Cubs need to strike a balance with their future lineup -- and how that could impact this offseason.

Earlier today I was just going through the team batting stats of the clubs who have made the playoffs in the the last 4 years.  I found much of what I expected but a few surprises as well.  OBP and slugging matters, of course, but so do strikeouts and batting average.  At first glance, the last two would almost seem like sacrilege to those of us who rely on advanced metrics.  I wanted to see how many teams compiled their OBP, was it by being among the best in batting average or walks?

First of all here is the raw data,

There have been 38 playoff teams in the last 4 years.  Here is how it breaks down.

Number of playoff teams ranked in the top 10 in…

  •  OBP: 23
  • AVG: 22
  • Slugging: 24
  • BB: 22
  • Most Ks: 10

I also wanted to take a further look at how many teams made it with least amount of Ks and lowest batting averages.  Here are the teams ranking in the Top 10 in those categories…

  • Least Ks: 15
  • Lowest BAs: 5

What we can take from this is that A) It is not great to strike out a lot and B) It doesn’t help much more if you avoid striking out.  Low strikeout teams are not much more likely to make it than big strikeout teams and C) maybe batting average has some value.  After all, it does play a large role in both OBP and slugging.  When saber-minded analysts downplay batting average, what they really mean is an empty batting average with few walks and lack of extra base power (i.e. Juan Pierre, Ben Revere, etc.).  But the ability to hit the baseball consistently is still essential in this game.

As you might expect, those teams that struck out frequently made up for it with walks and/or slugging.  14 of those 15 teams ranked in the top 10 in one of the two categories (the 2013 Pirates were the exception) and 4 of them made the top 10 in both categories (2011 D’Backs, 2013 Red Sox and Indians, 2014 Nationals)

Only one of those teams advanced to the World Series and won the title.  That team is the 2013 Red Sox.

It should be noted that one of the differentiating factors was that the Red Sox could hit.  They struck out, but they also did extremely well in hitting (2nd in MLB) as well as 3rd in walks and 1st in slugging.  If you are going to strikeout a lot, it helps to be elite when it comes to hitting, taking walks, and slugging.  Boston was the only team I found with that rare combination.

So the common thread seems to be this: It helps if you can hit.

OBP and walks are a huge factor in who makes it, but there are few teams who build a high percentage of their OBP with walks at the expense of low batting averages.  Those teams are the A’s and Rays, both of whom ranked at the bottom in batting average but near the top in walks.  The 3rd team, the Pirates, did not even rank in the top 10 in walks and, by extension OBP.  None of these lower hitting teams have been particularly successful once they’ve reached the playoffs.  Batting average has taken a beating in recent years but the last 4 years have shown that if you want to advance, you need guys that can hit the baseball.

I like the Cubs direction, but I don’t think they should try to duplicate the Red Sox rare feat.  In fact, Boston wasn’t able to duplicate it themselves this season.

They need to strike a balance in their lineup.  Yes, they need guys who will get on base, but it need not only be through walks.  There should be a balance of players who can get on via their ability to hit.  And yes, you need guys who can just out the bat on the ball with regularity.

What does this mean for the Cubs?

I think it means they absolutely should hang on to Starlin Castro and Addison Russell.  Both of whom should make good, hard contact for average as well as slugging to balance out some of the strikeouts  we should expect to see from Kris Bryant and others.

I think Jorge Soler and Kyle Schwarber provide a great balance on their own between walks, slugging, and a more moderate number of strikeouts.  They are keepers too.

Two other players worth holding onto: 1) Billy McKinney (10.8% walk rate, 17.4% K rate) for his balance.  He may not have great power, but he should hit for average. 2)  Another player who should balance out the Ks, put the ball in play, and hit for average is Albert Almora (11.7% K rate in A ball, 15.9% in AA with an average that should improve in 2015).

Who doesn’t fit as well?  Javier Baez.  He will strikeout and he will make up for some of that power, but with his inability to make enough contact to hit for average coupled with what should be no better than an average walk rate, I think he tips the scales to far the other way.  I think Baez forces the Cubs to work hard to balance out his deficiencies.

I am also not as bullish on Arismendy Alcantara, who does strikeout more than you would like (31% with Cubs, 22.7% in AAA) and the slugging, while decent, probably isn’t good enough to make up for it.  If the Cubs keep him, I like him more as a supersub where the Cubs can give him good match-ups.

This is how it breaks down lineup wise.  Keep in mind this is prospects only and it is almost certain to change.  But if I were to build a lineup strictly on farmhands with the most optimistic projections on offense and defense, it would be this:

  • C: Kyle Schwarber
  • 1B: Anthony Rizzo
  • 2B: Addison Russell
  • SS: Starlin Castro
  • 3B: Kris Bryant
  • LF: Billy McKinney
  • CF: Albert Almora
  • RF: Jorge Soler

They can use Baez and Alcantara as trade bait, along with some of their prospect depth behind the starters listed above.  Perhaps there is enough to get a Cole Hamels.  One reader (h/t George Mitterwald Knows Everything) mentioned a rumor that a trade for Cole Hamels could involve Baez, Alcantara, and Edwin Jackson (for salary balancing purposes and to give them innings they would lose, presumably).  I don’t know if that’s accurate or even plausible, but I would do that in a heartbeat because it fits in with what we are talking about here.

Of course, that trade would require the Cubs to get sort term fill-ins for the OF and possibly 2B, though Luis Valbuena could easily slide over after Bryant is called up.  Welington Castillo is the stopgap catcher, of course.

That makes the offseason wish list simple.  If they get Hamels, then get a short term CF’er, LF’er and then also try to get Jon Lester since Hamels would be a good bargain when you subtract EJax’s salary.  And having Hamels makes it less imperative to get Lester, of course.

Ahh, but I am getting ahead of myself again.

I love with this front office has done, but they shouldn’t get too hung on the philosophy of getting guys who just take walks and/or hit for power. I think they need to be mindful that a balance is needed in their lineup.  Not just lefty-righty, but to get a healthy mix of guys who can hit, guys who can walk, guys who can slug, and some guys with contact skills.   Strikeouts aren’t the worst thing, but they require you to be very proficient in all other areas of hitting.  As we have shown, that is difficult to accomplish and even more difficult to sustain.

To me, the better bet is to get balance with a wide array of hitting skill sets in your lineup.

 

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  • John,
    I would be ecstatic if Theo could pull off that trade for Cole. I'm still not a huge fan of Baez and although I like AA's versatility he looks overmatched a lot of the times, and Jackson well lets caulk that up to impulse buy. I still think J. Gomes will make it to the Cubs this off season, who doesn't have a bad career OBP .335.

  • That Hamels deal makes me weak in the knees. There's definitely a spot for Baez on a roster, I just don't think its the Cubs roster. They have enough power with Rizzo, Soler, and Bryant (plus a couple 15-25 home run guys like Castro and Russell) that Baez is the best bargaining chip.

  • On a side note, when does free agency start?

  • In reply to Ike03:

    5 days after WS ends.

  • Et tu, Brute?

    Do what you want with Alcantara, but leave Baez alone!

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Haha! Just one way of looking at it. I like Baez and Alcantara, but I think the Cubs can probably sustain that hit better than other players.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Right, its about asset management. The Cubs have power guys that will strike out at a pretty good clip. You don't want to have 4-5 of those guys in your line up. If you can swap a couple out for an ace pitcher, of course you do that. At some point, some of these guys are going to have to go. 2 years of cost controlled Shields cost Wil Meyers, 4 years of expensive Hamels will probably cost Baez.

  • In reply to Ike03:

    "The Cubs have power guys that will strike out at a pretty good clip. You don't want to have 4-5 of those guys in your line up." - I do want all of these guys in the lineup. Not all high strike out guys are alike. Soler, Rizzo, Schwarber and Russell can provide BA, OBP and power. And guess what, Baez can do that too, or at least the BA and power. I'll take as many of those tpe of players as possible, thanks.

    "2 years of cost controlled Shields cost Wil Meyers, 4 years of expensive Hamels will probably cost Baez." - It will cost more than Baez. Two years of Shields cost more than just Myers. And two years of Shark cost more than just Russell. If I was Philadelphia, I wouldn't accept less than Baez, McKinney, Edwards and Underwood.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Hamels is already being paid free agent market value. I can't see it being worth that big of a package of prospects to get something you can just buy in the free agent market (Lester or Shields, e.g.) for not that much higher a price and years.

    But knowing Amaro (well, I don't actually know him but you know what I mean), that's probably similar to what he'll demand and that's why you can't do a deal with the Phillies while he's still running the show.

  • In reply to TheThinBlueLine:

    Hamels salary is higher then the other guys, that is true, but at this point it is actually below market value in dollars and years. You are also assuming every team can sign Lester or Shields. There are only two of them. Once they sign, you don't think the other 10 teams that miss out and are still looking for a TOR starter that won't cost Sherzer money start calling Amaro? The Cubs wouldn't be the only team bidding for Hamels.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to mjvz:

    But will any team offer a better centerpiece than Baez?

    And Hamels is still getting FA market . He is NOT below. The original contract is 6 years 144M, including his signing bonus. Thats 24M a year of real value. That is in no way below market value.

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    A team already in the middle of their window of contention might offer a better or as good of a centerpiece. Or a team might be able to offer a slightly lesser centerpiece but be more willing to offer better secondary pieces, or maybe another team would be willing to absorb Papelbon or Howard, etc. Or maybe the Phillies are more interested in a young, somewhat established big leaguer as the centerpiece.

    On your second point, I'm assuming the signing bonus was paid at signing and not still pending. What has already been paid out has no bearing, only what he is still owed. And if Hamel was a FA right now, he would get more than what is currently remaining on his deal, so that means he is currently below market value for the purposes of the team acquiring him.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    I'd also look at how someone strikes out -- swinging at an obvious ball with 4 pitches vs. taking a called third in an 8-pitch at bat.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Notice it this way John. Baez and AA are from the Hendry regime. They fit the philosophy of the type of players Hendry drafted. If anyone gets traded, it will likely be one of the Hendry draftees, Be it Baez, AA or Vogelbomb.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Hendry philosophy also somewhat similar to philosophy that still holds true in Philly.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    You really think Baez is more of a Hendry-type pick than Almora? The Almora picked seemed even more anti-Epstein than Baez at the time.

  • In reply to SenatorMendoza:

    Baez is a Hendry administration pick, so it is self-evident. Especially since your Almora evaluation looks more like hindsight. It was well established that Baez was an ultra aggressive hitter while the Cubs felt Almora was much more polished when it came to pitch recognition and the potential to be an OBP type player. And I believe they still think he can walk more. Your basing your assessment on what you think Almora is now as opposed to the way he was evaluated.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    There's some truth here. Almora in retrospect seemed much less selective than expected. But I must admit, when the Cubs drafted Almora I thought, "ummm a HS, defense first CF, with good bat control and mediocre power, and a great makeup". This screamed Hendry to me.

    But note that Tim Wilken is still in the front office. I'm not sure how significantly his role diminished. He was the the guy making the picks for Hendry. He has a long, respected track record. I think at the very least he has the front office's ear. I seriously doubt Theo's looking to move Baez, because he's not their guy. Neither was Russell. Neither was Castro. Baez still has a ton of potential, and I find it ridiculous to suggest that he was picked by the Hendry regime has any bearing on whether they trade him.

    If the Theo were anxious to move Baez, he would have left Baez at AAA with Bryant for the rest of the season, and watching him put up ridiculous numbers which he was doing for 1.5 months before his callup, so he could move him in the off season. But he didn't. He knew Baez had adjustments to make at the major league level, and called him up to get a jump start on those adjustments.

  • In reply to SenatorMendoza:

    The common characteristic the Epstein/Hoyer/McLeod 1st round draft picks have is Plus-Plus to Elite Makeup. Almora, Bryant, Schwarber were each considered off the charts in terms of makeup, each of them are natural leaders that other players gravitate towards.

    Interesting note, Bill James, SABR guru and Senior Advisor of Baseball Operations for the BoSox did a phone interview on Bloomberg on August 29th (very cool interview, I posted about it at the time), and they asked James in the final question, "what's the most important thing you look for in a prospect for the Red Sox. OBP?" James answered without hesitation that it was definitely Makeup, nothing else was even close.

    He said that baseball is such a hard game which so few can excel in that if a prospect doesn't have great makeup and love the game the odds of him succeeding are slim. He said something like, Makeup is everything, it's the single most important factor because if they don't love this game, then they will be home in 2-3 years because it's such a hard game to play. Very few succeed, so if a player isn't extremely driven to improve, along with the work ethic to keep at it day in and day out, then they will inevitably fail.

    Skills-wise, the common characteristic between Almora, Bryant, and Schwarber is their ability to barrel the ball. Each of them have an outstanding hit tool....and believe it or not, even now, their are still scouts and baseball people that believe Almora is the best natural hitter of the three because of his outstanding barrel-to-ball contact ability.

  • In reply to SenatorMendoza:

    @GD, is Bryant's ability to barrel the ball better than Baez? I'd agree with you about Almora and Schwarber. Not that I'm knocking Bryant. I just don't buy the sentiment that Baez isn't their guy so he's on the outside looking in. I think Theo/Hoyer are smart enough to recognize what they have. But you are right that they seemingly have zero'ed in make up as a huge priority.

  • In reply to SenatorMendoza:

    I think the Hendry camp was far less concerned with makeup: Corey Patterson, Mark Pawelek, and the worst of all, Ben Christensen. Even Baez himself had makeup questions. They were also far less concerned with floor, and the Cubs consider Almora a high floor guy. I think the Hendry camp would have chosen a higher ceiling/lower floor player.

    And I only suggested Baez as the possible preference based on that lower floor and their philosophy toward approach, But that is not the same as anyone is anxious to deal Baez. Believe me, nobody is anxious to deal that kind of talent. Anxious about the idea of dealing him yes, anxious to go out and do it...no.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I'm surprised everyone is ready to deal Baez, and annointing Bryant the second coming. I don't know how you can have supreme confidence in Bryant. He has very much the same swing and miss issues of Baez. Though Bryant has a better approach, he makes less contact. There is a very realistic chance he ends up going Baez like for half a season when he gets up too. I still trust in Baez' ability adjust and regroup after the off season.

  • In reply to SenatorMendoza:

    They are two very different hitters. But to put it most simply, the article specifically mentions how successful teams like to balance big strikeouts with walks and HRs. Bryant does both with regularity. Baez does not. I also have greater confidence in Bryant to make quicker adjustments and as becomes necessary, re-adjustments. Their approach to hitting (Bryant is much more disciplined, recognizes pitches better, and is very proficient going the other way) and even the way they generate their power is very different, as Bryant does it with leverage and a shorter path to the baseball while Baez relies on tremendous bat speed to compensate for a longer path to the ball. I don't see them as similar other than they both strikeout and hit HRs.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    No they're not all that similar. one of them also plays a MI position fairly well. one of them is a year younger than the other. I love me some Bryant, but boy people are turning on Baez pretty quick around here.

  • In reply to SenatorMendoza:

    I haven't turned on Baez. I still believe he can be a very good player. It's just a matter of making choices and there isn't any point where I would have preferred dealing Bryant over Baez. That didn't just happen because Baez struggled. Even before Baez's call-up I preferred Bryant over Baez as a prospect, though Baez does have the higher ceiling. My preference, though is to have a bit of a higher floor.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    At the risk of being dismissed as a goof I have a rather serious question.

    How much do you think the disparity in their height has to do with it? On the good and on the bad side?

    KB's swing was influenced by his Dad spending time in the BOS organization. Height? shrug

    Does JB, being shorter, naturally have a different swing?

    On attitude, Baez seems particularly driven to succeed, in part b/c of family considerations.

    I really liked your comment above about trading Javy. Perfectly said!!

    "And I only suggested Baez as the possible preference based on that lower floor and their philosophy toward approach, But that is not the same as anyone is anxious to deal Baez. Believe me, nobody is anxious to deal that kind of talent. Anxious about the idea of dealing him yes, anxious to go out and do it...no."

  • fb_avatar

    Great article. I think your analysis is spot on.

  • In reply to Cubs Win 009:

    Thanks.

  • Article reminded me of that Detroit team (was it the 90s?) that won their division (or at least led the AL East most of the season) while being at the bottom of the league in BA. I think Tettleton was on that team, and a bunch of other low BA/high walk/high power guys? Maybe an aging Lou Whitaker, too? Can't remember, but that was a fun team...

    The question of who, between Alcantara and Almora, has a brighter future at this point is an interesting one. Almora obviously a much better "pure hitter" but Alcantara has a wider variety of tools to base his success on (more power and speed), and looks like he'll also be a good defender in CF.

    There's a lot to like about Almora--and I think he can be a guy who puts up BAs of around 290 in MLB (maybe a bat akin to Castro's)--but unless he learns to draw the occasional walk, it's hard to see him being either a true table-setter or a true RBI guy. So, what's his long term offensive role?

    And how will Almora's CF defense hold up once he hits his prime and loses a step or two from his average speed? As good as he is now, Alcantara might be the better bet to provide long term defensive value up the middle.

    Maybe I'm being overly pessimistic about Almora, and it's tough to try to project so far out into the future, but at least Baez will likely slug, so he can hit in the middle of an order and have a major offensive role (once he turns the corner, that is...).

    IMO the question of who will be better between Alcantara and Almora is a toss up at this point, and time will have to tell. There's a lot to like about both of them, but neither looks like a star at the MLB level to me. Thankfully, the Cubs can let things play out because they're on different time tables.

  • In reply to dAnamedev:

    I agree neither guy looks like a star, but Almora is a better outfielder than Alcantara and strikes out a lot less at every level. Almora's floor is definitely higher than Alcantara's.

  • In reply to dAnamedev:

    Almora has the better chance to be a starter. Alcantara might have a slightly higher ceiling, but a significantly lower floor.

  • In reply to dAnamedev:

    I am trying to look at it more as not trying to figure out who will have the best careers but which combination of players may work best given the types of teams that have won the past 4 years. You can make it with low average, high walk teams, as the A's and Rays have shown, but it seems rather rare for those teams to advance very far once they get there.

    I don't want empty average, but I do like the idea of having a few guys who can put the bat on the ball and hit 15-25 HRs, like the group of Castro, Russell, McKinney, and Almora may be able to do. McKinney and Russell should also draw some walks. Then, of course, you have the best all-around hitters in Soler, Scwharber, Rizzo, and Bryant to provide a lot of everything.

  • 3B Russell
    RF Soler
    1B Rizzo
    LF Bryant
    C Schwarber
    2B Baez
    SS Castro
    CF Almora

    Mine wins, both offensively and defensively. Really all you need is the top 5 guys anyway. Those guys alone will outscore most teams entire lineups. Adding a guy like Baez that can single handedly win games for a team when all else fails is really just unfair.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to mjvz:

    Your lineup doesn't have Cole Hamels pitching. Baez for Hamels is what I like, more than just being down on Baez.

  • In reply to Cubs Win 009:

    My lineup has John Lester and David Price (or whoever from next offseason). And McKinney on the bench in case Soler pops a hammy.

  • In reply to Cubs Win 009:

    Or my lineup waits two years, and then trades Eloy Jimenez and whoever we draft in the top 10 this season for the Cole Hamels comparable available at that time.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to mjvz:

    I guess we disagree. If I am being fully honest, I really agree with what John wrote above and lineup balance, and think Baez doesn't fit as well. I like the balance of what he spells out better, and really like the fact that the Cubs can get Hamels for Baez. Fun to discuss! But I trust Theo and team to do the right thing.

  • In reply to Cubs Win 009:

    I guess my thinking is, the lineup is balanced with or without Baez. The difference between mine and John's is Baez for McKinney. Everything else offensively is the same. One player doesn't tip the balance of the entire lineup... unless that player is a superstar. And Baez can be a superstar. McKinney? Probably not.

    And I still maintain my lineup is better balanced defensively too. Let's not ignore that aspect too.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to mjvz:

    I like John's line of reasoning and the trade mentioned above does point to some important things while also neatly cleaning up a logjam.

    However, I can't refute your logic in this post. It might be interesting if Baez really turns a corner, lets say next May/June and starts hitting like the July version of him in AAA. Suddenly his value goes through the roof (both for the cubs and other teams).

    The question really becomes how much do we believe that the cubs will be contenders in 2015 with Hamels or without Hamels. If Baez/Jackson/AA for Hamels is the equivalent of Ramirez for Beckett we make that trade right now, however, in 2003 (the year before that trade) the Sox were just outs from the WS. The Cubs finished in last place in 2014. We might be better off holding onto Baez and let his stock rise on the trade market, especially if he starts hitting a gawdy number of homers. He would suddenly become a market inefficiency: more valuable to another team looking for a slugger at a non-traditional position than he is to the Cubs.

    The other thing I like about your point is that it maintains flexibility. Baez, AA, Almora, McKinney, Schwarber, Bryant, Soler, Russell are all truly unknown quantities. All still very much able to go either way (up or down). While we may like what we see in them the fact is any/all of them could still fail spectacularly. We can wait and make sure we are keeping the guys that will do the most for the Cubs and trade the guys that we truly don't need. And that decision really shouldn't be made based on less than 500PAs, or even more if necessary.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    is that the 2016 NL all-star team? oh wait its just the cubs lineup.

  • In reply to Burns0128:

    Ha. That's what I thought too.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    I could live with it but I think you get enough power with Soler, Bryant, Schwarber, and Rizzo, McKinney adds balance along with Castro and Almora and Baez can bring a lot better return in a trade.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    You can never have enough power.

    I would rather keep Baez as a super sub and hope he figures it out eventually, then trade him for a SP, even Hamels. Well, I'd consider Kershaw or Felix. To me, the risk of a SP getting injured is just as high as the chance of Baez busting.

    If we were talking about a deal for Stanton or some other stud position player, its a different story.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    It probably depends on what the Cubs really think of Baez's chances internally. It may be less optimistic than yours or maybe more optimistic than mine. I think even if he pans out -- and I do think there is still a good chance of that, then I think they still have enough talent to sustain the hit.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I obviously have no insight into his work habits or personality like they would. My opinion would obviously be different if there are legit concerns there.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Baez is fine in that respect from what I know, but I was just talking about their personal long term projections and how they think he will fit with what they are trying to do. Not saying they think he will be bad, just wondering how they think pieces may fit best based on individual skill sets.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    I wouldnt be surprised if Bryant becomes Stanton-like.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Soler too

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John, maybe we won't to make any huge trades. If we can sign Lester this offseason and sign one of next years top FAs like Price of Zimmerman, then 2016s rotation could look like:

    Price/Zimmerman/Jeff
    Lester
    Arieta
    Hendricks
    CJ/PierceJohnson/MOR FA/MOR value prospect trade

    I know that it is easier said then done to sign TOR pitchers, but I think this is reasonable and then we could have a lineup like mjvc wants.

  • In reply to Peter Chicago:

    Free agent pitchers are going to want big money at longer terms. Hamels has 4 years left on his deal. That is the selling point on Hamels. You won't have to give out a 6 or 7 year deal to a 31 year old in back to back years.

  • In reply to Ike03:

    Well considering one of the Cubs biggest assets is payroll flexibility, why not utilize it? We can front load the FA contracts and then in 5 or 6 years when Bryant/Soler/Rizzo/Castro/Baez/etc will need new contracts, our TOR FA contract(s) will be off the books.

  • In reply to Peter Chicago:

    Maybe not, but one person I talk to expects the Cubs to make a big trade this offseason. Not sure it will be Hamels, but I expect the Cubs to make more than a minor deal this offseason.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    I honestly don't think people realize how insane the offense is going to be compared to what most teams trot out there if these guys play the way we expect. Even if Baez fails.

    If Baez was the main piece that the team was building the offense around then it would be a different story and I wouldn't feel as confident about keeping him. But there are so many high probability (Bryant, Russell, Soler, Schwarber) or already established (Rizzo, Castro) hitters that taking the chance that Baez becomes what we hope he can become is basically like playing with house money.

    The team will find enough pitching when the time comes. There is no need to deal a potential MVP candidate that can be around for 10 years for a pitcher we might get 3-4 good years out of if he stays healthy.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Baez may not become what we hope he can become for 3 or 4 years. It took Gordon until he was 27 to live up to his potential and he was every bit as hyped as Baez is.

  • In reply to Ike03:

    And don't you think they are glad they held on to him? ;)

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Not as glad as they are that they traded Meyers for Shields and Davis

  • In reply to Ike03:

    They aren't in the position to trade for Meyers if they didn't wait for Gordon to develop first.

    Trade for pitching when you need it, not before. This is only year 3. Year 5, when the offense is more formed, we can talk then.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    That should read trade for Shields.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    The insane thing is how many strikeouts this offense will be capable of. Setting HR records with solo shots won't get the team to the World Series.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Bryant, Rizzo, Schwarber, Soler, and Russell all laugh at your notion that striking out a lot means you can't have a high OBP. You put Baez behind those guys and there will be plenty of opportunities for his 35 HRs to be more than solo shots. That is unless those other guys have already cleared the bases with their own HRs.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Somewhere in Arizona Brett Jackson is laughing at that notion, too.

    I'm surprised at how many people think Bryant is a lock to be a Chicago Cub from 5/1 on. If there's one thing we should have learned over the last few years it's that guys who strike out above 20+% at AAA are highly likely to SO at a significantly higher rate in the bigs.

  • In reply to markw:

    Brett Jackson was never anywhere near as talented as any player being discussed here. Maybe McKinney or Alcantara. Maybe. Comparing him in any way to Bryant as a player is absurd.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    I didn't compare Jackson to Bryant--you'll notice that I mention each in separate paragraphs.

    Jackson is far from the only Cubs prospect who exhibited warning signs--like, high SO rate--at AAA before bombing in the bigs. His good OBP in AAA did him no good at all at the MLB level. My point was that the notion that high SO and high OBP at the MiLB level somehow translates automatically into similar numbers at the MLB level is ... absurd. Striking out a lot in the minors usually means a flawed swing or a flawed approach or both, and MLB pitchers usually learn to exploit those flaws fairly quickly.

    Re Bryant in particular, I've been reading here for the last several months that Bryant and Epstein are in agreement that Bryant has work to do on his swing. My point in that regard was simply that it's not a given that he will be able to successfully fix whatever problems he may have by 5/1.

  • In reply to markw:

    I stand corrected. You didn't compare.

    You implied.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    My concern with Baez would be him striking out when he needs to put the ball in play to get a runner over or across the plate. I do think that he can change his approach to improve greatly, but I worry about what he will do with a runner of first and second with one out. He seems like the type of player that would be eaten alive by a spot reliever in a key spot.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    and ONE of those guys is a proven major-league ball player. They could end up as high-OBP guys - or not.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    This entire premise of John's post and my responses to it are based on the hypothetical situation of the prospects generally panning out the way we hope.

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    In reply to Cliff1969:

    That just seems to difficult a concept to fully grasp. Even though John just laid out the probability and how rare the 2013 Red Sox team really was, there are always some that want to squeeze the square peg in a round hole.

    But I'm afraid that the guy the Phillies want in addition to Baez will be Almora plus a guy like CJ Edwards to get these talks into gear. The loss of both Almora and Baez would be pretty steep, imo. Especially since we know that the long term solution in CF is not going to be either Alcantara or McKinney.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Exactly! Just imagine 6-8 Leon Durhams in the lineup.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Just put Castro in the 2 spot and move everyone else down one. Then you've got it. :)

  • I agree with you John.....Baez should be part of a trade for Cole Hamels. I can't see Baez ever being much more than Dan Uggla was the last few years.

  • In reply to SteveGA:

    I couldn't disagree more. Baez is ten times the athlete Uggla was. On offense, Uggla is his floor. On defense, they don't even belong in the same discussion.

  • In reply to cubsker:

    I think the concern is that Baez hits the floor. Uggla the last few years was damn near unplayable, even if his defense would have been great.

  • the more i read, analyze, and think on it, the writing appears to be on the wall for baez. front office definitely appears to have been showcasing him, with philadelphia as the most likely landing spot. and, with how you drew it up, i don't think it would sting that bad. projecting mckinney and almora in the line-up is obviously premature, but with russell knocking on the door and apparently coming in the next six to 18 months, bryant and schwarber possibly staying at their current positions, baez certainly appears to be expendable, more or less. wow. hard to believe i just wrote that sentence. my, how times have changed.

  • In reply to RizzowiththeStick:

    You don't showcase a guy by allowing him to flounder for 2 months. If they were serious about trading him they would have continued to allow him to decimate minor league pitchers.

  • In reply to RizzowiththeStick:

    That makes no sense. Baez is 21 years old, young for AAA, he was a top 5 prospect, and had just started mashing at AAA when they promoted him. If they were expecting to trade Baez they would have let him destroy AAA pitching for the rest of the season and increase his value. Not only that, but the FO even said that they expected Baez to struggle, as it has been his m.o., which is why they brought him up to get it out of the way, and to give him a chance to correct his deficiencies in the offseason. That to me, is clearly them focusing on development, not maximizing his trade value.

  • How is this for an offseason to do list...

    1. ) Baez, Alcantara and Jackson for Hamels
    2.) Sign Lester
    3.) Span for lower-level prospects
    4.) Zobrist for mid-level prospects
    5.) Sign LHP Miller
    6.) Defense-first backup for Castillo

    They said that they would be busy this offseason...

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    In reply to KC Cubs Fan:

    How often do last place teams with top 10 draft picks in 5 consecutive drafts say, "We feel pretty good about where this team is right now at the major league level and don't see any reason to 'rock the boat' by making a bunch of unnecessary changes,"?

  • I think if the Cubs really are planing to trade Baez they wouldn't have brought him up this year. It seemed like they knew he was going to struggle, so why would they do that if they had the intention of trading him? Plus, I just don't think there is a good reason to trade him this offseason. Lets find a TOR through free agentcy this winter (Lester or Scherzer) and then we can go from there.

  • In reply to Peter Chicago:

    I agree 100%. If they had any intention of trading him this offseason, if it was even a possibility they were considering, they would never have brought him up just as he was starting to mash at AAA. He was already a top prospect. It's like the NFL draft combine. The very top players only do the most basic drills because their stock is already so high that it could only hurt their value. The Cubs FO is always thinking ahead, I have a very hard time believing that they would risk devaluing Baez knowing that he has struggled at every level, and all his deficiencies better than anyone, if they had any intention of trading him this offseason.

  • The big question is Do they trade prospects now and hope for the
    best or wait until late July to see if Baez, and others, can turn it
    around before trading any top prospects

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    That's always difficult to answer. If anyone knew, they would be in line to get Theo's job!

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    That is true. But trading Baez now would be trading him at the nadir of his value. Let's say next July he is putting together a decent, but not great season. Something like .240/.305/.410 with 19HR at around the trade deadline. Let's just say he has a 7% BB rate and a 34% K rate with a reasonable number of doubles (let's say 15 2B). Playing solid to above average defense. I don't think those numbers are implausible. Wouldn't he have a lot more trade value at that point than he does now?

    To me there are just too many variables in the minor leaguers. We have some idea where their floors and ceilings are. But the fact that they all still have significant differences between floor and ceiling is telling. We had a last place finish. While there are reasons to believe that we weren't as bad as our final record indicates it was just 1 year. I am reluctantly getting behind signing Lester but I don't feel incredibly confident that signing Lester and getting Hamels suddenly makes us a contender in 2015, or more likely to contend in 2016 than we would be if we sat tight for now and see how things develop next year. I have seen too many times where a team shows signs of turning things around but gets ahead of themselves and thinks they are closer than they are resulting in taking one step forward, two steps back.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    How do you know this is the nadir of his value? Crystal ball?

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    No one knows. As you said, anyone that "knows" would be in line for Theo's (or Jed's) job. However, it is unlikely to drop further. I think the odds are pretty good that his value will go up as I expect his performance will improve. He has made adjustments in the past and it took him several hundred plate appearances at AAA to "turn the corner." That isn't a guarantee that he will, but it is an indicator that going off his most recent performance it is not unlikely he can figure this out.

    Other teams might come to the same conclusion that I have, but it is in their best interest to play up his struggles this year, expressing their apprehension at the risk they are taking and give up the least they can for him in trade. Of course, when the trade is completed they will turn around and tell their fans this is a consensus top-10 prospect in baseball and young enough that there is plenty of time for him to turn it around.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    And what if he hits .170? I think Baez is closer to Brett Jackson than most people want to admit.

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    In reply to SteveGA:

    There are some obvious parallels between the two players. I will grant you that. However, Baez's struggles came at age 21. Jackson's came at age 23. Those two years can make a big difference.

    Second, there is a difference in perceived ability. For instance, Jackson's peak on mlb.com's prospect list (imperfect, but indicative) was 29. Baez's peak came in 2013 at #9, at least at the beginning of the year. Jackson had more plate discipline, but Baez has a lot more power. Both are considered solid defenders. Baez was the #1 prospect for the Cubs in an already loaded system. That says something about perceived ability.

    It is possible that we have all overestimated his ceiling, or, more likely, he never reaches anything like his ceiling (like Jackson). I contend that there is not enough performance information to assess him as a "bust" at this point.

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    So just out of curiosity why do strikeouts and BA has so little standing with advanced metrics guys? (I am trying to learn the advanced metrics side of the business but its not easy.)

  • In reply to Brandon Halford:

    By themselves they have little worth, but context should be taken into account.

    If a guy hits for average, he also has to either walk and/or hit for power. Otherwise you get what we call an empty .300, a guy who gets a lot of hits, but a lot of singles and make a lot of outs. Think of Juan Pierre, who frequently hit around .300 but didn't provide power and was often around the league leaders when it came to making outs.

    If a guy strikes out a lot, it's not a big deal if he can also provide power and supplement what will probably be a low batting average by drawing lots of walks. How he makes his outs isn't important as long as he is providing value by avoiding making a lot of them and that he makes up for a lack of total basehits by getting lots of extra basehits, esp. HRs. (ex. Adam Dunn's high Ks, low average, but high OBP and lots of HRs).

    It's really about balancing it all out.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Re Juan Pierre, that's a question I've wanted to ask, and I know has to have been addressed many times.

    If a guy hits singles at a .300 clip but also steals lots of bases, isn't that a bit like being a .300 doubles hitter? Does that make up at all for the low OBP?

  • In reply to markw:

    That's a really good question, Mark. I'm not John and I don't have his metrics bent. But enough successful steals, while not counted as OBP, certainly do add up. The problem with a guy like Pierre was he seemed allergic to the idea of walking - esp. when he was so successful as a base stealer.

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    In reply to markw:

    if you're on first base when a guy like Pierrie is batting, a single isn't going to bring you home.

    If you're on second when he's on first, his stealing isn't as effective.

    Dee Gordon was caught stealing 23% of the time this year.
    Billy Hamilton got caught 29% of the time.
    So those singles were turned into outs.

    There's more reasons, but no, stealing bases doesn't magically turn you into a doubles hitter.

  • In reply to markw:

    While Pierre's career average was .295, he was successful on only around 75% of his stolen base attempts. His singles being essentially doubles is greatly overstating the value of his stolen bases. Of his 2,217 career hits, 1,850 were singles (very underwhelming total considering his speed). He also drew 464 walks. He had 612 career stolen bases but was caught stealing 203 times. So out of the 2,314 times he reached first base on his own accord, less then a quarter of the time he turned a single into a double and also created an out negating his reaching base in a quarter of those attempts.

  • In reply to rdacpa:

    Tx for all the responses--very enlightening. I did come across an interesting forum in which a comparison was made between Wade Boggs and Vince Coleman. Coleman of course was a superlative base stealer (81%), significantly better than Pierre, while Boggs was slow with more power and a big advantage in OBP. "Boggs scored at a rate of once every 7.10 plate appearances and Coleman scored at a rate of 7.03 plate appearances." The guy I just quoted went on to say that a player has to be minimum 70% in stealing to make up for the extra outs. There are other factors, too, but it does tend to confirm that OBP trumps speed.

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    In reply to markw:

    First off, John, that was the best explanation I have read of how balance works. It is why I haven't given up on Olt yet, though his performance makes that hard to explain to people in less than a paragraph.

    The one caveat I would put onto what you describe is BABIP. A player like Dunn will rack up 30-40H without ever having to put the ball in play by simply hitting it over the fence. Those are safely locked away in his BA. Then if he strikes out a ton those numbers are removed and are automatic outs. Now the only balls that BABIP can affect are the remainder. So, if you have 500 ABs with 200K and 30HR that leaves only 270 balls in play. Let's say you have a .300 BABIP. That would be 81 hits on balls in play. Added to the 30HR that is 111hits. That means a .222 BA. If we cut the Ks to 150 that would be 320 balls in play (assuming the same 30 HR). That .300 BABIP would be 96 hits (non-HR) for a total of 126 (96 + 30) and a .252 BA. Along with the higher BA would come a higher OBP and SLG (I am assuming the same walk total/rate). I realize that BABIP can't be used as a "predictive" stat, but it can be used to some extent as a "post-dictive" stat. To me this scenario is where HR, BB and K come into play most of all. They are all numbers that are removed from the pool of PA before defense, positioning and "luck" enter the picture.

    Markw, no, it is not like being a .300 doubles hitter. Let's pretend that most singles resulted in a steal of 2B. This is extreme to the point of unrealistic, sort of like saying "let's pretend Baez never strikes out". A double does more damage than a single and stolen base because of a couple of factors:
    1. A stolen base is ANOTHER opportunity to make an out. Outs are bad, no matter their form.
    2. Baserunners can advance more bases than the batter does. It is not uncommon for a runner to go 1st-to-3rd on a single, 1st-to-home on a double. In the scenario above we would have a runner on 1st. Let's say Pierre hits a soft single that allows the runner to advance to 3rd. Now he steals second ("his single is like a double"). No run has scored. If there is a runner on 1st and Adam Dunn (I will use John's example of a guy with lots of K's but lots of power and walks) hits a rocket into the gap in left-center. The same runner on 1st may very well score on the play. Final score: Adam Dunn: 1, Juan Pierre: 0 (with a stolen base).

  • Too bad if they trade Baez. Rizzo, Soler, Bryant, Baez reminds me of a younger Lee, Sosa, Alou, Ramirez

  • Another great article for Cubs Den for the day!

    One thing that I have been wondering about recently is the affect tenure has on post-season success. Looking at the four remaining teams and they all have core leadership that has 'grown up' with the organization.

    Would holding together a core group of guys who have gone through the rigors of both the minors and majors with the organization sets them up for success in the playoffs? My hypothesis is that this is very important in particular with position players.

  • In reply to KC Cubs Fan:

    Thanks KC!

    I think it is important to keep a core of guys who have come up together. That said, it's rare for a team to have 8 core lineup players. They may have to pick and choose who the core is so that they can use the others to get other needs. They will have to start balancing long and short term goals more as they get better.

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    I feel like if Theo/Jed had any intention at all of entertaining trades for Baez they wouldn't have allowed him to flounder in the lineup every single game in August/September. That's not to say that Baez doesn't have good trade value anymore, he absolutely does, but I'm guessing what they could get for Baez now is some degree less than it was on August 1st when he was an uber prospect.

  • I think trading baez could be a colossal mistake. I guess it's a gamble since his value will be low if he struggles in 15, but I would cringe if they deal him this offseason.

  • In reply to cubsker:

    I totally agree. It kind of reminds me of how lots of people wanted to trade Castro last year.

  • In reply to Peter Chicago:

    I don't know that I am eager to trade Baez by any stretch of the imagination, but a deal of Baez, AA and Jackson for Hamels would be really hard to pass up. While it is true that we may be dishing out a tremendous talent, he is also a tremendous risk. I have seen numerous articles recently pointing out the history of success of players that had initial numbers similar to Baez. Honestly, there aren't many names that you would recognize. While I still think Baez is special and may blow those statistics to hell, it is crazy to simply ignore the numbers.

    Getting Hamels in a trade + Lester in FA would immediately put the Cubs rotation into the top few in the NL and still provide one of the best young lineups.

    All this being said, I wouldn't give up more than the above in a trade for Hamels and I really don't see many other situations in which I would be willing to give up the mystery bag that is Javier Baez.

  • And I still say baez was not ready when they called him up which I said after seeing him in person the day before his call up.

  • I see the logic of the idea of Baez+ for Hamels or the equivalent, but I have become attached to the guy over the past few years and the emotional side of my brain is fighting the logical all the way to my fingers. I have serious fears of giving up 35 HR a year for what, a decade? Because that is what we could be lamenting later if Javi gets a sniff of his potential. That really bothers me. If we keep him a bit longer to see if he can turn it around we risk lowering his trade value if he continues to falter. Right now I say keep him until the piece he adds through trade is the absolute last piece we need to finish this damn puzzle! Oh, and I definitely like E Jax included there.

  • Keep all those kids.Let's see what they can do. Alcantarta reminds me of Lou Brock. Thanks for sticking up for Starlin. As far as free agents take a run at Lester , Masterson and Russel. Forget the rest.

  • In reply to Glen Hobbie:

    We've got a team of rookies who need lo learn how to play. They will be fun to watch. They will draw crowds. Will they win anything in 2015 even with Hamels and Lester? Long shot. If you're moving prospects, go for the Mets young pitchers, not a guy whose better days will be behind him when the team is ready to go for it.

  • Russel Martin . Thanks John , keep feeding my addiction.

  • It seems that a majority of people have either given up on Baez or at least are having second thoughts on his ceiling, while making the assumption that Almora is going to be just fine.

    Almora had some scary average numbers at AA and though he was young for the league, so was/is Baez. Almora doesn't strike out much at all, but he didn't walk at all and he has shown little power. He defense is excellent, but Baez is a plus defender as well.

    If/when the FO starts to trade guys like Baez or Alcantara, they have to be very sure that these prospects don't fit what they are looking for.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    I'm totally on the fence with this as well, Irwin. I think getting Hamels makes a ton of sense. And the upside of our two kids scares me half to death when it comes to trading them.

    I fully get you gotta give to get... but geez!!!!

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    I'm not giving up on Baez, just realizing that not everyone of these kids is permanent fixture in this organization. I don't know if Almora becomes a major leaguer at all, that's why he isn't as valuable as Baez. Eventually some of the assets we've given up 3 years acquiring have to be cashed in. I'm not certain this is the time to do that, but if it is, Baez seems most likely to move. Even if he is a potential superstar.

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    I would love to see Hamels throwing for the Cubs every fifth game, but the current price seems too high. I can't help but compare it to the cost of a free agent TOR. In Lester's case, it is all about the money & no draft pick. For other TOR starters, it is the money + a 2nd round pick (in the Cubs' case this year). Paying Hamels near-market money & losing Baez plus other talent seems like too much. In other words, would we view Baez plus the others that it would take to pull off a Hamels deal as the equivalent of a 2nd round pick? I'd wait until the Phillies' price comes down. It doesn't seem like there are too many teams that have both the prospect depth & the ability to pay Hamels' salary.

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    Philly would need to pick up about $75M for that to work. Otherwise Scherzer, Lester, Sheilds, Price, and Samrdijia will cost no more than a 2nd round pick.

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    Hamel's is not a salary dump. Lester, scherzer, shark, Zimmerman, etc will eclipse his contract by at least 2-3 yrs and probably 3+ mil per year

  • Trading Baez and Alcantara this offseason feels an awful lot like selling low. I think trading Baez and Alcantara for Hamels would prove to be a massive overpay and one that the Cubs would regret for years.

  • In reply to JB88:

    What you are buying is Hamels at a bargain rate. I don't think it's selling low if Jackson is in the deal. And if it ends up being an overpay, it's an overpay. The Red Sox did it to get Beckett, the Cubs did it to get Sutcliffe. If Hamels can give the Cubs those kinds of years, I'd consider it if they believe they can win in the next 2-3 years. And I think they can.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    That's true. The Sox were cellar dwellers in 2003. Then, in a bold move Epstein traded a promising young prospect in return for a very good established pitcher in 2004 and they pulled off one of the great turn-arounds in mlb history by...wait a minute. The Sox were a few outs away from the WS in 2003 when they traded a young prospect who was blocked at the major league level at the time by the "face of the franchise" player (Garciaparra). As for Sutcliffe, he was an in-season acquisition in 1984. These are examples of trades that took an already contending team over the top. The Cubs are not a contending team yet. While they have shown signs of a turn-around there are also 4 other teams that finished ahead of them and are unlikely to be significantly weakened.

    Sorry, John, no disrespect is intended. I am just not buying into that this proposed trade is anything like Ramirez-for-Beckett, or Carter/Hall for Sutcliffe.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Yes, yes, the Cubs should hold off on all major trades and pass up any opportunity to get an impact player until they reach the designated magic time.

    Hey, sarcasm is pretty easy, isn't it?

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Yes, sarcasm is very easy. Glad you caught that. Again, I meant no disrespect. We may just have to disagree on this. Not a bad thing. I think we just see the team at different points in the re-building process.

  • Great read John as always .

  • In reply to walterj:

    Thank you.

  • An interesting aspect to this discussion is the guy that is talked about as being good trade bait, Vogelbach, has one of the better approaches to the plate, from what I've read. He'll take walks and for a slugger his strikeout rate isn't extremely high. Yet, he's probably gone after this year.

  • In reply to pricewriter:

    Unfortunately he is blocked by a young all-star 1B on a long term deal.

  • You could fill an entire wing of the Hall of Fame with former Cubs players and I for one am not anxious for them to trade any of these guys THIS offseason. Especially when the Cubs have plenty of money to sign both Lester and Shields if they wanted to and still have enough money to fill up the car with a tank of gas on Sundays.

    At the end of July, Baez is the greatest prospect on the planet and now he's trade bait? Really? Just because he struggled for his first two months in the majors? Even though that was completely predictable given his track record in AA and AAA?

    I give the FO a lot of credit for having foresight here. If Baez is gonna struggle when he goes up a level, which his history shows is likely, would you rather have him have struggle in August/September of a meaningless season, or in April/May of a season when you hope to make the playoffs?

    When it comes to our top prospects we either have a tiny sample size or no sample size at all in terms of their ultimate MLB career. If we wrote down today which prospects we expect to be stars, regulars, or busts, and looked at that list 5 years from now to see how we did, the vast majority of us, myself included, would probably look pretty stupid.

    The single most important advantage of having payroll flexibility is you can address your needs with money not prospects. Do that this year. At the end of next year, if you can't address your deficiencies at that time with money, then you can do it with trades.

    We as a fan base, and the Cubs as an organization, have spent a great deal of currency in the form of patience to acquire so many good prospects. Now that we've invested all these years acquiring all these assets, let's let blow it all on one drunken weekend in Vegas.

  • In reply to YouCannotBeSerious:

    Epstein said they whatever they do, they weren't going to sacrifice the long term just to win in 2015. I hope that means you're right.

  • In reply to YouCannotBeSerious:

    I don't think trading those two for Hamels is a reaction to their poor performance. It is just an opportunity to improve the team. If the FO was dead set on trading Baez, they would have let him continue to rake in AAA and build his value.

  • In reply to LetTheKidsPlay:

    I am not sure I agree about Baez...opinion here in July was that he would be a perennial all-star and one of the best hitters in the game. Now some people are saying they don't know if he will ever hit enough to be a regular.

    We built a great organization with a foundation to succeed as they all grow older. Why trade for Hamels? He will be 31 to start the year and he alone certainly did not make the Phillies (a better hitting team than the Cubs) a playoff contender.

    Further, why trade Baez? How do you feel about this trade if Baez reaches his potential and Bryant and Russell both fail to pan out at the majors (as many top prospects do)? This board is regularly stating that it is Baez's free swinging style that differentiates him from Bryant and Russell, so the latter two have a greater likelihood of success. Perhaps true, though many free swingers have succeeded and many non-free swingers have failed...this is not an exact science.

    Personally, I believe we need to keep the prospects and prepare yourself for them not all panning out by having a large number like we currently do. Build pitching with free agency, internally and by trading prospects once we actually see we have a surplus (not assuming such because Russell had a good (though nowhere near as good as Baez had) year at AA at the age of 20).

  • Great food for thought in this article.

    I have been greatly in favor of NOT making any decision on Baez till the trade deadline at the end of July.

    However, THE Jackson, Baez, AA for Hamels gets me thinking. You get rid if the Jackson contract, and instead of trading for some other teams stiff, you get a top 5 pitcher..,which you need, and certainly more than a 2nd baseman. You also get your veteran leader too.

    John, you really got me thinkin on this one.

  • In reply to rakmessiah:

    It gives you Hamels at 4 years at a net of $68M. There is no way you can get that kind of bargain on the open market for a pitcher of that caliber. Not only are you getting a great pitcher, you are getting one at relatively short term deal at far less what the usual TOR is getting these days. That's good value and you have to give something up for that.

  • I found this site during the summer. I love it! Great articles, very informative, with some interesting ideas. I understand the Moneyball philosophy, but there is more to baseball then that.

    Excellent article John. I like the way you think. It makes sense. And, I like the comments from everyone else. Very insightful.

    Keep up the good work. Hopefully next year will be the beginning of an extended period of success for the Cubs.

  • In reply to dad1:

    Thanks! Appreciate the kind words. I cannot wait until next year -- and this time I think it's not just the usual Cubs fan optimism.

  • It probably depends on what the Cubs really think of Baez's chances internally. It may be less optimistic than yours or maybe more optimistic than mine. I think even if he pans out -- and I do think there is still a good chance of that, then I think they still have enough talent to sustain the hit.

    John's above comments hit the nail on the head. If he's traded and does somewhat better than we might anticipate, it's not the end of the world. We have a great deal depth between guys in the pipeline and the likes of Star & Rizzo. With regard to trading for someone like a Hamels or even Zimmerman, it's gonna sting. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. These teams will be focused on getting a potential impact player for arms of that caliber. They won't accept 4 B/C guys. Just like us, they'll be as much or more concerned with quality over quantity.

  • In reply to Carl9730:

    I keep thinking of the Hanley Ramirez/Anibal Sanchez deal for Josh Beckett. Got the Red Sox another ring. Those players have been great, but Boston thrived too.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Great comparison.

    Some people are terrified on what happens if Baez becomes a star, but Baez succeeding does not preclude such a trade being successful.

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    It is definitely terrifying. The thought of trading Baez scares the heck out of me. I think at some point the Cubs will trade someone that will make us cringe. Not necessarily this offseason, but I'd be surprised if it doesn't happen within the next 18 months.

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    I think the difference is in defining success. A WS berth? Winning one? Or sustained success what still may include one?

    Hamels provides a small window from which to get success. Baez, if he makes it anywhere near his ceiling, gives 10-15 more years of success.

    I understand the Ramirez/Beckett trade, but I wouldn't do it, even with hindsight bias. Beckett & Ramirez were only four years apart. Hamels & Baez are 9! years apart. The disparity of potential value and contribution between the two, I believe, is a big factor.

    Not to mention that the assumption is that the Sox would have never won the WS without Beckett/with Ramirez.

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    I am not as sold on the comparison. Beckett was 25 when acquired in that trade, Hamels turns 31 in December. Beckett showed he could be the TOR guy leading a team to the playoff at that young age. He also had a power arm and could be getting better.

    Also, the Red Sox were a veteran team that had recently won a World Series and would be a contender without Beckett and were made stronger with Beckett. The Cubs are a team with young talent but the best players of our core will be 25 next year and most will be 22 or younger. We have one other pitcher who has shown they can be good for an entire season and that is Arrieta with one dominant season. The Cubs are not likely contenders (could they surprise with their talent? Yes, but that is a surprise, not expectation) in 2015 and then Hamel gets older and possibly less reliable. By the time we are where we should have a solid foundation in their prime (perhaps when Bryant, Baez, Russell, Schwarber, Mendy, Soler are 24-25 and Castro and Rizzo are 28 or so), Hamel will be mid-30s and his contract almost done.

    I truly think the comparison between the 2015 Cubs and 2006 Red Sox is faulty and the comparison between Beckett and Hamels is faulty. The trade made sense for the Red Sox, it does not make sense for the Cubs.

  • The additional point there is that , as good as he's been, HanRam didn't seem like a great fit for the Epstoyer model. I give Baez credit for trying to make adjustments but he's always going to be an uber-aggressive hitter with plate discipline issues.

    A guy like Hamels could really be transformational for a young staff like ours. He's a veteran who has tons of playoff experience; has won a ring; and he's a killer competitor. He's precisely the type of guy they need.

  • In reply to Carl9730:

    If Hamels could have a 1984 Rick Sutcliffe type of effect on this rotation and help get the Cubs to the promised land eventually, then it might not be so bad if Baez becomes Joe Carter. But I just can't help but think that trading someone with Baez's upside before we see what he's capable of with a bigger sample size would be a mistake.

    Granted, the strikeout numbers were alarming, but would anyone have thought about making this potential Baez-Hamels trade before Baez was called up and struggled? It seems like a lot of people here are giving up on him already, and it surprises me.

  • In reply to Ricardo:

    *Really* interesting comp, Ricardo.

  • I like Alcantara. I would not trade him. Almora is a long way from anywhere near the majors. He hasn't even succeeded at AA yet, and wasn't great at Daytona.

    I still think he has a very good shot of making it, but you are talking about another 3 years before that lineup takes effect. Not interested in that at all.

    If you want to package Baez and Vogelbach and whoever for Hamels, go for it.

  • Trade possibility aside (I'm sorry, I'm just getting tired of all the "trade Baez for Hamels" talk), I would be interested in seeing why lineups constructed one way may or may not have success. For instance, perhaps teams that take lots of walks have great success at teams with strikeout pitchers with poor command, but find it difficult to have success against pitchers who can consistently hit their spots because they hitters' main strength is patience, not purely making good contact. So when a pitcher throws a pitcher's pitch (or generally just has great command), those types of hitters make weak contact. That could be totally off, but I'd love to see if there is an explanation for the different types.

    For me, the ideal would be for each hitter to have that balance; be adaptable and multifaceted. But I'm just a perfectionist.

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    Hey John, it's been awhile since I've commented but I've been faithfully reading. This is a great analysis you did here and I appreciate your hard work as always. This was really interesting to see that perhaps it does matter to have some basic batting skill and that it may not be all that beneficial to have really high strikeouts. The trade proposition is fascinating but I don't know that I would pull the trigger on such a deal yet if it were up to me. I'd like some more time to see how these young players will shake out, and I don't know they need to rush that this offseason with such a high cost of prospects. It is tempting if Jackson is included though :) Thanks for the thought provoking article and nice, balanced lineup suggestion. Hopefully Theo and the gang have done this analysis as well, but in case they haven't maybe we should make sure they see this article!

    good job.

  • In reply to Gary Kueper:

    Thanks Gary. I am sure Theo and the gang have done a much more thorough analysis than I did here, but it was interesting to see that it is rare for teams win with a lot of Ks and even rarer to see teams advance when they don't hit the baseball and are overly reliant on walks.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John thanks as always for provoking thought! I think the question..which I don't have an answer.. is "Identity". Who do we want to be? Honestly I'm not sure and here's why. Golf analogy.. there have been very good grinding yet unexciting players over the years like Jim Furyk, David Toms... made millions over millions by being good consistent grinders always made the cut etc lot of top 10 finishes... but pretty boring and they usually cant stay with the bangers when the bangers are "on". Back to baseball the Braves.. playoffs every year... pitching grinder guys defense all good to great never streaky. Very consistent you knew what you were gonna get. Their fans didnt even come to early playoffs series, but only 1 real parade. I get the" just get in position and eventually it will happen"...but I wonder aloud...if i could pick do I want to be the consistent team...or the team when ON that everyone knows can't be beat. Baez when on can carry a team I believe... What's our preferred indentity? Side note..... I wouldnt bury Olt quite yet...

  • Nice article. However I think it's too soon to give up on Baez. We were all down on Soler when he was going through his spell of injuries and now he's untouchable. I say wait and see. A deal with Philly can be sweetened if we absorb Papelbon without giving up a Baez(?) will be an exciting off season for sure. Thanks to John and Mike Moody for making the midnight shift tolerable!

  • In reply to Trey Mcfreakin Nut:

    Thanks, but it has nothing to do with giving up on Baez. Trading someone and giving up on them isn't the same thing.

  • Here is another thought about Baez. I don't see any way he is going to hit in the top 5 or 6 in the order though I would really love to be wrong about that. However, we are likely going to have better hitters for that part of the lineup. So my point comes to what happens when you consistently are able to give your starter a lead to work with. Now think of Lester, Hamels, and Arrieta getting that lead. The game could be over right there, so whatever impact Baez has in store for us might not be as important as we might think if he brings us a Hamels and then signing another TOR starter.

  • I hardly put anything on here but 1st I want to thank john for this site. Next let me be clear I hate the Cardinals but read an interesting article in our paper today. We continue to talk and hope all of our high draft choices make us a WS winner but the Cardinals have done it with mostly home grown talent. The difference is the slots their players came from.For instance Carpenter was a 13th rounder in 2009. Matt Adams was a 23rd rounder in 2009. Wacha was a 19th rounder in 2012.Thier closer Rosenthal was a 21st rounderin 2009. A guy I never heard of named Siegrist was a 41st rounder in 2009. there are a few more but I think we get the picture. Maybe not all our future stars will be the ones leading us to the WS . We never know where lightening will strike and what round our impact players where taken when we get those rings but this just goes to show they don't all have to be 1st or 2nd rounders. Last let me go on record I'm not for trading Baez just yet. I still have shakes when I hear the name Brock.

  • In reply to mrcubII63:

    Wacha was not a 19th rounder in 2012. He was the 19th pick in the FIRST round.

  • In reply to John57:

    Oops my bad must have read that wrong but the message is still the same. Never know what round someone is going to be a stud. Hope ours work out but really don't care what round our prime timers were taken in.

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