Here we are again, fans. It’s Christmas in July for baseball fans all over the world. No matter if you’re a fan of a division doormat looking to unload current productive assets for the future upside of prospect-galore, or if you’re a fan of a team looking to add that “missing piece” for a run at that elusive(like, 100+ year elusive) World Series this is the time of year that is exciting.
The Chicago Cubs have been on both ends of the spectrum since Theo Epstein took over 5 years ago and the current success of the ballclub has a whole lot to do with the success Theo had being a basement team selling ML talent for the future of prospects. We highlighted many of those in this piece here highlighting the 5 reasons to be thankful for Theo last Thanksgiving.
However, that is not where the Chicago Cubs reside any more. We are no longer a team selling major league talent for the potential upside of prospects. Instead, we are a team BUYING current major league talent to help with our team by using the CURRENCY that is a minor league prospect. That said, just because you have a TON OF PROSPECT CURRENCY doesn’t mean you are reckless with your “funds”. That’s how you become poor.
To put it into real-life context we have all heard stories of famous athletes who made millions upon millions of dollars in their career only to be bankrupt by the time of retirement. For whatever their reasons, there was recklessness and irresponsibility in the choices that led to the inevitable outcome. Just because you have it and CAN spend it, doesn’t mean you have to or should spend it. Like said athlete, ideally you want to be able to spend on the IMPORTANT items you NEED now, while still having the funds in the bank that help to set up yourself for a substantial retirement; or the “long-term” view.
So with that, let’s take a look at how Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer may be able to address their “upgrading their house”(Short-term Needs) without risking their “retirement”(long-term view).
As with any dynamic that involves trade(goods for currency, players for propects), what first needs to be identified is what your immediate needs are and how much money you have to purchase them.
The Cubs immediate needs are no secret. While the bullpen ERA is 12 ranked in the MLB as of the week before the all-star break, it is no secret that they lack “that guy” who can come in and shut the door without question when needed. I would call this the “roof”. You’ve got to update your roof when the time comes or before you know it you’ve got water leaking into the house…The Cubs acquisition of a shutdown reliever will fix any potential “leaks”.
The Air Conditioner(rotation)
Secondly, the rotation. Now to be fair, the Cubs have the best starting rotation ERA in the NL at the break even when considering the poor stretch heading into the all-star weekend. However, we have all seen the Jeckly and Hyde that is Jason Hammel in his pre and post allstar break production. Without question those concerns are as much present now as those struggles have shown themselves a bit earlier this season.
We’ll call the starting rotation the Air Conditioner. Right now, it’s not quite broken but it does trip the fuse box every once in a while when you kick it on. It’s becoming a nuisance. Does it need to be completely replaced? Absolutely not. Does it need some tweaking? I would say yes. Who wants to continue to change fuses in the dead-heat of August?
KITCHEN CABINETS( Corner OF)
Lastly, corner outfield spot. Before everyone jumps down my throat understand I realize we have A TON of redundancy there. I mean, forget about Soler, Contreras, Szczur, Heyward, Fowler(CF), and Almora. ( A rotation that would make most teams elated). The Cubs can mess around and throw Bryant in LF and have the number 1 LF in the game out there at any given time as well as put Zobrist in RF whenever they choose. That’s not even bringing up the fan-favorite redhead at AAA in Matt Murton. The Cubs have corner OF’ers.
Still, though, the Cubs are heavily involved in rumors surrounding Josh Reddick. This has been a guy I have been clamoring for the Cubs to land for about a year now. Truth be told as well, Theo’s initial construction of this team included a highly intelligent OBP-type lefty with some pop in LF in Kyle Schwarber, and he went down. No doubt, if the price is right, Theo would love to get another version of that construction on the lineup card this season. We will call the corner OF the kitchen cabinets. They’re fine. Nothing needs to be done. It’s not a nuisance. However, if Home Depot(Billy Beane) puts any on the clearance shelf then Theo is taking a trip down that aisle.
So there we have it. The Cubs needs/wants list going into the trade deadline. Now let’s look at currency.
WE HAVE ASSETS
The Cubs have a TON of currency. The corner OF spot may give Theo the deepest pockets of any team in the league at that position. Up the middle of the field, the Cubs don’t just have a Baez/Russell cost-controlled combo to go with Zobrist and LaStella for massive depth at the Major League level. No, they also have Gleyber Torres, Ian Happ, and Chesny Young at the minor league level that any team would love to get back in a trade.(Yes, even Chesny- who we highlighted here)
Obviously the Cubs have more than just currency up-the-middle of the diamond and in the corner OF spots. Vogelbach’s career minor league numbers are better than top-50 prospect and recently called up Pirates 1B Josh Bell and is beyond blocked at the Major League Level with Rizzo, there isn’t a team in the American League that wouldn’t want Vogelbach. At the hot-corner there is Future’s Game selection for the World Team in Jeimer Candelario who has already had a cup of coffee with the Cubs and is a switch-hitter. Going further down the system you’ve got Vosler at 3b who has also shown some really nice potential in high-A Myrtle Beach.
Eloy Jimenez, Mark Zagunis, and Billy McKinney continue to add to the OF depth we’ve already eluded to and Victor Caratini is a catching prospect that may be somewhat underrated nationally due to the Cubs young catcher Willson Contreras being so damn good.
So, yes, we’ve got deep pockets. However, notice I didn’t place Kyle Schwarber on that list. Some fans have clamored that it makes sense to include Schwarber this season to get that shutdown bullpen arm. That’s not what the Cubs do. If Schwarber is ever moved then it will be in a package for a controllable ace starter that will likely be needed to replace Arrieta, and those types of trades typically take place in the offseason. Paying premium prices for shiny objects is how those athletes went bankrupt. Theo is trying to win championships NOW while also setting the Cubs up for retirement.(being competitive consistently for decades).
So with these parameters who may the Cubs go after? I’ll start by fixing the roof and getting what we truly need added into the bullpen.
The obvious one? Andrew Miller. Everyone and their heirs have chimed in on the Cubs “need” for Andrew Miller. The national media has run a campaign to get Kyle Schwarber to New York that either Presidential candidate should be jealous of. There is a ton of smoke and there should be; he’s the top of the crop.
Having a dominant year and coming at the extremely reasonable price of 9 million per for the 2 seasons following this one, Andrew Miller would be perfect if the cost is right.
Soler, Vogelbach, Candelario? I honestly wouldn’t be upset with that cost. I believe you are paying at market price for a true need, not a want. A lot of that depends on how you see Soler. I personally feel he still has value as a key piece in a move for a bullpen arm, some believe he has no value whatsoever, while others believe he shouldn’t be moved unless it’s for Mike Trout or Clayton Kershaw.(I’m being sarcastic, but you get the point). He is this years Castro. I believe Soler definitely has value due to his age, cost-control/arbitration years, and what he did last season in the playoffs. That said, he could just as easily spend 70% of his career on the DL and he certainly has defensive questions galore with his hamstrings at this point. Candelario and Vogelbach I really like, however even if we put Bryant in LF permanently at some point it will be because Baez or Torres are at 3B and Happ is at 2b to Russell at SS. Plenty of options there. I think we all know why Vogelbach is expendable.
Other options in the bullpen include:
Fernando Abad, Aroldis Chapman, John Axford, Sean Dolittle(if he gets healthy), Ryan Madson, and Dellin Betances. Plug and play. The Cubs have plenty of assets to make put someone into a Cubs uniform.
To fix the A/C(rotation) for THIS season the Cubs will more-or-less simply need to call out a maintenance man. I believe that maintenance man is former Cub Rich Hill. His career renaissance has continued nicely this season in Oakland where Theo’s good buddy Billy Beane just happens to reside. Rich Hill will not be an Oakland A on August 2nd, so the only question is what team will he be on. Considering he comes without any additional years of control or a Q.O. that the acquiring team can extend he will come cheaper than most.
If the Cubs decide to go all willy- nilly and just buy a brand new HVAC to fix their potential problem that is lingering in a 1.5 years,(Jake Arrieta free agency) then Julio Teheran of the Braves may be the only pitcher that could be had at the trade deadline that fits the short-term need while still helping the Cubs maintain their long-term strategy. We spoke about both the Jake Arrieta conundrum here and why Teheran may be a perfect fit here.
Finally, the corner outfield spot. The Cubs have plenty of options, but as previously indicated, Theo Epstein originally had a different vision with this outfield. A deal with Oakland seems to have the potential to fit all the Cubs needs AND wants in a package for Axford, Reddick, and Hill. That may be too wishful of thinking, however. The Cubs also could call their division counterpart Cincinnati Reds and try to take advantage of Walt Jocketty in an attempt to acquire Jay Bruce. Remember, though, the only way the Cubs get a corner OF bat is if these guys are on the clearance rack. Otherwise, we’re set.
So there you have it. A few options going into the break. The Cubs have plenty of currency to make the needed moves without risking their longterm vision. Don’t be surprised if Gleyber or Happ are gone by this coming offseason, but also don’t be surprised if they are both here. The Cubs have more than enough ammunition to fill their needs on THEIR terms.
Your turn. Plug and play and let us know some deals you think may make sense for the Cubs in the next few weeks.