The Coming Winter: A Position by Position Analysis of the Cubs' Needs

With the end of the season, we’re now looking forward to an exciting winter.  Theo has stated that he expects the Cubs to be competitive next year and that they will be active this winter.  We know by now that Jon Lester tops the list for pitchers and the Cubs have an obvious need for him.

But what about position players?  We know that Theo wants to add some veterans to take the leadership pressure off of Rizzo and Castro.  Where can we put them?  I decided to go position by position and see where the Cubs could use an upgrade for next year, considering both the immediate options available and longer term options in the system.

1B: Anthony Rizzo No position on the field puts more pressure on the bat than first base.  The Cubs this year got a 24 year old with the 8th highest wRC+ (a figure that attempts to measure the entirety of a player’s offensive contributions in one number) in baseball (150), ahead of people like Miguel Cabrera, Nelson Cruz, and Yasiel Puig.  Rizzo is only going to get better.  Add to that exceptional defense and leadership qualities that make him more valuable than his already impressive tools.  Lock this one up for a long time.

2B: Javier Baez He was, as expected, a mess.  What started out as swing and miss problems morphed into problems with the swing as a whole as his shoulder started flying open leading to increasing helplessness at the plate.  In his final 94 games, he hit .153 combined with a 43.6% strikeout rate.  The upside is certainly still there and his prior performances suggest that if he figures it all out he’ll be terrorizing pitchers for years.

On the flip side, the Cubs’ newest super-prospect, Addison Russell, is going to need a place to play.  Mark Reynolds at second isn’t going to be enough to hold Russell off.  It’s possible that Javy finds himself the man without a chair when the music stops.

If the Cubs do decide to move Baez this winter — potentially in a Cole Hamels deal — I could see them looking to add a veteran here while waiting for Russell to develop.  Ben Zobrist would fit the bill perfectly as he’s a switch hitter, has played on a team filled with young players, takes walks, and could go back to his super-sub role when Russell is ready.  Other possibilities are Rickie Weeks or even a second stint by Emilio Bonifacio.

SS: Starlin Castro I’m on record as being in favor of Russell in this spot.  However, two points: (a) the Cubs front office seems to disagree with me on this and (b) we don’t need to upgrade here.  A team can win a championship with a 24 year old shortstop who has already “collected” 846 hits in his 740 game career.  His defense is now at least average for a shortstop and he’s only now starting to tap into his power, as his 14 home runs in 2014 tied a career high even though he missed the last month with a badly sprained ankle.  There is no chance the Cubs add a veteran shortstop this winter.

3B: Luis Valbuena You have to feel for Luis here.  He’s been better than anyone expected and improving consistently every year.  Last year’s 2.7 fWAR puts him in the solid starter category.  He has consistently good at bats and shows above average power.  None of it matters.  This is Kris Bryant’s job on May 1st.  Bryant has shown some holes in his game — up and in pitches, in particular, tied him up last August — but has also shown a strong willingness to work on his weaknesses and has adjusted quickly at every level.  Expect a .260-.270 average with 25+ home runs over the last 5 months.  The Cubs will not be signing a third baseman this winter.

C: Welington Castillo As many of you know, Welly is a favorite among Cubs Den writers.  He has been solid offensively — minus a rough season last year — and his arm is a legit weapon behind the plate.  The issue here is that he appears to be an average catcher, rapidly approaching 30 which is a turning point for catchers, and the Cubs need veteran leadership somewhere.  Above and beyond veteran leadership, bringing in a catcher with good reputation among pitchers can only help in the pursuit of guys like Jon Lester.  We’ve talked about Miguel Montero or Russell Martin as replacements on here before.   There are others.  This seems to be an extremely likely spot to add a veteran this winter.

The long term approach to this position is going to depend on first round pick Kyle Schwarber.  If he sticks at catcher, he will be the catcher sometime in 2016.  If he is relegated to left field, this will probably be filled by free agency for the foreseeable future.

RF: Jorge Soler He scuffled a bit at the end of the season as advanced scouting caught up to him.  Yasiel Puig and Jose Abreu went through the same thing.  Advanced approach.  Plus power.  He should battle fellow rookie Kris Bryant for the Rookie of the Year award in a race that will make Cubs fans very happy.  Expect .290-.300 with 30 HR.

CF: Arismendy Alcantara Towards the end of the season, Len said that it’s too soon to be worried about Arismendy Alcantara.  He’s right.  However, we can say that ‘Mendy didn’t exactly run with his first chance in pro ball.  The question the Cubs have to answer is, if they intend to compete in 2015, will Alcantara be able to contribute?  That seems an open question, to say the least.  We’ve talked about guys like Denard Span or Dexter Fowler here.  Both are possibilities and bring a lot to the team but remain long shots because of high costs to acquire them.  I think the Cubs would like to upgrade here but it wouldn’t surprise me to see Alcantara given another chance.  If the team is competitive and Alcantara is still struggling, look for them to use the trade deadline to improve.

Long term, this position is no less murky.  Top prospect Albert Almora could be one of the best defensive center fielders in the game right now.  But his bat raised questions last year.  We at Cubs Den remain confident in his abilities but he has something to prove next year.  After that, the position — which once looked like a strength — is a little thin.  Depending on the development paths of Almora and Alcantara next year, the Cubs may choose to address a long term solution outside the organization next winter.

LF: Chris Coghlan There may not be a more intriguing position on the Cubs roster.  Coghlan didn’t provide the power you like to see out of a left fielder, with only 9 home runs in 432 PAs.  What he did provide was outstanding at bats, a very good .352 OBP, and defense that, um, let’s not dwell on that.  While all of this is great, there are very real fears that he’ll follow the Nate Schierholtz path and fall off next year.  Even if he doesn’t, these numbers play better as a fourth outfielder than a starter.

Internally, the Cubs have two excellent options in left, Bryant and Schwarber, both of whom could be ready next year as left fielders.  However, as discussed above, the hope is that both end up at positions with more value.

If they do decide to go outside the organization, there are some things they will insist in here, it has to be a left hander with a solid approach and good hit tool.  A reputation as a good clubhouse guy will also be important to them.

There are obvious short-term upgrades on the market.  Melky Cabrera has been a favorite here but, as a qualifying offer seems likely, the Cubs history suggests they won’t go that route.  Nick Swisher, in an exchange of bad contracts, could also be a short term solution here.

If the Cubs believe that Schwarber and Bryant can stick at catcher and third, respectively, for at least the first few years of their career, they may decide to acquire a long term solution.  CarGo fills in a lot of holes, if the Rockies choose to trade him.  Nick Markakis is another guy that could fit the bill if he becomes a free agent without compensation attached to him.  In many ways, he would be our Jayson Werth.  Nelson Cruz is an even bigger offensive weapon than either but, as a right hander, he is out of the conversation.

As you can see, there are a lot of options here.  This situation merits close attention throughout the offseason.

Conclusion

The Cubs have four positions that are set for next year, 1B, SS, 3B, and RF.  Finding a veteran upgrade at second makes a lot of sense on paper but I have a hard time seeing the Cubs moving Baez this winter.  Catcher seems the most likely position to see an upgrade and I do think we’ll see them do something there.  Then they’ll look to upgrade at acceptable cost in either center or left.

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  • If they move Baez in a Hamels deal (which I am in favor of) would the move be to put Alcantara at 2nd for 3 weeks until Bryant comes up, then move Valbuena to 2nd? You could platoon Alcantara and Valbuena at 2nd until Russell is ready which may be by mid-season if he proceeds like some expect.

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    In reply to Ike03:

    Why trade Baez for Hamels? Amaro is under pressure to get his team more efficient. They have too many bloated contracts and Hamels is one bloated contract that has some trade value (unlike Ryan Howard) and Chase Utley. Most teams will demand that the Phillies pick up a large part of his contract as adding it to most team's rosters would be too much to absorb. As compensation they will give the Phillies more in return in terms of players (either cheap major leaguers or higher end prospects).

    The Cubs are in a different situation entirely. They have got payroll space. They can tell the Phillies "We will take his entire contract off your books." In return, we would offer them players outside of our best 5-7 players. I wouldn't be shocked to see Olt or Lake as PART OF the deal (though far from the centerpiece). Maybe a prospect like Vogelbach or Caratini or someone like that with another player as well, maybe one of our bullpen arms. If we trade them Baez and take on Hamels' full contract then I think we should demand a decent prospect from them as well and we will include a lesser prospect.

    If we trade them Baez and maybe a lesser prospect and they trade us Hamels and $10-15M to offset the cost difference then I would be interested. Baez and a lesser prospect for Hamels and $5M or less I tell them to fly a kite.

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    In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I agree

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I think we would gladly take the entire Hamels contract. It really isn't bloated in the least and has the AAV of what we would be getting with Lester or Price in the FA market.

    Amaro may be under pressure to do something, but trading away Hamels for a bunch of prospects won't help his situation. They would continue to lose and he would get canned even quicker.

    It will take a good package to pry Hamels away. If it is Baez and a lesser prospect then we should do it in a heartbeat. My guess is that it would take more than that.

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    In reply to Ike03:

    ridiculous. the only way you trade baez is for cost controlled pitching such as t. walker or z. wheeler. if you want to pay big $ for a pitcher, get one that doesn't cost talent such as lest, scherzer ect. simple, really.

  • This isn't the first time I have seen Bryant's expected BA to be in the .260 - .270 range. What am I missing? Is it just because of the high strikeouts?

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    In reply to LetTheKidsPlay:

    Most analysis I have seen says that, yes, the K's will keep his BA down. Soler doesn't strike out as much so he will likely have a better BA presuming roughly equivalent BABIP as their HR and BB totals will likely be within 10-15 of one another.

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    In reply to LetTheKidsPlay:

    I think it will actually improve with time as he sees pitchers and how they like to work him. But the swing and miss will cause problems for him the first time through the league. If we're asking long term, I think he'll be higher than that. But I was focusing only on next year.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Thanks for the replies guys! That makes sense.

  • If Russell is indeed the better defender at SS, I would like to see him there as that seems to be a more important defensive position than 2b for instance. Slide Castro to 2b? Sounds good to me, if we trade Baez for Hammels for instance. Funny though, early in the season, everyone was wanting to trade Baez when he was struggling. Suddenly he looks like the next coming, and he is untouchable. He gets moved to the show, and when he struggles it is "trade him" all over again. I am afraid this is the Baez we will get...world beater for a strech...bollocks for a strech...just something we will have to live with.

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    In reply to Pappy:

    He will be "streaky" but don't underestimate the fact that he is still learning the league.

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    In reply to Pappy:

    It works on paper. But it's very difficult to move a veteran off of shortstop for a rookie and keep the clubhouse happy. The pressure that would put on Russell would be enormous.

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    Going to make a lot of fans here at the Den very upset with just the thought of trading Baez. We've all waited so long to see him in Chicago that thinking of a trade is blasphemy!

    But I load both Baez and Almora on a plane if the right deal presents itself.....

  • So has Mike Olt taken his last at bat as a Cub?

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    In reply to TD40:

    As a full-time starter/long-term solution? Yes. As a back up off the bench at a cheap price for HR and BB? No. No reason to ditch him. We don't have any other really better options at anywhere near the price.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Exactly. Olt is working on adding the corner OF spots defensively to his toolbox this winter. He should be a solid 4-corner utility guy, backup, and a power right handed bat off the bench. With him getting paid the minimum for two more years, their is definite value for the Cubs in keeping him.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    He'll be at Iowa for most of the season.

    He's never going to play 1st because Rizzo rarely has a day off. He'll be 3rd on the depth chart at 3rd behind Bryant and Valbuena by May.

    He's going to at best be the 5th OF on the team. He himself hinted his struggles were because of limited playing time, and limited playing time is his best case scenario next year.

    The pinch hitting will wear thin quick when the game is on the line and he punches out time and time again.

    He's the new Brett Jackson of the organization, everything hinges around "if he does this, if he does that, then he can be productive" The guy blew his chance last year.

  • In reply to Jimmie Ward:

    RE: "He'll be at Iowa for most of the season."

    No, he won't.

    Theo himself just days ago said that Olt would play all 4 corners, so believe what you like.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    Olt (assuming he can hold a ~0.230-0.240 BA and maintain some of that lovely HR power he showed early in 2014) as a LF/RF/1B/3B guy getting 300-400 PAs AND getting the league salary for his experience class is a very valuable tool to have.

    Especially since he isn't likely to be a defensive liability at any of those positions either.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    Agreed on all points.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    Oh I didn't know Theo was making roster decisions for 2015 in September.

    He'll be playing those 4 positions at Iowa.

    Currently stands in the OF he would be 5th behind Soler. Alcantara. Coghlan. Ruggiano and it's expected the Cubs are going to add OF help.

    6th OF when we add someone else.
    3rd 3rd baseman.
    Back-up 1st baseman.

    Iowa.

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    In reply to Jimmie Ward:

    Yeah, last time I remember Rizzo taking a day off was Aug 27, 28, 29... it doesn't have to be a scheduled off day. Even Rizzo will get hurt on occasion.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Then you would bring Olt or whoever up if Rizzo gets hurt.

    You can't guarentee him a roster spot based on "Rizzo might get hurt" that's something you react to if it happens.

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    In reply to TD40:

    I think Joel nails it.

  • I'm sorry, but this post has a big logic fail.

    Let's say Baez is traded. Why would the Cubs look for a stopgap at second when the easiest solution is to move Valbuena there when Bryant gets called up? Valbuena can hack it at second. In fact, putting him there with Bryant at third helps with the lefty-righty issues. Lineup would be:

    Coghlan LF
    Castro SS
    Rizzo 1B
    Soler RF
    Bryant 3B
    Valbuena 2B
    Castillo C
    Alcantara CF

    If need be, the Cubs could switch Valbuena and Bryant. And if the Cubs are concerned about who would play second for the first month, they likely could put Alcantara there with Ruggiano/Sweeney in center or keep Valaika around for a month.

    Or, the Cubs could just use Alcantara at second if Baez flops.

    Bottom line, there's no need to get a second baseman in free agency UNLESS he also fills another need.

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    In reply to therealelgato:

    Because they want to bring in veteran player to help mold the younger guys.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Well, sure. But they don't need someone who can play second. Put another way, finding someone to play second shouldn't be part of the evaluation process for finding a veteran leader. If said player can play second, it would be frosting on the cake, at most.

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    In reply to therealelgato:

    So here's the thing. The Baez decision is its own thing. I do believe they are very serious about Hamels as, at least, a fallback if they lose on Lester. And Baez seems likely to be the centerpiece of such a deal.

    If Baez is gone then they need to address second base next year. They easily could use either Valbuena or Alcantara there. But I like Zobrist since he brings the veteran presence, has both short and long term value due to his super-sub ability, and comes from an organization that has to win by developing prospects. Different situations, but the Royals couldn't say enough about how much James Shields veteran leadership did for their team.

    Also, by going for veterans at C and 2B next year, you give Alcantara another year in CF, let Valbuena come off the bench where his bat is very valuable, and keep LF open if Schwarber rips the cover off the ball (he will), they decide against keeping him at catcher (who knows), and they find themselves in contention (we can only hope).

    I think it's a viable alternative. But I could also make a case for getting a catcher and a center fielder (Span) and putting Alcantara at second. In fact, that might be my favorite outcome.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    with as much cash that Hamels is owed and his age Baez better be the only piece , not just a centerpiece . JMO

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    In reply to Bryan Craven:

    Given that the price of top of the rotation starters is currently around $25-30 million a year for many years past a pitchers prime, the Hamels deal is a bargain.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Agreed. It will cost more than Baez. Hamels deal, while not a steal by any stretch, is about as reasonable as there is for a TOR starter.

    My guess would be something along the lines of Baez, a McKinney/Almora type, and which ever SP prospect the Cubs have that Phillies like the best. Maybe a 4th peripheral piece too.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    why overpay now in prospects , pay Lester without giving up a prospect or pick and then go hard after another arm in 2016 FA class . Giving up Baez and Almora plus other prospects and taking on Hamels contract to me is just plain stupid , beyond stupid actually but that's just my opinion at this point of the rebuild . Lester costs nothing but cash .

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Doesn't matter how many times this is reiterated, for some reason there will always be commentators who are convinced Hamels is too expensive and we should build with all dirt cheap prospects who have never done anything at the MLB level.

    I really don't understand why anyone would be against the idea of trading for Hamels at a reasonable prospect price. Obviously if the Phillies ask for Bryant, Baez, Russell, and everyone else, there is no chance it is a good deal. However, Hamels is a proven stud who is almost a guarantee to throw 200+ innings strike out around 200 guys and have an ERA in the low 3 range. Then, if "the plan" works out like we all hope and the Cubs are actually in the playoffs, how could you not want a guy with a career postseason ERA of 3.09, has 7 postseason wins including a win in 3 starts over 2 WS and won the MVP award for the 2008 NLCS and WS. The playoffs are an entirely different beast. I bet having a guy like Hamels around would have a tremendous calming effect.

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    In reply to nukee:

    i'd offer cj edwards and if amaro doesn't like that, wait until he is fired.

  • In reply to nukee:

    The issue with the concept of trading for Hammels isn't that he isn't good. Its that the Cubs aren't good. The team's hitting has been atrocious in the past few seasons, and without the prospect flyers that they Cubs have it won't be improving substantially. The reason I don't want to see the Cubs trade for Hamels is that I don't think it will honestly make a difference. As presently constructed, the Cubs have a variety of offensive prospect-options. Logic says that Hamels turns 31 this year and already has a lot of miles on his arm. I don't honestly think the Cubs will be elite by the time he begins his decline. The timeline just doesn't match up, and sacrificing the future for two elite years of Hamels when the Cubs probably won't be good enough to win a World Series isn't worth giving up the depth that the Cubs have accumulated.

    Wait and see what you have, then take the risk. In two years (when the Cubs will be closer to competing but not there as presently constructed) Rizzo and Castro will be entering their primes. That's when you make a big trade, not now.

  • In reply to nukee:

    Maybe that is because there is only a limited context in which such a trade makes sense.

    There are many reasons to hate the trade. They include:

    1) Baez's value is low right now.

    2) Hamels is on the wrong-side of his prime years.

    3) The risk of injuries or regression, e.g. a man the same age as Hamels: Justin Verlander.

    4) the AAV Lester, et el get won't be much higher (if at all) than what Hamels already is getting on his contract.

    5) (HINT: THIS IS THE BIG ONE!) Why pay the huge contract and a huge prospect haul when you can dip into free agency and only have to pay the huge contract?

    6) Three years into a patient rebuild. The prospects are the hopes of this rebuild. It falls on them as to whether it succeeds or fails. Why trade one of your top ones when you're not just one player away?

    7) There are plenty of free agent pitching available/should be available over this and next off-season. With this in mind, re-read point #4.

    8) Optimistic projections of Hamel's next 5 years compared to optimistic projections over Baez's next 5 (more like at least next 10 years)...if Hamels sustains his current level of success and Baez reaches his ceiling, who would you take? Most pessimistic projection for either would be that neither plays in the majors again, so that's a wash. What's the realistic projections for each? On the one hand, you have a 31 year old pitcher, seemingly facing the down-side of his career, but as of yet hasn't shown signs of slowing down. On the other, you have a high-celing athletic, middle of the field power hitter who has struggled, but has also historically struggled at each new level before making drastic adjustments. I think the question has to take into effect not only the realistic projections, but also the optimistic projections.

    9) When it comes to getting value, how does each compare? Would Hamels add surplus value at his WAR & contract? Baez?

    10) One of the strengths of this F.O. has been to extract great value in their "minor" free agent pitching acquisitions.

    I recognize that at the polar extremes are some fans who see the trade happening and then Hamel's arm falling off and Baez being the next Barry Bonds, while there's another group of fans who see Hamel becoming a Cub and becoming Curt Schilling w/ the bloody sock, leading the Cubs to a couple WS wins, and Baez turning into Mark Reynolds. And I also recognize that some fans are prospectophobic thanks to the Hendry regime.

    For me, the trade just does not make any sense whatsoever. It doesn't make sense to trade a top prospect when his value is seemingly very low. It doesn't make sense to go after a guy who costs loads of money and prospects (aka building blocks). The point of losing has been to accumulate potential building blocks. The possibility has always been there to use money to buy them the easy way. Why use two of your resources when there is already the potential to get what you want using the same amount of only one?

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    In reply to nukee:

    I completely agree. I don't get why this same rhetoric keeps coming up when the thought of trading for Cole a Hamels comes Up.

    Is he going to come cheap ? No, but he will come cheaper and for less years then Lester and mad max. Also the key factor is he can be traded here ( yes there may be a prospect bidding war) but not many can match what the cubs can offer. Nobody knows if Lester really wants to come here.

    Every time I hear this, I think of those who used to say the Cubs were bad for so many years because that monster "albatross " Soriano contract kept the cubs from signing players and thus competing.

  • In reply to nukee:

    Jim, I listed plenty of viable reasons why the rhetoric keeps coming up.

    You say that a key factor is that Hamels can be traded here. How do you know? He gets to change his no-trade list every off-season. He may very well include the Cubs and this is a moot point.

    Likewise, why would you make a trade for Hamels as the primary target? That's what your response implies. We don't know if Lester wants to come here, but we a) don't know that he doesn't, and b) don't know that Hamels does. But not only that, we don't know what Lester will wan't, so how can you say that Hamels will come for cheaper and less years? I'd have to assume you're only talking $, and still using conjecture. As of yet, we don't know what Lester will command.

    But even if you're right, you're still bifurcating. Lester and Scherzer aren't the only pitching options out there in FA.

    A) Why couldn't a different pitcher be signed instead of either of those two if the market does not work out in the Cubs' favor in regard to them?

    B) Why does it necessarily have to be this off season that the Cubs acquire an "Ace"? Why the unnecessary "do or die" scenario? Next year's FA crop looks just as promising.

    And lastly, comparing Soriano and Hamels is not apples to apples. Soriano was a free agent. Could you imagine how much more Cubdom would have hated that trade if they had had real talent and had had to use it to acquire Soriano and STILL PAY HIS CONTRACT? That is what the case is with Hamels.

    It is really pretty simple to understand why the "rhetoric" continues. We're talking about trading away a top prospect at, perhaps, his lowest value, because of how we think the off season MIGHT shape up, and out of some separate urgency to add starting pitching now, instead of after even going through the free agency process this year and next year.

    I don' think anyone is against trading for Hamels, however. It is Acquiring him while not only paying his contract, but having to give up top prospects. If the trade involved no top prospects, I don't think any (if so, not many) would complain about the trade. But as it is, the team has spent years trying to acquire a young, talented, cheap core to build around, and many of us do not want to be trading from it. Especially when other avenues exist in which we can get the same quality of product while only offering up one type of currency at the same or similar quantity that we'd have to give up in a trade, but with the extra bonus of not having to give up a second currency (prospects).

    In a few years when the Cubs have a solid core and look to be perrenial contenders, it's a different story. But for now, excusing legitimate concerns as "rhetoric" is unfair.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Then get an OF or C. 2B and SS are the two positions with so many internal options that the need for outside help is absurd with the possible exception of a utility guy like Bonifacio, who would end up playing more OF then 2B if he was brought back.

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    In reply to mjvz:

    And that's exactly the point with Zobrist. He starts at second for the beginning of next year at least and then becomes a utility guy.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Curious about something. He's got a team option of $7.5 million.

    Given the value and versatility, does it seem a guy like Friedman is NOT going to exercise the option? Seems like a pretty low value risk for TB to take - given all he brings to the table.

    That, more than any concerns about his play, are what makes me think he turns out *not* to be an option.

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    In reply to MoneyBoy:

    You are correct. I missed that. He is almost certainly off the market.

    Well, that settles a lot of these arguments.

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    In reply to mjvz:

    I realize Moody already responded, but seriously go look at Zobrists' stats over the past few years he has hundreds of games in the OF.

    I'm not sure there's another player in the league with a primary position in the IF that's played so many games in the OF.

    If Zobrist still has some years left in him, he would be a great get.
    Switch hitter. versatile. great clubhouse guy. OBP like no one else available.

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    I love Zobrist. And he is both an excellent IF and OF defender. I'd love to have him. I would take him even if they don't trade Baez and simply stick Zobrist out in LF.

    My argument is there is no reason to add a veteran 2B, when Valbuena could easily be the guy to cover 2B (and at this point Valbuena is a veteran himself) until Russell comes up (and I believe Russell could actually handle the position by May). Especially since they also have Mendy available as well.

    We may be arguing semantics here. Acquiring a guy like Zobrist or Bonifacio is basically acquiring an OF, not a 2B, because there would be extremely limited need for that player to play 2B. Lets say Zobrist is the guy. What is the better defensive lineup until Russell is ready?:
    2B Valbuena/AA, LF Zobrist
    or
    2B Zobrist and LF Coghlan

    I'm voting for option 1. At most Zobrist might get a couple of games at 2B the first couple of weeks until Bryant comes up, but then he is merely an OF the rest of the season. So why bother labeling him a 2B?

  • In reply to mjvz:

    And if the guy being brought in is of Bonifacio quality, he shouldn't be starting anywhere, not even 2B.

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    In reply to Giffmo:

    My dream would scenario would put Victor. Martinez in a time machine and make him 27 or so w the ability to catch full time.

    I would be happy to give him 5-6 years 130 plus million
    He is the exact type of professional hitter who could really help these hitting prospects hit their incredible ceilings. Look what he and Miggy turned JD Martinez into !!!

    Too bad he's too old and a DH

    So on to plan B, trade for Ben Zobrist. He just fits this team too perfectly. ( points already mentioned )

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Mike, LV turns 29 at the end of November. FA at the end of 2015. Isn't 29-30 about the time we think of a player as a 'veteran.' Certainly it's thought it's when they're reaching their peak - physically.

    2013 his 108 games was a career high. This year's 149 far surpassed that. Not much quarrel over where his value lies - LH bat, versatility in position.

    While I'm sure the F.O. will look for someone 'better suited,' I wouldn't be very upset if he starts at 3B and is in the mix for other IF positions next year. He's a valuable guy. Plus a world class bat flip!!! ;)

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to MoneyBoy:

    It is. However, Theo has specifically said he wants to bring in veterans to help with leadership. That would imply guys not currently on the team. One reason might be to get guys who have been on winning teams before to bring in some of the habits they have. This is not at all Luis's fault but he has never been on a winning team.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Very good point!!! Thanks.

  • In reply to therealelgato:

    Hey Gato...

    I am not sure what you are used to on BCB boards, but you don't need to take a shot at people to get attention here. If you have a good rebuttal, have the confidence to let it speak for itself. We pride ourselves on civil discussion and debate. Disagree if you like, but be respectful. If your stuff is good, people will notice and respond -- and yes, maybe even agree with your side of things. I think you had an interesting, reasoned response that can make for good discussion...why ruin it?

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    This is the second time you took a shot at BCB in the past couple days.

    They're is no need for that. You could have made your point without insulting posters from another site. I read both sites and get good information from both. I've met Al a couple times and he runs a great site. They don't take shots at you over there so why do you feel the need to take shots at them?

  • In reply to Seamus:

    I think you have to read that post pretty intently to see it as a "shot" at BCB. He merely stated that he was unaware of the culture and policy of comments at that site. I don't know what the first "shot" was and perhaps that informs your opinion here. But the initial comment felt innocuous to me.

  • In reply to Gunther Dabynsky:

    He's a repeating offender who continuously comes back under new screen names.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Not entirely shocking given the nature of the comment, but felt obliged to say something. Also try to give people the benefit of the doubt.

  • In reply to Gunther Dabynsky:

    Thanks very much Gunther. Appreciate that support.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    I see people taking a shot at BCB and my first thought was it was intended for me (my wife says I'm overly narcissistic). Then I realized I use my real name here. I've been using BCB (on three other sites) since 2007 and also have an old acct here under that name, I don't know when the other guy or his site came into existence. Hopefully, I was first. lol

  • In reply to Seamus:

    This is inaccurate and misguided. If I didn't know who "Seamus" really was (old poster, new screen name!) , I'd be surprised.

    I am merely pointing out that I don't know the culture/policy of the comments section of BCB. Gato is a BCB poster and what may be acceptable there is not acceptable here. It is not saying one comment section is superior to the other. It is only stating our culture and policy.

    Not that I have to dignify my responses to you, but I want to point out to the others here that none of what you say is true, and that there is the usual agenda behind your commentary.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    What are you guys talking about ?

    This is not a competition between the two sites and commenters. Pretty obvious since there are no cubs den points

    What am I missing ?

    Do I need to go re read all the comments from the articles the last week or so ?

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    He tries to rile things up here and on other sites. Best to ignore these kinds of comments. He is upset because he is banned here and has tried to come back on the site under different screen names.

  • In reply to therealelgato:

    Valaika ain't making this team... If he does, I'll be real shocked & it'll mean they didn't acquire other pieces or had too many injuries to better players.

  • When you mentioned what happens if Baez is traded you should have mentioned moving Alcantara back to second base. Maybe they wouldn'd do it becuse they want to keep it open for Castro when Russell comes up. Alcantara profiles as an excellent secondbaseman, so I wouldn't totally dismiss the possibility of him being there for the future. You never can tell what will happen with trades, etc.

  • fb_avatar

    What about a Jackson+ for beltran. Not a lead off guy but could be a bounce back canidate that switch hits and has very good obp skills. I think I like him more than Swisher.

  • In reply to marcf:

    Injury prone, even tho the grass at Wrigley might help his knees stay better. He does have tremendous career numbers at Wrigley.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to mutant beast:

    Major obp skills and a veteran presence. His post season performances are the exact thing you want to see out of our guys. I think he would make a big impression on the younger guys. Like manny, just a professional hitter without the wacky hijinx.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to marcf:

    I noticed Beltran's OBP has declined in each of the past four seasons to a career low of just .301 last year. One season, okay, it's a down year. But four seasons is a trend. He'll be 38 next season, and as mb points out, there is quite the injury history.

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    In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    I understand he isn't an all star, but as far as a bad contract swap I prefer him to some of the options like Swisher or Bourne. He is older but I think he could still be valuable playing 4-5 times a week in lf

  • I realize this will make me unpopular here... and it is no way a reflection of my outlook for Soler... but to say that RF is any more set than any position other than SS or 1B is a huge leap of blind faith that Soler will not struggle at all. He has very limited AB's at AA/AAA and a very small sample at MLB... Once advanced scouting caught up to him, he looked very 'rookie-ish'. Do I think and hope he makes adjustments? Yes, but we have no track record of that yet. So to forecast .290-.300 and 30+ HR's if a bit of a leap of faith...

    Also, isn't Hoyer on record as saying they were happy with Beef's body of work and he was going to be their catcher in 2015? I can't go looking for a link now; but I seem to recall such comments from him. Given the FA's available, I'd be shocked if they replaced him with one of them.

    FWIW, Baez has had very early stage contract negotiations... IDK if figures have been exchanged, etc... but he did replace his Agent solely for this purpose. So that tells me they aren't going to trade him. Not now at least....

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    For next year, they are not going to replace him.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    They are also not going to replace some combination of Baez/Alcantara/Valbuena at 2B, but that didn't stop you from suggesting it.

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    In reply to mjvz:

    They have said they are going to bring in veterans. They have to play somewhere. There is a painful trade coming and that may well open second for next season.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I agree a trade is inevitable to some extent. I just can't see SS or 2B (or 1B) being the position that opens. I'm obviously someone in favor of keeping Baez, but even if he is the one that is moved, it doesn't really "open" 2B at all in my mind, even for next season.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Whoops, forgot Russell in there too.

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Bringing in a catcher doesn't mean they're REPLACING Castillo.

    Only 9 catchers qualified for the batting title last year. (Castillo was not one of them.)

    Backup catchers get a lot of work and it would be very much in our interest to acquire a strong one.

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    You're talking about replacing John Baker. He suggests bringing in Martin, etc to replace Welly.... big difference.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I'm not sure that was what he was suggesting.

  • There it is a given in these parts that we're gonna go after Lester. Check.

    But, John, why trade for Hamels instead of simply also trying to sign Scherzer? Scherzer may require a year or two more the 5 years (assuming option kicks in) remaining on Hamels's contract, I get that. But unless we are all ready to give up on Baez (I'm not), why not go after a 2nd FA pitcher and keep our top prospects? I'd rather keep Baez and risk another $20 to $40M on Scherzer.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to TTP:

    I can't see Scherzer. He's going to get a contract north of Hamels and the team prefers ground ball pitchers, anyway.

  • In reply to TTP:

    Scherzer has already turned down 6/144m from Destroyed. Hes looking for something close to Kershaw $, even thoug hes 5 yrs older than Kershaw, and there are whispers of Shoulder issues with him. Lester is more of a proven commodity.

  • In reply to TTP:

    Scherzer isn't going to require just a year or two more. It will be at least 2 and more likely 3. And it will also cost $100M+ more. And a draft pick.

  • " but he did replace his Agent solely for this purpose."

    Not being argumentative but why do you draw that conclusion from the change of agents? It's possible that he wanted a lion instead of a lamb so a LT deal may not be in the works.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Boogens:

    Just speculation on my part but Hoosierdaddy has spoken of personal contacts (family and friends) that he knows and have given him information in the past. I choose to believe it. If that is the case it is very possible he was told this directly.

    Again, this is just speculation as I have never actually meet HD. However, he has been accurate in the past about such things so I plan to give him the benefit of the doubt. Especially since his insights like this have always been limited to Baez and no other player which, to me, indicates that he does have a "source" regarding this one player and one player only and doesn't claim any special knowledge or similar insight into any other player.

  • fb_avatar

    I want to keep Baez and let him work things out. I would also like to see him start next year at AAA as he now has a VERY clear idea what he needs to work on (and I plan to visit Des Moines next April and would love to catch Bryant, Baez, and maybe Russell so some of my thought process is selfish). We still have some question about which guys will pan out so to trade one of them with such a high ceiling might be premature.

    In my mind Bryant is a LF and back up of RF if Soler gets hurt. I think he could be a well above average defender in the OF as opposed to an adequate one at 3B. That would also open up 3B for one of the trio of Castro/Baez/Russell or provide a spot to put Valbuena in the line-up as a lefty bat at an unusual position in the short run until Russell and Baez are ready.

    The other wildcard in this could be McKinney. Defensively he is relegated to LF (with possible back-up role in an emergency for CF) but he bats LH and shows a solid approach at the plate. I could see him as a top-of-the-order hitter as a table setter. His BB rate has always been over 10% at every level which is pretty impressive for someone 3 years young for his league most of the time. But that is at least 2-3 years away and we'll deal with that problem when we get there.

    I am also not convinced by the move to trade a top prospect for Hamels. If we take on his full contract (which we might be in a unique position to do) I think we should tell Amaro that he can't have any of our top 7-8 guys. The top prospect I would go with would be Johnson, and maybe not even that. To me the danger is just too great with a pitcher that suddenly he falls on hard times and now we have to pay this guy for years of poor production.

    That being said, though, if our offense comes around in the next year or two AND we have a rotation of a healthy Lester, Hamels, Arrieta, Hendricks, Turner/Doubront/Strailly/Scrap heap player with Wood as a long relief/mop-up/swing man we would quickly move into contention.

    The one thing that gives me hope is that I have seen a couple of analyses saying the Cubs could add $70M in payroll for 2015. Plus the fact that we don't have anyone entering FA for a while says we should have lots of money available each year to sign new guys. I would say structure the contracts so that we pay most of the value up front when we can afford it and have the remaining value on the contracts decrease as the pitcher gets older.

  • I don't think we should think about trading any of our prospects
    until late July. We need more time to see who for real.

  • fb_avatar

    The reason to go Hamel's is you get a shorter deal at probably lower aav. Its easy to say just sign scherzer but the cubs aren't the only team after him and 7 years at 25+ might not be as easy to stomach. The advantage of trading our prospects is that I have a good deal of faith in our front office to determine which guys should and should not be traded. If they feel Baez is worth more on our club then great, if not then bring on Hamel's.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to marcf:

    Agreed.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    seconded

  • fb_avatar

    I feel like people are overlooking Almora. Yes, his numbers were down this year. But he still have the best bat-to-ball skills in the system and doesn't strike out. A lot of this year may have been bad luck. He's gonna put the ball in play, it's just a matter of where it falls. We're too quick to right off prospects for a "down year".

    And Baez, I feel, just might not have the smarts to adjust to MLB pitching. He has lived so long on god-given talent that he may think he can just swing his way to stardom. If he doesn't start to realize pitchers pitch to his weaknesses he may be a lost cause.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Evan Conn:

    Darwin Purple Dinosaur never struck out either. He also never reached base. While I think Almora has a better offensive upside than the little fella who used to man second base for the Cubs, his success is hardly a given considering his DarBar-esque .683 OPS (combined A+/AA) last season

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    Both may have had low K%, but the comparison ends there.

    No one ever watched Darwin Barney and said he was a good hitter. Theo has said he thinks Almora is the best hitter in the organization.

    I'm not guaranteeing success here, just pointing out the one similar stat is not a good basis for a comp.

  • In reply to Evan Conn:

    I wouldnt doubt his undenying desire to succeed either.

  • I don't see them replacing Castillo. Exceptionally unlikely and just poor asset management.

    Mike it seemed like you're more down on Baez than Alcantara. I'd pretty much put them on an even point of they were both pretty terrible, and Alcantara had an extra 3-weeks of awful. Also although it was a new position for Alcantara, I was not impressed with him in CF. Hopefully he regroups and with a full spring in CF he can tap into his potential. As lost as Baez looked at times at the plate. I thought he looked good in the field, and I expected those struggles from him.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to SenatorMendoza:

    I'm actually less down on Baez than Alcantara, but he has more value right now and there is a huge position crunch coming that has to be solved. Even keeping veterans out of the picture, trying to place all our prospects is impossible.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Mike Moody:

    I agree Mike. It was just a year ago that many talked of how we couldn't rely on all the prospects. And now that some have hit Chicago with still more on the way it seems that no one thinks we should trade away any prospects.....

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    Prospects will get traded. I just think it is funny that the only prospects people seem to suggest trading are Baez, Alcantara and Almora.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to mjvz:

    why?

    Who else would you expect?

    Bryant? No way. Even if it was an option, how do you assess his value?
    Soler? he hit everything in front of him and plays a position with zer redundancy.
    Russell? He might be a better prospect than Bryant, the consensus best minor league player of '14.
    Schwarber CAN'T be traded.

    No one is saying "These dudes HAVE to go!"
    They're saying that if a guy like Hamels can be hed, these are the players we are willing to part with. Why is that such a surprise?

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    Oh, I get why people suggest it. I just think it is funny. Those three are the guys that have lost value in most fan's eyes (not mine), yet those are the guys that teams are supposed to accept in return.

    I would agree that Bryant is definitely off the table and teams would never logically expect to receive him in return. Why do you think Philadelphia would accept less than Russell (who by the way was just acquired for a pitcher of less quality than Hamels) or Soler in return though?

    And RF does have redundancy. Bryant, Baez, Russell and Schwarber could all handle the position offensively and defensively (with an obvious learning curve involved). That is the nice thing about having good athletes and the whole shortstops can play any position on the field thing.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to mjvz:

    Well, I actually agree that no one has actually lost any value. Everyone expected Baez to do this and he is one of the 2-3 youngest players in the league.

    AA isn't *quite* as young but was still like the 18th youngest in the MLB before September rosters expanded, so he's not exactly on the hot seat.

    Philly , meanwhile, is not really in a position of notable leverage. Not with us, at least. I, personally don't think Soler and Russell should even be considered.
    Most teams can't really afford Hamels contract, and the teams that can aren't about to pay top dollar AND lose great prospects.
    I think that it's pretty generous to be offering Baez, honestly.

    Like I said, I'm not sure he's lost any value when anyone that's been paying attention could've seen this coming.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to mjvz:

    Maybe those 3 in particular are known to have an approach that isn't all that advantageous to getting on base at an above average rate.

    I also have seen folks suggest other prospects like Vogelbach and Villanueva recently. I see a pattern here.....

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I don't see them moving Baez right now because the FO is placing a premium on the value of power in the current landscape. Also, if they pretty much knew he'd struggle at the ML level, why bring him up if you'd consider trading him this offseason. Wouldn't his value have been higher if others didn't see him struggle against ML pitching?

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Cuyler:

    Here's the flip side: if everyone on the planet expected this (and I think they did), what value does he lose when it actually happens? How much more value would he have had if he'd adjusted and spent September sending home runs sailing down Sheffield?

  • In reply to Cuyler:

    he has struggled the first month at every level - keeping in AAA wouldnt of changed anything

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to CubfanInUT:

    I think they pulled him up with that in mind. They wanted him to adjust and something in their observations said he was maybe having bad habits reinforced. So they pulled him up to have them glaringly exposed to him and show him, "You won't get away with X in the big leagues." He was possibly just getting by on raw talent and the number of people who can do that in the big leagues can probably be counted on one hand.

    I also think he will adjust. Looking at his stat line all winter is going to be great motivation.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Yes, Joel, very much 'this.' August 4th call up date was 'intentional.' Would have been easy to do a September 1. A full two months at the bigs was what they felt he needed to expose him, as you correctly noted.

  • In reply to CubfanInUT:

    I agree that we are all aware of his struggles when moving up, and from a player development angle it made a lot of sense for the organization to proceed that way. I don't think it's out of whack to think that his value would be somewhat higher now if he had made better contact and hit better overall. Maybe, maybe not.
    I've heard the FO talk repeatedly about the value of power in baseball now . I believe that they see a lot of upside leverage in his value. As a fan watching him toward the end of the season, I thought he was completely dispensable, but I know that I have little ability to identify young talent. It's just my opinion that the FO values this upside a lot.

  • If 2015 is not going to be our year then I don't see any reason
    to give up on our prospects so soon. That includes Lake until
    the right deal comes along. I think it is ok to package some of
    our non-core prospects.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to emartinezjr:

    Its not giving up on prospects. If a deal comes along that makes sense for the future of the club you make it. Prospects that are given up on have pretty much no trade value. That's why most are traded before reaching their full potential because most won't be productive mlb players. To assume that we have 6 that will is very bad business. We will be lucky if three of our top ten have productive careers, you have to sell on them before they have a chance at the mlb sometimes.

  • fb_avatar

    how about trying to get Ethier from the dodgers and our lineup wood look like this next year
    coghlan lf
    castro ss
    rizzo 1b
    ethier cf
    bryant 3b
    soler rf
    martin c
    bayez 2b

  • In reply to Bourri Tlich:

    Absolutely not. Awful contract. And he has been steadily declining. He has almost no power left and has never been an OBP guy either. Ethier is pretty much a 4th OF with the contract of a borderline all star.

  • Let me throw out another veteran / leadership name: Michael Cuddyer.
    He has been a clubhouse leader with both good Twins and bad Rockies teams; has power and OBP skills; can play OF and 1B as a backup; can DH in interleague games; and isn't a distraction in the clubhouse or in the streets.
    No, he's not a LH hitter, but Cuddlyer is a solid veteran presence. And he's available for money only.

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    A 1 yr contract for any veteran over 33 yr is ok.

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    A 1-2 year deal for Cuddyer would be fine with me. I wouldn't even mind "overpaying" a little in salary to get a guy like him on a short term deal. I just don't want any 3 year contracts handed out to mid 30s players. My only concern is that he is already very limited in the OF, if the injuries continue to mount, he could become such a liability that his bat adds no value. Of course, he would be replacing the catastrophe that is Chris Coghlan in LF so we may not notice a difference.

  • Great article Mike. In my opinion, Baez isn't going anywhere this winter, he will be the starting 2nd baseman for the Cubs next year. I believe based on what the FO has said recently, and just a gut feeling, that Welington Castillo will be the Cubs starting catcher next year as well. I do expect the Cubs to find a solid backup as competition for Lopez in Spring Training...however don't be surprised to see Lopez win the job.

    It's very possible that unless the Cubs can find the a solid starting caliber LF, on a short term deal, that fits what the Cubs are looking for in a player (LH, OBP, Veteran, Makeup, etc) then the Veteran additions will be backups along the lines of Valbuena.

    Fangraphs Steamer Projections for 2015...
    (Based on 600 PA's besides Catchers (450 PA) - Rizzo had 616 PA's in 140 Games this year, so stats are probably low for most of the starters)

    Anthony Rizzo
    .270/.359/.503 - 30 HR = 4.4 WAR (note: based on 138 games - Rizzo played 160 in 2013)

    Kris Bryant - .265/.344/.489 - 29 HR = 4.4 WAR
    (600 PA's/140 games is probably about right for Bryant next year)

    Jorge Soler - .271/.330/.470 - 24 HR = 2.7 WAR

    Starlin Castro - .277/.323/.412 - 12 HR = 2.4 WAR

    Arismendy Alcantara - .247/.296/.394 - 15 HR = 1.5 WAR

    Javier Baez - .231/.284/.426 - 26 HR = 1.7 WAR

    Luis Valbuena - .239/.329/.389 - 15 HR = 2.3 WAR

    Welington Castillo (450 PA's) - .246/.315/.394 - 13 HR = 2.2 WAR

    Rafael Lopez (450 PA's) - .235/.308/.331 - 6 HR = 1.2 WAR

    Chris Coghlan - .249/.323/.373 - 10 HR = 0.6 WAR

    Mike Olt - .212/.291/.383 - 22 HR = 0.6 WAR

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    They have to get an OFer, preferably LF, but a CF is fine too. I wouldn't mind having two CFers roaming the OF including Alcantara. I really, really, really do not want to watch Coghlan patrol LF for an entire season, even as a platoon guy. He is either the 4th OF or you trade him. Backup C is the other priority in my mind if a corner guy isn't available.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    I agree with that, especially considering the team is looking for a veteran. So a CF who might have lost a step but can still bring value could definitely be a possibility in LF, not to mention as the CF backup...or even to take over CF, with Alcantara and Coghlan in LF....or some combination of that would work for next year provided the Cubs can find a player that's a good fit in the area the team needs (LH, OBP, Veteran, Makeup, etc).

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    GD, if your numbers add up anywhere close to that, with anything resembling the starting pitching last year thats likely an 80-85 win team, borderline WC consideration. Be nice to keep these and see after the season how close you come.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    I agree, with solid pitching (need to add at least one starter), a good bullpen, and possible veteran help to be added, if these numbers hold true, then the team could be pretty good.... and as stated the Steamer projections are based on 600 PA's which is likely low for starters (Rizzo, Castro, Soler, Baez, etc) that are expected to play more than 137-140 games/600 PA's.....but just to be clear, these are not my numbers, these are the Fangraphs Steamer-600 Projections for 2015.

  • Here's something I've been struggling with... players have $ value in salary, but what's the $ value of control? For example, let's assume for the sake of argument that Lester and Hamels have equal value. Your choice is signing Lester or trading Baez for Hamels. How much extra $ would you pay for FA Lester (more than the Hamels contract) so that you don't have to give up Baez?

  • In reply to bzalisko:

    The number of years being committed to a FA age pitcher is way more important to me than the actual salary. I want as few years as possible. To me, the main appeal of Hamels is that he is only under contract for 4 years. If you could get Lester to agree to a 4 year contract, I would be willing to give him 30M a year. If he demands a 6+ year contract, even if the salary is less, I think it would be more worthwhile to trade prospects to get Hamels (assuming the prospect demand is not absurd).

  • You could argue that even a short-term Hamels deal is more risky because there's also the risk that you trade Baez, and he becomes a superstar.

    Let me simplify the question. Again, assume that Lester = Hamels...

    4yr of Hamels for $22.5M AAV and Baez = 4yr of Lester for $X AAV

    Solve for X

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to bzalisko:

    Another variable is we don't know how many years we will have to pay Lester. He might demand more than 4 years. Maybe the formula would be more like:
    4yr of Hamels + Baez = Zyrs of Lester for $X AAV

    However, I think you were trying to get it to be comparing apples to apples so keep the years identical.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Everyone assumes Baez is the main guy, because that is the guy everyone seems most willing to give up given the last month of the season. The Cubs may not be interested in dealing him. The Phillies may not be interested either, or even if they value him highly, may target other guys as higher priority given they already have a stud SS prospect in JP Crawford. They may be way more interested in pitching or OFers in return.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    It's thought Baez can play a decent 3B. He's certainly shown promise at 2B. 3B carries more currency in value IIRC.

  • In reply to MoneyBoy:

    Baez will become a very good 2B. He is already average or better. I was trying to speak more in general terms that Philadelphia might prioritize OF and P since they still have Utley/Rollins in the MI and Crawford on the way to eventually replace one of them. They also have Franco as a young 3B prospect that they are breaking in already.

    I think 3B would actually be Baez's worst position though. 3B is mostly about reaction time. Baez isn't a quick twitch athlete. He might be able to become average in time there, but he should be above average in the MI or corner OF. I'd even prefer trying him in CF before 3B if the need arose. Russell would be the better option to move to 3B.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    I loved him at SS. Absolute cannon. He looks like he can handle 2B and you may be right about already average or better. I just hadn't seem him play SS before and was really impressed.

    Didn't know about the quick twitch thing. Not sure if I can recall a discussion about that.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to bzalisko:

    They're not mutually exclusive though.

    If we get Lester AND trade for Hamels, the equation is pretty much just Hamels vs what we trade.

    Even then, one could argue that the "equation" isn't that simple.

    Baez might become a superstar but what if he struggles? Let's say he struggles a lot in 2015 and still has a few remaining issues in 2016.

    And what if we fill 2B with someone that contributes positively.
    The difference Baez WAR and the WAR of Hamels + Zobrist (for example) or Addision Russell in 2016 would be pretty massive.

  • In reply to bzalisko:

    Either no one understood my question, or it was too difficult to answer. In thinking about it, I think that X is whatever Baez would draw on the open market. Since such examples occur so infrequently, perhaps the Soler contract is a reasonable guess. Soler was unproven when signed, but had high upside, ~3M/yr. So, trading Baez for Hamels ($22.5M AAV) would be like signing Hamels for $25.5M AAV as a free agent for the same # of years. That sounds about right to me.

    I can't help but think that trading prospects seems absurd as an alternative to signing FA's without giving up prospects. I think that it reveals a strong bias in me toward overvaluing prospects. They are baseball capital just like $.

  • In reply to bzalisko:

    I think you should subtract Ejax money from Hamels if they are unable to unload his contract to make this more accurate. That's part of the appeal for the Cubs here.

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    Lester will definitely get more than a 4 year deal.

  • In reply to Ray:

    So? Hamels has an option that would make his deal 5 years. He also has a no trade clause that he gets to change the teams for each off season. Do you think that he's not going to have the Cubs on that NTC this off season in order to force them to agree right now to make that option year a guaranteed year?

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    In reply to cubbie steve:

    Lester's new deal will be longer and at a higher AAV than Hamels' contract under any circumstances.

  • Is Castro's defense really now at least average for a shortstop? According to DRS, he is easily in the bottom third of shortstops defensively, and according to James-Dewan, he is one of the very worst defensive shortstops in baseball. It's actually tough to find any kind of defensive metrics to support the idea that Castro is a decent defender at short.

    The FO has repeatedly said that he's their shortstop in 2015, but they've been pretty noncommittal about who will be their shortstop beyond that, effectively dodging the question.

    The FO has gone on record over and over again saying that they like "two-way players" and, for all of Castro's value, it's hard to support the idea that he is a two-way guy.

    Russell, most likely, will be a two-way shortstop. But it's anyone's guess when he will be MLB ready. My guess is that they will milk Castro for all he's worth as the shortstop in 2015 and let Russell get plenty of AAA time, and then--assuming that Russell looks solidly MLB ready at the end of '15--explore Castro-for-pitching deals in the '15/16 winter.

    They should also have a better idea of whether Baez will stick a year from now. But regardless of what happens with Baez, they also have other decent 2B options (Alcantara and Valbuena). Russell will be more of an asset defensively at short than Castro and should also have plenty of bat.

    Castro can probably bring back more in trade than the value he would have as a 2Bman, but the time to deal him is absolutely not now. A lot can happen over the course of a year, but right now, it looks to me like a future Castro deal is the most likely course of action.

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    In reply to dAnamedev:

    Castro was just fine at SS in 2014.

    And the metrics don't really suggest he's bad.

    He's not elite, and he's not one of the best, but just because he's not in the top 10 doesn't mean he's bad.

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    It really is hard to see him as a bad SS at this point. I think metrics are still struggling to keep up with defensive shifts. Jhonny Peralta, who was always considered below average and a candidate to move to 3B, is now suddenly one of the best defensive SS in baseball. His range has suddenly increased even as he ages and gains weight! I think the Cubs infield defensive metrics are down across the board (Rizzo, Valbuena), so I really question how much is due to their individual skills, how much is due to poor defensive shifting, and how much metrics are misreading the two things.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Great point about the shifts, John--but here's the issue: Castro's defensive numbers/metrics have never really been good, so it's not like the Peralta thing.

    A couple of years ago, a lot of people were speculating that Barney's and Rizzo's great defensive numbers might in part be attributable to the shifts. Have Cubs' shifts changed that much over the last 2-3 years? Maybe they have, but one would think that, if anything, they would improve rather than get worse, with more time and analysis and the same FO. On the other hand, maybe it's just a case of the rest of the league adapting and catching up with the Cubs' shifting ability, so that, relative to the league, the Cubs are losing ground.

    Interesting issue, and good point.

  • In reply to dAnamedev:

    Thanks. They were decent in 2012, when all the Cubs seemed to have great numbers. As much as we praised their shifting two years ago, I think they may have fallen behind the curve now. (Mental note: Subject for another article!).

    I also should note Castro made up for some of the perceived lack of range with steadier play. and Fangraphs has had him at slightly above average defensive value overall this year. In fact, he has had that distinction in every year but one. Some of that is probably due to the lack of consistency with defensive metrics, but I think we at least have to give him the benefit of the doubt.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Makes sense. Thanks for the reply. I guess in that case the James numbers are an outlier, rather than something to be alarmed about.

    One thing I do appreciate about Castro is the way he fought back from his bad 2013 and hit well behind Rizzo this year. I have to respect that, and I think the power numbers will keep climbing for him.

    Watching all those first ball FBs go by in '13 really hurt him. Slashing the first reasonably good FB over the 2Bman's head or up the middle is such a strength for him. What's a "pitcher's pitch" (the FB on the outside black) for a lot of other hitters may be a hitter's pitch for castro, especially on the first pitch when guys are looking to get ahead.

    The shifting thing would be a very interesting article. I'd also love to hear your own opinion on what to expect out of Coghlan next year. Regression to his career numbers (or worse) at age 30, or can he keep up an 800 OPS? How much of his past struggles were due to injury versus just being frustratingly inconsistent? I noticed Steamer has him at 0.5 WAR for next year. Maybe it doesn't matter all that much in the scheme of things, but I think it's an interesting topic.

    I enjoy the in depth stuff you analyze, like roster management, guys in the minors, defense, etc.

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    Taking another look at DRS, you're absolutely right. The last time I had looked at Castro's defensive numbers was back in late July/early August and at that point his DRS was something like -8 or so, which was near the bottom of MLB shortstops. I don't know what happened, but he must have made up a lot of ground to end up on the positive side of the ledger.

    I had assumed, based on where Bill James had him, that his DRS had remained in the same territory where it had been in the late summer, but was wrong about that. Evidently, there's a pretty wide disparity between James and DRS. I guess that, when looking at defensive numbers, if the different systems all tell us the same thing it's informative, but when they give us different answers we ought to take it with a grain of salt.

    It would be interesting to know how the Cubs evaluate INF defense internally, and how they rank Castro...

    In any case, Castro at best is probably an average defender, rather than a guy who helps you on both sides. And it's hard to anticipate a ton of improvement there, because even though he can gain consistency, typically the range of middle infielders peak in their early to mid- 20s (earlier than hitting ability), and so it's likely that while he is gaining consistency he's also losing range.

  • In reply to dAnamedev:

    He is their SS until someone else proves capable of taking over for him or until someone presents them with a trade offer they can't refuse. Baez could probably handle it in the short term defensively, but hasn't proven he can hit. Russell is in the same boat right now. Castro is also one of their few proven hitters right now. It is not so much that Castro is immovable as it is the amount of uncertainty still surrounding the rest of the cast both offensively and defensively. He is most assuredly the SS for next year. Any position switch or trade should become clearer next offseason.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Agree 100% that Castro ought to be Cubs shortstop in 2015, and that the picture will be a lot clearer after the '15 season. IMO Cubs FO is doing & saying the right things now, publicly supporting Castro as the shortstop and Baez as the 2Bman.

    The reason I think a Castro deal could be on the table after '15 is because the FO really does value INF defense, and Russell is the only one of Russell/Baez/Castro/Alcantara who really looks like he will be a plus defender at short.

    If the young Cub hitters like Bryant and Soler put up big numbers in 2015, it would also make it easier to in the short term sacrifice a little offense at short to add some defense and a guy who might have just as bright a long term offensive outlook as Castro's. I don't think anyone doubts Russell's bat long term, it's more a matter of when than if.

    It's so rare for guys like Castro to be dealt that he really could bring back a package that would be hard to say no to.

  • Rumored deal in philly area is Baez ,AA, and Jackson for Hamels and full contract.
    Hot and heavy(not Baez......the rumor)

  • That sounds doable, actually.

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    That's interesting. I would do that if I was the Cubs -- Jackson's money makes Hamels's deal highway robbery.

  • I'd make that trade without the Cubs giving up the deadweight of EJax.

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    DON'T TEASE. IT'S NOT NICE.

  • talksportsphilly says they should ask jorge soler, cj edwards and baez

  • In reply to Burns0128:

    The Cubs should hang up before they finish saying Jorge Sol...

  • Which AA George? Almora or Alcantara?

  • I suspect that the Cubs will be reluctant to deal Baez this off season. They tend to prefer to sell high and buy low, and I think they believe in Baez's long term outlook. And why deal prospects for Hamels when you could sign a comparable guy in FA and maybe lose only a pick?

    One thing about Theo, he hates to give away talent when he doesn't have to. He is very big on getting the most out of every trade. I don't think you can underestimate that.

  • In reply to dAnamedev:

    One big reason that I would go after Hamels is that he has four years left on his deal. You could still sign Lester and then have a great rotation for the upcoming 3 or 4 years. And space out the final years of their contracts fairly nicely. That would give you time to develop the future starting rotation internally while you compete for a WS.

    Signing Price next year would be great, but it will probably take 5 or 6 years to get him and he could very likely be worthless towards the end of that span (post 35).

    Also, I think that adding to the top of the rotation in 2015 would give you an opportunity to seriously compete for a WS title in 2016. 2015 will be an adjustment period no matter what. So, why not big in a couple of TOR in 2015 to allow the pitching and hitting to develop together?

  • Is AA Almora or Alcantara?

  • The most obvious place to add a veteran is LF. The FO will have to decide whether to go with a short term solution (Michael Morse?) or get creative with a trade (CarGo, Ryan Zimmerman, Stanton, ?). They clearly want a veteran who will drive in runs and provide some leadership in the clubhouse. If a prospect has to be traded, Baez is probably that guy because, of the middle infielders, he seems to fit the sabermetric profile the least. I don't think they'll bring in a veteran 2B when they have Valbuena, Alcantara, Russell, etc.

  • In reply to VaCubFan:

    Do you think Baez, Schwarber, Cj Edwards and Alacantra gets a deal done for Stanton? I'd pull the trigger on that one in a hurry!

  • In reply to Trey Mcfreakin Nut:

    We are not trading for Stanton. And your trade is just plain awful. I am glad Theo is running the team.

  • In reply to John57:

    I always thought the "I'm glad (blank) is running the team" argument was weak. Anyone can throw it back at you if they don't like a suggestion you make and it's absolutely true. So his suggestion has little merit, guess what Theo isn't answering your calls either.

    -HD

  • In reply to Horny Dave:

    Thanks HD I was just throwing a fantasy trade idea out there for fun I don't claim to be Mr GM sorry for offending 57 lol

  • In reply to Trey Mcfreakin Nut:

    You did not offend me. We disagree on value. You just proposed a trade that was a significant over pay on the Cubs part and said that you would do it in a hurry. But it can even be done in a hurry because Scwarber can't be traded until next June. Sorry for offending you.

  • In reply to John57:

    Uh thank you?

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    Awesome article, Mike.

    LF seems like such an odd spot for us right now. Personally, I like Zobrist more than any of the traditional options.

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    In reply to Giffmo:

    Yeah, LF is crazy because I can both see them wanting to get a big bat for the position next year but at the same time wanting to keep it open for prospects.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    It does seem like they wouldn't want to lock up a big name guy to a long term deal, doesn't it, with all they have in the pipeline right now?

    I think they could get away with not having a big bat in LF next year. If Rizzo can continue to do what he has been doing, and Soler and Bryant can post OPSs of 800+ (which I don't think is a stretch), then you have the makings of a really good offense, as long as they don't give 2000+ PAs again next year to guys with sub-650 OPSs.

    It's likely Castro is up in the high 700's again, maybe flirting with 800. Valbuena is around if Baez struggles, and Alcantara looks like a guy poised to bump his numbers some next year.

    IMO the Cubs just need someone solid in LF as a placeholder. They could probably cobble something together from the pieces they have, but I'd feel a little better with someone more predictable than Coghliano in LF.

  • Showing up fashionably late to a blog is not as valuable as it is at a party. Great article, Mike. Obviously an intriguing discussion based on the number of comments in such a short amount of time.

    I like a lot of the suggestions you put out there, specifically Zobrist and Span. I think my favorite would be Span because of how it would position the team going forward. It gives us a proven lead off hitter for 2015 and takes a lot of pressure off of Alcantara to perform next year. I think AA has the ability to be a great player at the MLB level, but I think he will need time to develop and thrusting him into CF on a competing team may hurt his development. Span in CF would allow us to mix AA in at LF and 2B depending on how Coghlan and Baez perform.

    Regarding Hamels, I think we would need to pull the trigger if it took Baez as a centerpiece and maybe a few lower prospects. We could still go after Lester and choose between Span or Zobrist as a target for veteran leadership. Challenge is that I think that giving up just Baez would be error on the side of wishful thinking.

  • I am amazed how quickly everyone changes their mind based upon such short term swings (both positive & negative) in perceived prospect "success". Even the Den authors succumb to it.

    Just a few months ago everybody was trading Soler in these scenarios, because he just couldn't stay healthy. Soler's injury's were flukes, not some recurring, nagging injury, but a series of one-off events, yet nobody mentioned Soler without the contingent of "if he can stay healthy". Baez was of course untouchable, and Alcantara was everybody's new favorite player because of his dynamic play and versatility.....

    Baez and Alcantara come up for a couple of months and struggle some, yet both showed flashes of the talent which will come with a bit more experience. Baez is still a unicorn, a stud middle infielder with potential to hit 30+ doubles, 30+ HR's and play great defense....and Soler is NOT a sure thing (although I do like him very much, and think he will be a stud). Baez has consistently been considered the better prospect, and also with the higher potential. It's funny because I was defending Soler exactly this same way, earlier in the year. I an confident that the Cubs Front Office is not making decisions based on the last 2 months of the year. I don't expect to see any of the top prospects traded this offseason unless it's an offer they can't refuse....and 4 years of Hamels at $22.5 Million, which is a fair value free agent contract, in return for Baez & Alcantara is NOT an offer the Cubs can't refuse in my opinion.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    Note: Hamels contract has a 5th year in 2019 (age 35) with a $6 Million buyout (if the $24 million vesting option doesn't go in effect, and the team doesn't pick up the Club Option at $20 Million).... so in reality the minimum that you are paying for the 4 years is $24 Million per year ($22.5 + 1.5 Million) and if he does well, i.e. 200 IP and no arm injury (which is the point isn't it?), then chances are you are paying him 5 years @ $24 Million per year.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    That's a straw man, GC. It's not about short term swings. It's about their long range profile and what potentially provides the optimal lineup balance. It's not about collecting the most highly rated prospects and making them fit. They are assets to be used in a way to find the best fit for the organization and their philosophy. They may fit better as part of the lineup and they may fit better as part of a trade to get missing parts. For me, it's easier to balance the lineup without Baez. I am not saying he won't be a good player, there is a good chance that he will. The same goes for Alcantara. But every team trades good players in order to make the pieces fit best.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John, it's not a straw man, because I wasn't misrepresenting your argument. First of all, I was speaking of the board in general, not you in particular, and secondly wasn't representing anyone's argument, I was stating an observation, which is that the boards mood changes with the short term play of the prospects. It's clear that when a player is doing well, trade ideas with them included are at a minimum, and people start including those that are struggling at the moment. Again, that's my personal observation, not mis-representing anyone's argument.

    On the other hand, you have mis-represented my argument John. You say: "It's not about collecting the most highly rated prospects and making them fit. They are assets to be used in a way to find the best fit for the organization and their philosophy. "

    I agree, when did I say anything different. anyone who has read my comments knows that I commonly refer to organizational pieces as assets, and have suggested trade ideas myself in the past. I never said that the Cubs FO wouldn't make trades, I said "I don't expect to see any of the top prospects traded this offseason unless it's an offer they can't refuse....and 4 years of Hamels at $22.5 Million, which is a fair value free agent contract, in return for Baez & Alcantara is NOT an offer the Cubs can't refuse in my opinion"

    My argument is that I believe that the team is better long term with Baez and Alcantara (and 12 years of cost control) than it is with Hamels (and 4-5 years at top dollar). I also believe Theo & Jed when they say that it's not a pressing issue, and they won't mortgage the teams future to acquire pitching all at once...especially considering that the lineup is still in transition with all the rookies settling in. To me trading Baez & Alcantara is mortgaging the teams future, and would be a very bad deal medium to long term for the Cubs.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    i was re-stating my opinion in that comment, it wasn't a direct rebuttal of anything you said at all. But to say it wasn't about me when you mentioned "authors" and in my article, no less? It certainly seemed directed at me. It's fine if you want to think I succumbed to short sample sizes, but if you meant it, take ownership -- and I will tell you why I think that's wrong.

    I've been talking about trading Baez at different points for a long time both on this blog and in outside conversations. I have always talked about prospects as assets or currency. I have talked about the possibility of keeping all of them and I have talked about the possibility of trading Castro. In fact, the only people I haven't talked about trading are Rizzo, Arrieta, Russell, and Bryant, though I would probably add Soler and Schwarber to my untouchable list now.

    This is my opinion on Cost-control: It isn't something you need to have on your roster at all costs. It can be a commodity that other teams want as well and for that you can get a player that can help you better balance your team and win. And that should be the ultimate goal. Efficiency is just a means to that end. You load up on as many cost control players in part because that allows you to bring in more established talent on 2nd contracts, especially when you are talking about a big market team that can afford to be less than efficient for the sake of better overall production.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    This is Mike's article...and I had NOT yet read the next Den article (which is yours) where you used Baez and Alcantara as "trade bait". I just did. So I can see why you think this was directed at you, but I can assure you that it wasn't and it was from reading the comments above about trading for Hamels.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    That's cool, GD. I don't always pay attention to the details or all the comments because of the way my comment board is set up. So my mistake on that being my article. That said, it would have been cool if you thought that about me too. I would have just disagreed :)

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    LOL ;-)

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    ...and I pretty much agree with everything you said (as I usually do when it comes to process). However, I disagree regarding this trade.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    Understood. I like the deal. I would probably do it, especially with EJax as part of the deal, but I do understand your side -- even if I don't necessarily agree.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John, Do you think Baez Almora Shwarber, and Cj Edwards gets a deal done for Stanton?

  • In reply to Trey Mcfreakin Nut:

    Cannot trade Schwarber right now. Stanton is not coming to the Cubs any time soon. Maybe in 10 years when he is in the later stages of his career.

  • In reply to Trey Mcfreakin Nut:

    I don't make that trade.

  • In reply to Trey Mcfreakin Nut:

    Hendry got skewered for dealing far less than that in talent for 1 pitcher in bigs, 1 pitcher in low level minors at the time (Rosscup) & 1 washed up utility guy... You're talking 3 of the last 4 #1 draft picks in the organization & a key acquisition from another deal for 1 guy? No way I make that trade either.

  • I see a trade of Baez, + AA, and EJax far far far different than trading just Baez and AA for Hamels?

    Am I missing something?

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    In reply to rakmessiah:

    Edwin's money and bad luck is out of the organization.

    That's got to be almost priceless to Theo and crew. The constant reminder that he was the biggest free agent splash they had made up to date.

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    Get Russell Martin for leadership in the clubhouse and mentoring for Schwarber. Do a blockbuster trade of Addison Russell for Puig.
    Bring up Bryant and Arodys Vizcaino in May. Give Schwarber at-bats in left field. Return Alcantara to 2B. If no trades are possible for Edwin Jackson, have him replace Villanueva in long relief. Consider trading Grimm and Parker for rehabbing Sean Marshall in a 2 for 1 trade. Trade Baez for Cole Hamels. Outbid others for Lester. Can you imagine a starting five with Lester-Arrieta-Hamels-Hendricks-Travis Wood with support from Rondon-Strop-Vizcaino-Neil Ramirez-Wright-Marshall-Jackson with an offense consisting of Rizzo-Castro-Soler-Puig-Bryant-Martin-Schwarber-Alcantara with Valbuena-Coghlan-Kalish-Valaika-Watkins off the bench? Move over St Louis Cardinals.

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