to spend time posting the same moronic comment over and over again with the sole purpose of getting under peoples skin?

  • I don't see them adding Headley. Too many other teams needing a good glove at 3b more. I could see maybe an Olt for Dom Brown deal or even an Ejax for Carl Crawford. Maybe both to fill those corners around Mendy. Also it seems no coincidence that Bryants 500th AAA PA is due late April. Fun article.

  • I am not sure why everyone thinks headley will get multiple years. Nelson cruz couldn't get more than 1 year and he had much better year.unless headley goes on a tear, then he will take a 1 yr deal to build some value. Youkilis did it a yr ago with the Yankees, although he failed to recover. I can't see the Padres offering a 14 million QO, he would take it.

    I think he has a shot at rebounding though and cubs should offer a contract. He is similar to Valbuena, but maybe more power. It wouldn't be to bad to have 2 Valbuenas in the lineup.

  • John, I have been reading your Twitter and that brought me here daily and it is a good place to discuss, fairly informed fan base, good sabermetrics community, but here are some observations. I will state for the record I live in CO Springs and regularly go to the Sky Sox to watch most of the PCL visiting clubs and got to see ICubs this year all eight times. As a former collegiate athlete who also hung with other former collegians in my youth, (yes all the way back to the '70's) where I befriended HOF coaches in other sports I kind of got a fix on somethings, at least a little more depth than most. Also in my middle years I was a corp exec and genuine C-level headhunter so all that goes in the mix in judging my favorite sport baseball, oh and I have gotten to know some scouts on a personal basis.

    The question of trading marginal or current fringe players for value or forsaking not trading them because of continuity is a far one often asked by those in the press (oh I also was a sports writer for two of the suburban papers in Chicago as a sideline in the 80's) and fans---the forsaking of which it is not really a consideration when making decisions on long term roster. Fans love to personalize their experience and fall in love with players, players and coaches don't personalize they could care less who plays as long as they produce and bring about a win.

    When it was reported that Epstein & Hoyer were open for business and willing to discuss any and all players on the roster that meant even Rizzo and Castro, Arietta and Wood or anyone in the prospect listing, of course the price for them would be exceeding over value so including those would be stupid. But anyone who is not cost controlled and on the plan through 2020, that is a different story. Let me start with Valbuena, a good, very good platoon IF'er who bats left, has some extra base pop and is at his high point of wRC+ in his career at 107 and a mid season WAR of 1.2, (last year wRC+ was 95 and WAR 2.0); bottom line he is at his highest value now----TRADE. Why, you got ample replacements (actually you have Coghlan who played IF through his entire minors, Valaika in AAA, Bonafacio soon returning, yes Olt, and Watkins, Vitters, plus Alcantara and Barney) If someone wants him TRADE, he is not going to be a core player in 2016 and his value could diminish in 2015 (see Schierholtz).

    Now Ruggiano, 32 yrs old, reminds me of Reed Johnson who can field a little better, fine MLB utility OF'er journeyman is what we used to call them, his WAR is 0.5 (or right at or a tad above replacement value, and why Cubs fans are enamored because all the other OF'ers outside of Coghlan are below or minus zero in WAR). If someone wants him, his wRC+ is a whopping 124, pay the fair price and you have him, thank you, he could win a playoff game for a contender, but we might get a great LOOGY out of it for 5 or 6 years.

    Castro: Funny thing I have this neighbor who is an area scout, always on the road, I water his yard three times a week, so I get to talk shop, he grew up a Cubs fan because of WGN cable. He told me that Castro really is an OF'er, his movements and reactions to balls especially in the air are natural but he was an adequate athlete on the IF and his offense and promise kept him there. The thing is he said the Cubs FO and their system would not have allowed him to develop the way he did if he came up with them now. Cubs have one of the best development systems in place, the capture all the stats and situations and work on maximizing strengths and minimizing weaknesses and really understanding game situations. They want their players really ready when they come up and they will be ready, not like Olt and Lake are now, those were flyers and fill ins. So he sees Castro being traded as the entire MLB community, the only question will be timing and price.

    This is not how you put it that the rebuilding has to stop, MLB rosters are always rebuilding because of injury, faltering performances, and competition. So I asked him about Russell and he said their organization had him better than Correa, Lindor and BAEZ, better grade all around. They think Correa and Baez will be moved off their SS position and that does not mean they won't be better impact players in a lineup, just that Russell was a grade better at SS where Russell is a tad better fielding and running, down a bit on power but not that much and his arm, but still a high arm at the position. In fact he said Baez would make a great 2nd baseman in the relay from LC to RF and Russell a good relay from LF, few teams would score from 1st if the Cubs maintained their discipline on relay plays. Correa is an ARod type where his fielding will be a liability and Lindor is your quintessential best fielder type---see Furcal comps.

    Without Bryant it would have been natural to move Baez to 3B but Bryant seems to hold his position well and he thinks will improve his fielding grade a few points. So that leaves Castro out of the mix, the 3rd best SS fielder in the system, and better 2B (Baez and Alcantara) and 3B (at least par to better power/bat) and a better trade value.

    As far as my eyes have seen this all confirms things. The only question is what could these players and others get in return? Well as you said, Castro engineers at least two MLB level pitchers right now and some prospects that could or could not materialize. The thing is as a WAR Castro is at best a 3.6 to 3.95 WAR through 2019 with one possibly 4.5 year. That maximizes at 20 WAR in return. Got to have two pitchers that average the same plus a dividend on taking a chance. But Russell projects similar WAR's in his second year and more so 3rd-6th years, Baez even more esp at 2nd base and Bryant the same. So then you ask yourself, the OF?

    Soler is the key. He said he scouted him in AZ and this year he is better than last at the plate. I gave a comp of George Foster (our ages were showing) and he said how about Roberto Clemente without the high grade fielding. Then he said the rest of the OF he could see a lot mix or match until it is settled, maybe a surprise but indeed Alcantara has a spot somewhere.

    Final thought. Baseball is a jealous sport. The League sees what Cubs are doing, and no GM wants to be the one that puts them over the top unless it puts them over the top first. So trading Castro is not going to be easy either in getting the price that is deserved but there will be a taker. As for the rest of the fringe, trade when the value is high.

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