Cubs not done building yet. Big changes still await down the road.

It’s been such a long journey the past few years.  Years of losing and high draft picks has put baseball in a different perspective.  We have been introduced to the concept of the long term plan and big picture thinking.  We have shifted our focus to one that looks further down the road.

And so, finally, not that this plan finally seems to be coming into fruition, we want to stop and stay awhile, to catch our collective breath and enjoy the scenery.  In a sense, that is what 2015 is, especially the first few months.  As we’ve seen in the years since Theo Epstein and company have arrived, it will be a time to sit back and assess.  The difference this year is that the Cubs won’t be just trying to determine if they have players  worth keeping long term, the focus has shifted to which long term players they should keep.

That makes for difficult decisions starting with this offseason, perhaps the trade deadline depending on how the season goes.  The expectation is the Cubs will continue to add players that will help them win now and later.

But which players are best suited for that dual goal?

That is what we are going to find out this season.  There are a lot of players in the middle infield who can be MLB starters: Starlin Castro, Javier Baez, Addison Russell, Tommy LaStella, and Arismendy Alcantara can arguably start at the big league level right now.  Add third base to the mix and the list grows to include Kris Bryant and Mike Olt.

For once it is not about not having enough players to fill a lineup, it is more about finding the best combination of players.  That is the task facing this front office right now.  Patrick Mooney quotes Theo Epstein here on some of the challenges and changes that lie ahead.

“They can play together,” Epstein said. “Is it likely that they all play together and we bring in no one from outside the organization? No. The most likely outcome is that we keep a lot of these guys and we sign a free agent or so over the years and we make a couple trades, too. Big trades. That’s most likely.

“But my point is, when I say they can all play together, that’s a direct answer to the question: ‘What are you going to do with all these shortstops?’ Well, your three shortstops can play second, short and third. And Bryant can play third or either corner. I think (Kyle) Schwarber can catch and Alcantara can play second or he can play center. And (Albert) Almora can play center when he’s ready.

“They have a lot of versatility and there’s a way that they all fit together. It’s not like we’re sitting there with five first basemen wondering what the hell we’re going to do with them.”

None of this should be unexpected.  A rebuilding team like the Cubs should have very few untouchables.  In fact, the only players who may merit that label right now are Anthony Rizzo, Jorge Soler, Kris Bryant, Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, and Addison Russell.  Anyone else can go in the right deal.

The Cubs have talked often about keeping their players versatile.  They’ve announced that all minor league players will play at least two positions.  More than anything, it is to give them flexibility as to how to construct the best roster possible.  Even Bryant and Russell are not exempt from this policy.  If fielding the best roster means moving Bryant to LF and Russell to 2B, then that is what they will do.

But as Epstein said, it is unlikely that the Cubs will keep all of their players.  They are flexible, but there are still long term questions to consider.  Can Albert Almora develop into the kind of starting CF’er they want?  Can Kyle Schwarber be viable as a catcher?  Will they have enough starting pitching?

You’ve heard me say I prefer the Settlers of Cataan theory of talent accumulation than the more common jigsaw puzzle solution.  In the former, you are not locked into a certain type of player, it is about accumulating assets that can either be used or moved around for what you need.  It is a more fluid, flexible way of building a roster.

Well, the Cubs have played the game well to this point.  They have surplus in many areas but they could stand to shore up others.  The next step is to assess what they have and decide on the next course of action.  The Cubs will need to come up with a strategy wherein they keep the assets that will give them the chance to win now while weighing that against what can bring them the most value in trade.

It isn’t going to be easy.

When we are dealing with real players in the real world, things can get complex.  You cannot simply ask a young veteran in his prime to change positions for a rookie.  It’s easy to do on your Strat-O-Matic set, but it just doesn’t happen often, if at all, in baseball.  The Cubs will not be able to hedge their bets when it comes to Addison Russell and Starlin Castro by assuming the latter will move and no issues will arise.

Let’s say you talk Castro into moving and Russell struggles — especially defensively.  Given that Castro hasn’t played poorly enough to be moved off of SS, it will raise questions and put the rookie in an awkward situation.  Do you switch them back after investing the time, effort, and ego management to make the switch in the first place?  Do you let it ride and hope it’s just early season jitters?  And if you do, do you risk building resentment with Castro and the clubhouse for allowing Russell to make mistakes as the team is trying to win?  The Yankees never were able to move Derek Jeter off of SS despite his subpar defensive play, yet it turned out  better for the team overall to keep him there.  The rub here is that Castro is not Jeter on or off the field, so the Cubs are dealing with an even larger gray area.

Russell is also a big kid, already bigger than Castro with room on his frame to comfortably fill out even more.  Maddon has already mentioned he’ll have to be mindful of his body.  He will almost certainly hit for more power than Castro and can easily carry the offensive load at 3B or 2B.  Additionally, I personally have spoken to scouts who think he’ll only be able to stay at SS for the first 5 or 6 years at best, so if they are right, it is possible that the Cubs will make one major move now only to have to make another one later.

I am not saying Russell has to be the one to move off of SS, but I am saying it is not as simple as it sounds in a vacuum.  I do not think moving Castro to 2B or 3B is an option.   If the Cubs want to go with Russell at SS then they have to be ready to commit to him 100%.  There should be no hedging their bets here.  In other words, if Russell is your SS then you have to trade Castro.  If you want to keep them both, then you have to move Russell to another position.  The fact that the Cubs will have Russell play some 2B at Iowa this year at least confirms this is an option they are considering.  There are no such plans at this point to give Castro reps at 2B.  For him it is SS or bust.  His job now is the same as Kris Bryant’s was this spring — and that is to make the Cubs decision as difficult as possible by playing up to his considerable potential.  But even that won’t guarantee anything as, in the end, just as they did with Bryant, they will do what is best for the organization overall in the long term.  For now, we really don’t know what that will be.  There are still too many alternate routes to choose from.

For now, just enjoy the scenery because it won’t be long before the Cubs are once again back on the challenging road of building a championship-level organization.

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  • Just seems obvious to me that no later than 2016 Russell should be playing 3B and Bryant should be playing LF. We shall see.

  • Pitchers batting 8th for both teams today. How often has that happened?

  • In reply to Oneear:

    I'm surprised Babe Wood isn't batting cleanup.

  • In reply to hoffpauir6:

    ha!

  • In reply to Oneear:

    Twelfth time today and the first time the Cards were not one of the teams

  • Great analysis, John! One thing that will impact decision on who stays and who goes will be contracts, including years of control. A player with a couple of years of control left on a team-friendly contract has huge market value and could be sacrificed if there's a prospect coming soon. Example - what if Russell is moved to 1B as he "fills out" and becomes too big for SS - the Cubs might score big trading Rizzo with a couple of years of control left on a team-friendly contract. It's a delicate balance, but Cubs fans should brace themselves because their favorites may not be here for a whole career.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    I can't see trading Rizzo anytime soon. What many overlook, is that it seems Theo and Maddon are aware of the need for balance in the lineup. And the thing they have a strong supply of, are RH hitters. If anyone of the 'favorites' go, it is likely to be a right handed bat.

  • In reply to cubbustible:

    I don't see Rizzo being moved soon, either. But in three or four years, who knows? Point is, the Cubs' FO will make these decisions year by year, and we WILL see some of our favorites traded when it makes sense for the team.

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    In reply to cubbustible:

    I don't know that it is that RH dominant. A quick perusal of the young major league roster yields:
    RH: Olt, Castro, Soler, Almora, Bryant, Baez, Russell, Torrez, Jiminez

    LH: Rizzo, La Stella, Schwarber, McKinney

    Switch: Alcantara, Caratini.

    I think most teams have more RH hitters than LH Hitters. What I find really odd is the RH hitters all have significant struggles balancing K and BB, but the LH hitters all had great BB rates last year and not terrible K rates. But that is a fluke. LH batters don't necessarily have better batting eyes. Correlation is not causation.

    Finally, NOTHING that Cliff1969 said precludes the Cubs from ACQUIRING a LH bat for Rizzo. His point didn't seem to be "we have enough LH bats" but, rather, "we have a lot of assets and maybe the best use of Rizzo is in a blockbuster trade that will yield a lot of talent because he is a good young player on a team friendly deal."

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Thanks, Cliff. That is indeed true and contracts was something I considered as well but I am afraid the article would get too unwieldy. Maybe for another time. I don't think Russell will get to the point where he can't at least play 3B and for me I don't see Rizzo being moved. He is a core piece.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Agreed, and I might have picked a poor example. Just trying to point out that a player who is "untouchable" in 2015 might well be tradeable as circumstances change in future years.

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    In reply to Cliff1969:

    No one on the Cubs is untouchable. It might take a lot to get them, but I can imagine a trade for ANY ONE of our players, or any combination for that matter. Some of them might just be VERY expensive! :)

  • I used to think LaRussa was over managing when he batted the pitcher 8th, now that Maddon is doing it, I think that it has merit.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    The thing is, I doubt Maddon does this unless he has some statistical data to substantiate it...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I'm assuming this is a simple statistical analysis of what % of innings does the 8hole lead off an inning vs the 9hole. Am I missing something?

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    In reply to Cubswin4harry:

    mmm I think you're on the right track, and I tend to give the FO and Maddon full benefit of the doubt, but here's the thing. The presence of the pitcher in the 9 hole effects the way the 8th hitter is pitched,(and maybe 7th hitter). I think the real detriment comes in the artificial shortening of the lineup. So those changes now impact the 7th (and 6th hitter).

    e.g. Bryant is batting 4th and leads off with a double, Castro 5th strikes out, 6th Coghlan Walks, Now with the 7th hitter up and men on first and second, that Hitter (maybe montero) gets pitched around, maybe striking out or inducing a double play. If he's walked, not a huge deal because now you're facing the pitcher.

    tl;dr I think you stifle the productivity of the middle of the order by shortening the lineup. I think the stats being looked at are not taking into account the negative effect the change has on the 7th and 6th spot.

  • In reply to Theo Einstein:

    After the first time throught the lineup, you've established the 6 hitter as the effective 7th hitter and obviously the 7th hitter becomes the effective 8th hitter.

    But you have now moved everyone back a spot and Rizzo is now the 4th hitter, etc. I guess it depends if you want 2 lead off hitters before the big guns the 2nd time through the lineup or want to risk the later hitters being too aggressive because the pitcher comes up one hitter sooner. After twice through the lineup, you now begin pinch hitting for the pitcher one hitter earlier.

    All food for thought but before the saber geeks got involved who thought about pitch framing and how important it might be. Just because it's very seldom done doesn't mean it's wrong, does it?

  • In reply to Cubswin4harry:

    I read or heard during ST that Maddon asked the analytics dept to model the 8-9 options. I think we're seeing the early results.

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    In reply to wthomson:

    I remember Maddon saying something like: "I know it is not the traditional thing to do but when you look at the stats and what happens it is impossible to deny the merit of batting the pitcher 8th." But he, "Maddoningly," didn't give any explanation of what he saw/read that revealed this to him. I can't find the exact quote.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I love the idea. You get your 2 best hitters up in the first inning at 2nd an 3rd hitter. Throughout the season that will result in more plate appearances for them. Then when the lineup turns over, you now have 2 obp guys ahead of your 2 best hitters.

  • Options are extremely valuable.

  • I think the whole trade Castro thing has been blown completely out of proportion. Much like those who wanted to give up on Soler at this time last year...

    Anyways, this will all sort it out itself in time. We have depth, and it's talented depth at that. Some will make it, some wont, others will get injured. The FO certainly has some decisions ahead of them between now and next winter.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Agreed. The talk is always going to center around the guy who most recently struggled (and Castro no matter what he does). I see this year's Soler as Albert Almora. And by that I mean that he'll change peoples minds just as Soler did with a big season.

  • Great read, John! Absolutely agree with all of that. Most of me in actually hoping Bryant continues to struggle defensively at third so we can get him settled in left. That would go a long way to ease the infield tension. I also think LaStella is a real wild card for 2b of the future. This is a big audition period for him.

  • In reply to Ben20:

    Thanks, Ben. So many variables right now that I just kind of want to let it play out and see how things stand 4-5 months from now.

  • Great article John. Best Cubs blog!

  • In reply to stv711:

    Thanks stv!

  • fb_avatar

    I was happy to read that quote from Theo. It just seems obvious to me that they best way to build the team is to trade some of the high-value prospects, instead of moving everyone around so every homegrown player plays together. Especially if they are committed to trying to win now, as well as in the future. I know John and I disagree, but I personally don't think it is as hard to move Castro to second as portrayed in the article. I think it would be unlikely to happen this season, but I think they could do it next year, and Castro would be professional enough to do it. And just based on some of the quotes that Maddon has uttered, it seems likely to me that Russell will play SS. Castro doesn't strike me as the type to say, "If I don't play short, I demand a trade." Or pout if he's moved. I think he'd say, "Whatever helps the team." And he'd mean it.

  • In reply to Cubs Win 009:

    The one thing that could play into Castro being more open to position switch then others is that he already has a long term contract. If he was 2 years from FA and the team asked him to switch from SS to 2B/3B it would be crippling his future earnings capability.

    He also isn't a legacy guy like Jeter where he was chasing all types of records and was seen as not just a face of the most storied franchise in baseball, but a face of baseball in general. The O's has similar issues with Ripken, but he did eventually move after some of the records and stuff were out of the way. None of that factors in with Castro if they ask him to move soon.

    I still find it unlikely he moves, but I am not as certain that it won't happen as some are.

  • I have said for the last 12 months that 2015 would be the year of evaluation of the system as a whole.

    By the end of this season we should know with a fair amount of certainty who is worth keeping and who can be traded.

    In theory, it puts the Cubs in a very advantagous position. What I worry more about now is having too much talent and a no where to put them. If Theo tries trading them, do we get full value for them or do we have to sell lower because of a surplus?

  • In reply to Peanuts:

    "By the end of this season we should know with a fair amount of certainty who is worth keeping and who can be traded."

    IDK if I agree with that statement. What if Russell comes up and struggles for a couple months at the MLB level ala Olt & Baez?

    But I do agree "in spirit" in that what we want is to identify several key or "core" pieces to go with Castro & Rizzo.

    I doubt Epstoyer ever trades anyone meaningful for less than what they feel is full value. But I think we need to get used to the idea that our 26-40 guys are no longer going to clear waivers nor will some of those tough decisions survive the rule 5 draft.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Peanuts:

    No, I think we get full value. If what we have has value then there will be a "bidding war" for their services. Surplus doesn't really play a part in this because the variable is how much the other team values the acquisition of the Cubs' player.

    Look at Castillo. I don't think he is a member of the team and not traded because other teams are trying to "wait the Cubs out." That would be very risky as you would risk losing a chance to acquire the player. I do believe that it is because the Cubs have not gotten an offer that they feel is decent value for him and they are better off keeping him (and carrying 3 catchers). It might elicit a "low-ball" offer and see if they can make a deal that yields them a high relative return but if the other team truly feels they want Castillo they aren't going to NOT trade for him simply because the Cubs have 3 catchers.

    Even more so when dealing with a young player that the Cubs can stash in the minor leagues for a year that supposed leverage for other teams disappears. Theo and Jed will do everything they can to get "full value" for their players. Sometimes they will guess wrong on what "Full value" is (see Ian Stewart) but they will not trade a guy just to get him off the roster.

    As for "having too much talent and nowhere to put them, my vote for quote of the year is: "It’s not like we’re sitting there with five first basemen wondering what the hell we’re going to do with them.”

  • I don't know john it looks like castro has gotten bigger. I just cringe when people say prospect A is going to be a star. I think you set your self up for disappointment even if he is just a good player, I am a wait and see type of guy. We still don't know about guys like AA or olt and lastella. Is it possible that they could ask castro to work on 2B in the off season just to have a second postion to fall back on, that's after they ask if he is ok with moving.

  • In reply to seankl:

    Castro has gotten bigger, but he is just not a big as Russell when it comes to his frame. Castro looks maxed out to me right now, Russell is already bigger and still has room. I think he can get almost as big as Soler if he really wanted too.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Almost big as soler ? That's a big boy .

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Russell was about 215 in HS, then lost about 25 lbs before the draft. Hes got a Jhonny Peralta type build, Hes going to have to work to keep his weight in the 200-210 range, Castro was listed at 190 last year, easily looks 10 lbs or so heavier this yr.

  • In reply to seankl:

    I am a wait and see type of guy too. You will have more information later and can make a better more informed decision. I am not too worried our FO will be making a big mistake. Maybe a couple little ones but most of the decisions will turn out well.

  • The whole log jam thing is overblown. Until late 2016 when the second wave of Schwarber/Almora/McKinney start arriving they have room to get all of these guys ABs. By that time the first wave guys are likely to have been sorted through and the team will have a good idea which are keepers and its possible some of the 2nd wave guys will have regressed or stalled.

    15/16
    2B: La Stella/Baez/Alcantara
    SS: Castro/Russell
    3B: Bryant/Russell/Olt
    LF: Coghlan/Bryant
    CF: Fowler/Alcantara

    If the high ceiling guys all become what we hope then 2B Baez, SS Castro, 3B Russell, LF Bryant with a Alcantara, La Stella, Olt and Coghlan on the bench is amazingly strong and versatile. If Baez (or any of the other top guys) struggle or take longer to develop then expected then that opens the door for increased opportunities for the other guys to grab a full time job.

    They can start evaluating the options of trading one of the SS next offseason if Bryant looks like he has locked down 3B or they just get an offer they can't refuse for one of them, or if one of La Stella/Olt/Alcantara happen to lock down a job this year and look like a long term solution. By then they will also have a better idea of where Schwarber stands defensively and if any plans need to be made to make room for him in LF.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    We're talking a bit down the road here. Possible the Cubs have multiple players who are starting level quality in the infield. Trick is putting the right mix of players together and I think ceiling will play a role, but maybe in a different way then we think. If they feel a high ceiling/high risk player can fetch big quality in trade while a more stable player is a better fit, then they may make that choice. The possiblities seem almost endless and one move affects another. For example, what if they project Baez to be a 4 WAR player while Alcantara or LaStella project as a 3 WAR player -- but teams are willing to give up a far better player for Baez and his upside than they will for LaStella? Maybe the team is better overall if they keep TLS and trade Javy in a package to get a TOR or other impact player at position of need. Maybe they get a better net gain for the organization as a whole.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Yes, those are all indeed options they need to consider in the future, and I have no doubt trades are coming once they determine the right mix or potential holes.

    My comment was more reflective of the general perception that the Cubs need to make a trade simply because they don't have room for everyone. That was something you hadn't really mentioned in the article but is something that is often brought up in discussions, and is simply very unlikely to actually be true until well into 2016 if not later.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    I think there is competition in all the positions. Almora showed me his defensive gift in ST, but Hanneman is there as well and bats LH. Rademacher is another competitor to McKinney in your thoughts as there are other less marque competitors. My thinking is that SD and Bos are so hungry and have catchers who might come available for the right trade in different areas. That all said the roster is by no means set for the next few years.

  • In reply to rnemanich:

    Certainly there is more guys that will get involved, but the main guys are the ones I mentioned. Hanneman is left handed Szczur to me, most likely topping out as a backup. Which is valuable, but not someone I am going out of my way to make room for if someone with a high ceiling (like Almora/Alcantara) is making progress in CF. And I'm not just a passenger on the Rademacher bandwagon, I've been driving that thing for a couple of years, but if he reaches his peak he is a guy like Michael Tucker, and adequate starter, but one you are always looking to upgrade. he is best suited as a 4th OF.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to mjvz:

    They might not want to wait until the offseason, but instead pull the trigger on a trade mid-season to try and win this year.

  • In reply to Cubs Win 009:

    Which is fine with me. If they think they need a SP to give them a contender at the deadline I am perfectly fine with that. I just don't expect them to be in that position.

  • In reply to Cubs Win 009:

    See that's the great unknown here. When people talk about expectations for 2015 it's less about where they'll be at the end of the season than it is about where they'll be in June & July. If they've got a groove going. Lester, Arietta and one other pitcher are pitching above expectations and the record is hovering maybe a few games back of the Division lead but right in the thick of the WC hunt, well then you've a "the future is now moment" and the moves John writes about here that could occur in the offseason might start in earnest at the deadline (I do realize you too mention that possibility John). If they go ahead then and make the playoffs the dynamic starts looking a lot different as does the team. If they're not in the hunt, or the right deal isn't there that dynamic shifts again to the offseason. Pretty hard to gaze into a crystal ball with all that happening.

  • Great problem to have. The big question is which one to trade and
    when. In the case of Castro any time is ok. In the case of Baez,
    Russell and a few others not until the end of the year. Great
    young pitcher(s) are what we need in any trade

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    That's going to be what we will find out, but I disagree on Castro. The only way you trade him is if you get great value. There should be no rush to call Russell up.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Getting great value in return is understood

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John, I'd go a step further. I love Russell, and he gives every indication he'll be a very good, possibly great, MLB player. Yes, his ceiling is higher than what Castro is today.

    But I don't understand why folks think that Russell, rather than Castro, is the untouchable here. It's all about what would come back from the other party in the trade.

    I suppose it's easier to notice Castro's flaws, and take for granted what he brings to the team, than it is to realize Russell will have flaws too, and does have a floor as well as a ceiling. As Cubs fans we're probably even more in love with the prospects than most fans get, because the MLB team has been awful for several years.

    The fact remains, though ... Russell would almost certainly bring more back than Castro. The question is whether the difference in the return is bigger than the difference between Castro and Russell's value ON THE CUBS TEAM RUSSELL WOULD BE ON. Russell could well be worth more to a team with a glaring hole at SS, than he has to the Cubs as a 2B or 3B.

  • In reply to CubMartyrComplex:

    Definitely see what you mean and I have the makings of a second article on that sort of thing -- which I call the trade value perception gap. I think Castro's value is still at buy-low status for other teams and Cubs have no intention of doing that. A lesser but more tangible and recent example is the Welington Castillo situation. Teams don't value him high enough to make it worthwhile for the Cubs to make a trade, so they decided he would hold more value to the team.

    It's easy for us as fans to say trade Castro and keep Russell, but we saw the Mets balked at even giving up Tim Wheeler, who now looks to be out for a long time with TJ surgery ahead. It's a big picture decision and the key isn't necessarily keeping the very best players as it is making the moves that give them the biggest net value overall.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    "The key isn't necessarily keeping the very best players as it is making the moves that give them the biggest net value overall." Yes, exactly.

  • Offensively, the Cubs could put together a 16" softball team of mashers but its the defensive side that breeds the interest here. Other teams that went for this many young players elevating together (still not at this proportion) that I can think of was the late 90's Cleveland Indians and 90's Braves Teams. But what the Cubs good do is almost completely insane, again if they all develop into full time major leaguers.

    Looking at how offensively strong this team could be, does Defense necessarily have to be a top priority. Personally, I say yes, but does it have to be just good enough at key spots?

  • In reply to Gator:

    I watched the early 90s Indians teams grow up with Baerga, Belle, Alomar, Thome and ManRam. The Cubs of today have a very similair feeling. Dont forget, those Indians teams traded for Omar Vizquel to play SS and Signed vet pitchers like Dennis Martinez and Orel Hershiser to complete the team.

  • The team and the venue are both works in progress, and will be throughout the decade. As a STH, my goal last year was simply to have a reason to stay for the final out (no blowouts at home, and don't throw the game away with mental errors and an imploding bullpen). For the last 3/4 of the season, they basically achieved that goal. This year, I want every September game to be meaningful. With the last six on the road, we should still be in wild card contention through the last home game. It sucks to watch other teams clinch at Wrigley, hopefully a thing of the past. The grass may be greener in LA or DC, but teams with $300M payrolls, or three TOR pitchers, all fell last year. Anything can happen in a short series. Just need to get into the dance. If not this year, definitely next year, and keep knocking year after year. Sit back, have a beer, let the front office and coaches do their thing, and enjoy the journey.

  • John, compliments on making me look up the Settlers of Cataan theory and suddenly see game theory. With advanced math students I often discuss how and why complex mathematics is used even in every day ways, game theories is a common thing, but never saw this application. There is little doubt that Epstein/Hoyer are game theorists and I think so is Maddon/Martinez. I think I can see their long view, offensively OBP/Slg and defensively versatility and superior defensive metrics of making every normal play. Pitching is all about controlling the strike zone and getting deeper into the games, while bullpen is all about efficiency of getting high leverage outs. Anyway kudos two days in a row for a fine article.

    BTW home, sick but on comp time, as Cubs open Coors Field this afternoon. Looking at the Cubs as we go forward start looking how they build their resources feeding to the big club. Trades as Hoyer said will be big, players of talent but that don't fit, will be dealt for players who do fit. Just look at La Stella---not anything marque while parting with a huge potential Vizcaino and now La Stella fits in OBP and defensive versatility.

  • In reply to rnemanich:

    Ha! I didn't know it was a real theory. I thought I made it up! Apparently someone has beaten me to the punch.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    https://developingcatan.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/settlers-of-catan-analysis.pdf

  • A couple people have alluded to this, but I think one of the most interesting (and awesome) things about the Cubs' current line-up is there are very few places on the diamond where there isn't an obvious fit within a year or two, and further, where they're not already set for several years. Maybe whichever position between LF and 3B that Bryant doesn't take, but that's it.

    1B - Rizzo
    2B - Baez/Russell/La Stella
    SS - Castro/Russell
    3B - Bryant/Olt/La Stella
    LF - Coghlan/Bryant
    CF - Fowler/Almora
    RF - Soler
    C - Montero/Castillo/Schwarber

    What does this say to me? Any impact trades (i.e. Castro, Almora) would get us young, quality pitching back. Yeah, some of these guys could falter, but they look pretty good so far and it's certainly too early to give up on any of them.

    Fair to say?

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    In reply to Matt Mosconi:

    For depth at 1B try Olt, Bryant (somehow Bryant reminds me of Mark Teixeira--I don't know why).

    As for impact trades why would they necessarily get us young, quality pitching back? Remember last year almost all the trade scenarios for Samardzija OR Hammel (I don't recall anyone advocating trading them together) was "young, quality pitching." We traded them for 2 players who are very good but are not pitchers. Epstein and Hoyer seem most interested in acquiring best value. They will worry about position later. Maybe it is something where they will say, "Let's trade player A for player B, let player B's value increase and then trade him for Pitcher X because player A isn't going to net us Pitcher X at this point."

  • Baez is the real wildcard here. Hopefully the FO can get it right with him by either trading for a boatload of talent before he fails or holding on to him and reaping the benefits if makes it big . He is hit or miss, I just hope they get max value whether they keep or trade him.

  • John,
    With all do repect Russell has proven one thing to amateur scouts if was he can control his diet and exercise routines to maintain his body. He filled out in HS and slimmed himself down again. At the very worst he becomes Jhonny Peralta a SS with outstanding hands, great baseball IQ and instincts. I know my mentor was OK with keeping Castro at SS but the lack of overall instincts from a SS really eats at me. The Bat yes I can see a place for but not at SS.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    I asked a very experienced scout on this and Maddon backs him up. He is going to have to be mindful to stay at his current weight.

    Always possible, but I'd be shocked if Castro plays another position for this team. If Russell is the SS they'll trade Castro.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    is it a concern yes but doesn't mean it will happen Specially if the player is aware of it. Russell is very aware and has been taking precautions to keep himself at SS. I still think Castro could push himself off SS. He is also getting bigger across the chest and lower half.
    I am still very concerned about Castro's baseball IQ, instincts and ability to take charge in the field are what is needed for a contending MLB SS.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    The funny thing is everything that is being said about Russell was being said about Castro 3 yrs ago As far as he was going to out grow the position.

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    This a great problem to have. Unless we perform as a stistical oddity, half of these guys won't pan out. If four of the top eight pan out to be starting level MLB players, that will be awesome.

  • Strongly disagree that you could never move Castro off SS eventually if Russell proves to be better defensively there over the next few years.

  • In reply to Eric:

    You can strongly disagree but it would be pretty much an unprecedented move to move a rookie to SS and bump off a veteran who has played well. I can't think of any recent examples where a player in his prime has been asked to change positions for a rookie. For me it is wishful thinking, a case of wanting to have our cake and eat it too, but history says it rarely -- if ever happens, the way Cubs fans want to draw this up.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Ryan Theriot moved off short to second for a rookie (Castro). Bogaerts, who I believe is a rookie, is playing shortstop for the Red Sox, while Ramirez is in LF. Now I'm sure you'd say apples-to-oranges, and you might be right, but those popped into my head. I bet I could dig and find others. The question isn't whether Castro would move to second, because I am sure he'd be willing to do it. The question is whether the team would get more value out of trading him, or keeping him at second.

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    In reply to Cubs Win 009:

    The best examples are Michael Young moving for Elvis Andrus and Asdrubal Cabrera being traded to clear space for Lindor. Different scenarios though since they were either older (Young) or about to become more expensive (Cabrera).

    The best case for trading Castro is that many in the leadership have suggested that the team needs to be balanced. Right now the team is about as balanced as CJ Edwards and Bartolo Colon on a teeter totter. Castro may be the guy who goes to get some LH/OBP types in the lineup.

  • In reply to Cubs Win 009:

    Ryan Theriot was barely a starting caliber player when he was moved.

    Bogaerts moved to 3B when he came up, while the vet Drew played SS. Once Drew left, the team moved Bogaerts back to SS. Ramirez was signed specifically to play LF as a FA.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    About the only guy I can think of who regularly was asked to shift position as and established ML-level player was Michael Young.

    Was primarily a 2B guy before a guy named A-Rod left as SS, and a guy named Soriano was brought in to play 2B,.... then shifted to SS for the 2005 season. Stayed a SS when Kinsler moved into 2B after Soriano left.

    Then Young shifted to 3B when Elvis Andrus was brought up in 2009.

    Then come 2011,.... with the signing of Beltre as 3B - became the 'man with no set position' for the Rangers.

    Point is,... it happens,... although it is rare. And as I recall,.... Young was more than a bit grumpy about becoming the 'man with no set position'.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    Young was very vocal about not moving off SS even though it was clearly in the team's best interest. But he was a 'leader' and 'clutch' and 'gritty' so people still liked him after that.

    Asking these guys to move is a shot at their pride and potential earnings ability down the road. Being a SS on the open market is much more lucrative than being a 3B or 2B.

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