In our last article we talked about the huge rumor involving the Cubs and Yankees possibly making a blockbuster trade involving some of the best lefty relievers in the game. When these types of rumors surface, many fans immediately contemplate who the Cubs should trade. Unfortunately their sights always seem to involve players from the major league roster.
Let’s take a step back from the ledge for a minute. We ask you. How did the Cubs get to where they are now? It was a pretty simple formula. They sold off aging assets for youth with low floors and high ceilings. Then they drafted the best player available each year under Theo and company.
Do you remember the Addison Russell acquisition? Immediately after it was made, most fans threw their hands up in disgust. “Another damn shortstop,” they screamed! This was immediately followed by, “we need pitching!” Only after the dust settled was a second thought given to the trade.
The Cubs didn’t care about how many great players they had at shortstop. It would work itself out. What happened was a glut of positional players in an age where other teams still hold onto the idea that “pitching wins.” This was a risky proposition for an organization to make. It’s still an age old idea that the only way to be truly successful in baseball is to load up on pitching.
But nonetheless, here we are. The Cubs have practically cornered the market in big bats. These big bats DO NOT end with the major league roster. Even after graduating top prospects over the past 12 to 18 months, the Cubs are still ranked with the #4 system in all of baseball. Here’s a side note. They were ranked at #4 because the “experts” still think the system is void of pitching.
This of course means, the Cubs are still loaded with bats! This was the final part of the major plan in the rebuild. Instead of taking the higher risk with developing pitchers, the Cubs would acquire the best bats they could. Then after deciding who would be part of the long term solution to the team at Wrigley, they would sell off parts that seemed to be blocked from any chance of playing in Chicago.
Last Winter we saw the first signals of this plan. Both Starlin Castro and Jorge Soler were put on the negotiating table. A suitable trade partner was found for Castro and he was traded. The same couldn’t be said for Soler, so he remained as part of the team. We should remember that it was just a year earlier that both of these players were named by many in the media as “core” players.
Well it seems that core players must change from year to year. Castro is gone. His name is no longer mentioned. Soler is this year’s red headed step child and fans want to run him out of town. He still may be traded but only if the right deal can be made. There is no rush! The Cubs have the market’s hottest commodity. We have the hitters.
Eventually a team will realize that the need some offense. They will offer a fair price for our hitters. Until then we wait. Just like the price of oil back in the 70’s, the price of hitters will go up and up. A sort of baseball frenzy where teams panic in their need for offense.
This brings us back to the Cubs plan. This rebuild will be tried to be replicated by others. This is especially true if the Cubs win the World Series in 2016. So a few teams that find themselves near the bottom of the pack have nothing to lose. The will try to sell off some assets and get younger. Other teams may look to sell off pitching for a bat. Evolution happens.
The Cubs are now a team that will be going for the Championship over the next 2 years while Arrieta is under control. They will then look to much younger guys in year 5-7 to take over for guys that will be ready to hit free agency. They are set up perfectly for this. As a matter of fact, they have a few players that fall in between those to levels.
Here is a list of guys we feel fit that mold:
- Dan Vogelbach – The big lefty 1B is having a breakout season at Iowa. He currently has a line of .308/.430/.540 with 12 HR’s and 39 RBI’s. He K rate is 21.7% and has an outstanding BB rate of 16.7%. Unfortunately for Dan the Cubs don’t have a DH slot and this guy named Anthony Rizzo playing 1B until at least 2020.
- Jaime Candelario – The #7 ranked prospect in the system is also on the 40 man roster. He impressed Joe Maddon at Spring training and was recently promoted to Iowa. He is off to an extremely hot start to AAA ball and may very well get to the show in September. But with all the infield depth currently on the roster will he be in Chicago or somewhere else?
- Matt Szczur – Not exactly a prospect but seems to be stuck at a level of 5th outfielder for the Cubs. Will he ever be considered a core piece at the big league level? He could probably get a whole lot more playing time with 2/3 of the teams out there.
- Mark Zagunis – He’s not on the 40 man roster so there there is still time. But his bat is screaming for the FO to take another good look. Originally drafted as a catcher, he could be the perfect addition should the Cubs decide to trade Soler. Or a rebuilding team may target him as the young outfielder needed to build around.
- Victor Carotini – Acquired from Atlanta, Carotini was supposed to be the catcher of the future. He has a line of .299/.396/.393 for the Smokies. If not for the play of Contreras, we’d probably hear a lot more of this backstop. Plenty of teams out there need catching and he would make a nice backup for the Cubs in a few short years.
- Chesny Young – What’s not to love? He has hit and hit and hit since being drafted. The defense is more than adequate and profiles as a 2B. As we all know, the Cubs are loaded with middle infielders. So the question remains, does he make it to the show with Chicago or somewhere else?
- Billy McKinney – He was in the blockbuster deal that also brought the Cubs Addison Russell. Still very young at only 21 years old. But his left-handed bat got him to AA ball rather quickly. Profiles as a 4th outfielder for the Cubs but could start for a few other teams that may be rebuilding.
- Bijan Rademacher – Is now 25 years old and has quietly climbed up the ladder in the system since he was drafted in the 13th round in 2012. He is a clutch hitter that seems to always get the big hit when it’s needed.
There are 8 players on this that are at the AA level or higher and could impact a major league team as soon as September of this year. They are all somewhat blocked by guys in Chicago. Many guys could be a major piece for a club looking to rebuild.
In our opinion, a pick 3 package should be more than enough to land that rumored left handed reliever such as Andrew Miller. A pick 2 package could land you Sean Doolittle. And finally, a pick any one of these guys should land you the rental of Chapman.
As we know the Cubs are also in the market to still land the young impact starting pitcher. It’s still not an emergency to do so. As a matter of fact, if you really examine what the Cubs have done in the draft since 2014, you see that they have addressed the pitching with volume. It is very possible we could start to hear much more about these pitchers very soon.
The Cubs are also very close to getting a new TV deal. It would be a total game changer. We see how it instantly gave the Dodgers the ability to go after absolutely anyone that hits the market. The Cubs have shown that they have enough money to go after some key free agents such as Jon Lester and Jason Heyward in back to back years. Ownership has also said that if Theo feels like he needs to add more payroll at the trade deadline, the money would not be a hinderance.
So it may be very possible for the Cubs to continue to buy pitching when needed. This just enhances the leverage they have. If you have the money to sign guys when the need arises, there is no need to make a trade because of panic. This of course leads to an even larger logjam at the minor league level.
There are still more high ceiling prospects in the lower levels. These guys of course may not push there way up for many more years. They fit more into the idea of filling in the voids from guys that leave for any reason suchh as injuries that always seem to happen or still more trade pieces to fill needs at the big league level.
So with all that said, we can see why the Cubs just don’t jump at any trade rumor out there. It’s why they don’t need to panic when a Kyle Schwarber is lost for the season to injury. It’s why you don’t trade a young Jorge Soler because he struggled for a few months. It’s why you hold onto Javier Baez when he comes up to the majors and strikes out 40% of the time. It all comes into focus a little better.