Baseball executives and reporters are all arriving in Nashville. There’s a buzz in the air. Insiders are all on board with Theo Epstein when he said he expects the Winter Meetings to be wild. We can honestly say that we agree and expect to see more trades than usual just because the price of these free agents are through the roof.
You can’t go into the offseason with a rigid set of demands. Things just change to quickly. Players you target have other plans. Your budget never seems to be enough. Other teams grab the guy you want before you can. It’s much better to understand that circumstances force you to be much more “loosey goosey”, but still try to follow a plan.
The Cubs are still looking for another starting pitcher, a center fielder and yesterday we learned a big name closer. It has also become clear that the thought of trading just one of our young studs may not be enough. Most teams want both Soler and Baez to be bundled for an impact cost controlled pitcher. The Cubs would still like to trade Castro but his value is at an all time low.
So the Cubs seem to be at an impasse. Do they shake it up and bundle Soler and Baez together? Or do they stay the course that won them 97 games last year. The signing of John Lackey buys them 2 more years of time and they are not forced to sell out and go for it as some like to say. They could easily still sign a guy like Denard Span or Gerardo Parra to play CF.
But the Cubs have an issue that is getting bigger and bigger. They simply have too much talent! Not everyone is going to play, and playing musical chairs with players and their positions only works in a pinch. Sooner or later a guy is playing in a position that isn’t natural for him and it really starts to affect his play.
We just don’t think the Cubs stockpiled all this talent to just sit on them. Evaluations have been taking place since the day these players arrived. There have been ongoing discussions about the long term fit of these guys. The plan all along was to have a surplus so that you could trade off a guy or two without setting the organization back 2 decades.
This is extremely difficult for some Cubs fans to comprehend much less accept.
Nightmares of Lou Brock still haunt many even though they weren’t alive to see Lou Brock play. Things are just different now. The Cubs don’t rely on just one or two guys to carry the team. We have an abundance of talent never seen before on the Northside.
We also don’t believe in an “untouchable” player. Anyone can be traded if the right price is paid. But with that said, there are a few select players on the current roster that we could safely say will not be traded because we would not get our price.
So let’s prioritize the list starting with those guys.
We can assume that from the starting rotation Arrieta, Lester and Lackey will not be traded. There is not much debate there. In the infield it is probably safe to say that Bryant, Russell and Rizzo are in the same boat. The only guy in the outfield that could board that boat would be Schwarber.
We know that this already makes your blood pressure go up. You are already shouting out your love for Soler, Baez and Castro. We leave them off the list simply because we know the front office has been linked to dealing any of those three guys. Can we agree on that?
In the long term any one of those guys could be replaced within our own system. It might not be in 2016, but it could happen as soon as 2017. So trading one or all three could happen with the thought that by 2017 we could see a better replacement. Guys like Ian Happ, Gleyber Torres, Eddy Julio Martinez, or possibly Eloy Jimenez not to mention others are close to Wrigley.
So what it comes down to for this FO is pretty simple. If we bundle both Soler and Baez in a trade, will the return make us stronger next season but more importantly for beyond 2016? We think there are deals out there that make sense in this light.
Two teams come to mind as a trade partner. Those teams are the Indians and Rays. We will look at deals for both these clubs that make sense. The deals have to be a win for both teams or they just don’t make sense and just would not be made.
The first team has been talked about for seems like forever. The Indians have 2 pitchers that interest the Cubs in Salazar and Carrasco. The Cubs have also liked Lonnie Chisenhall for some time now. The Indians are set at SS and 2B but need help at 3B and the OF. They want both Soler and Baez to fill those holes.
The Cubs would get Chisenhall and Carrasco or Salazar. Both fan bases would throw there arms up in disgust. Fans need to feel they won a trade. Cub fans in particular would be watching the box scores and reporting on Twitter what Soler and Baez have accomplished for years to come! But organizations shouldn’t make moves in fear of what fans might think. Winning a World Series has priority over fans emotions that change daily.
With yesterday’s news that the Cubs were looking for a big name closer, the Rays came into focus immediately. Why? The known available closer in Chapman and Miller are just too expensive right now. If we are going to package both Baez and Soler in a trade, we need to get more than a year of Chapman or 3 years of Miller.
The advantage of dealing with the Rays is that they have many players that could interest the Cubs. They have Kevin Kiermaier in CF, Logan Forsythe at 2B, Brad Boxberger as a closer and a bevy of starting pitching. Tampa is also in a never ending cycle of looking for cost controlled players because their fans just don’t support the team.
So we think the Cubs look to land Brad Boxberger and Chris Archer for Soler, Baez and Pierce Johnson. It might seem like and overpay but feel like it might be part of a bigger plan. Both Archer and Boxberger would become free agents in 2020. But this then means the Cubs need both a RF and a CF.
We could see the Cubs shock the baseball world and land Jason Heyward. But Peter Gammons is still reporting that the Cubs are in on Alex Gordon. Gordon would play RF in Gammons reports and be significantly cheaper. If Gordon is the guy then we may see the return of Austin Jackson to play CF until Almora is ready.
Of the two teams, the Tampa trades looks to be more difficult to pull off but would pay the bigger rewards. It really makes an extension of Arrieta not as important. If the Cubs just let him walk, they could get a draft pick as compensation. Duane Underwood would be coming onto the scene as well as a few other knocking on the door.
None of these deals have to be made. The Cubs won 97 games last year and really only need to tweak things. But Theo did say things could get wild. Will the Cubs be one team living on the wild side? Winter meetings start tomorrow!