The Cubs’ Trade Pieces

A Different Theme

This would have been a different article in years past. The Cubs have been perpetual sellers for the entirety of Theo Epstein and his regime’s tenure up until this season, which has seen them grow into a legitimate contender for a playoff spot. The Cubs still have long-term plans in mind, but the immediacy with which they’ve been able compete has put them in a position to buy rather than sell.

At this point, we have articles on articles about who is available for the Cubs to pluck, but this article will take a different tenor. I will present to you players who the Cubs might find themselves having to part with for a run at postseason glory. I’ve excluded some names that I don’t feel make much sense for the Cubs to trade given what they’ve said publicly and what I interpret their needs to be. Jake Arrieta, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Jon Lester will not be found here. I’ve also excluded the 2015 draft class as they can’t be traded until after the World Series.

Major pieces

Jorge Soler – This one is a bit out of the box for the purposes of this exercise, but bear with me here. The Cubs collection of talent is such that they could feasibly depart with a few offensive assets and survive the blow. Soler is a unique case in that his contract is very team friendly, and even though he’s flashed competence he’s still mostly promise over production. The talent is there and the arm out in right field is a definite weapon. Soler’s power is a very real tool as well and it will make him a valuable commodity should the Cubs decide to move him.

Trade Value – A- It’s unlikely that the Cubs consider moving Soler, but he’s not an untouchable asset. Should they get a proposal they like for Soler I can see them moving him as he does have good value and the Cubs have roster flexibility behind him.

Starlin Castro – I hesitate to jump on the subject because the player is beyond polarizing. Reactions to any single thing he does range from the deep apologists who will forgive him for just about any sin to those who get mad at him for posting casual photos on Instagram. Castro’s struggles in 2013 and now 2015 aren’t helping the situation either. His bat was always going to have to carry him because he won’t draw many walks and his work at shortstop is inconsistent at best. Castro has a team-friendly deal and a history of hitting behind his back. A team is likely to take a chance on him figuring it out at the right price.

Trade Value – B- …and trending downwards. Castro’s struggles in 2015 are reminiscent of his difficulties in 2013. His glove will move off of short sooner rather than later, so unless Castro’s bat wakes up in a major way before the deadline it’s unlikely he gets moved while his value is trending so poorly.

Kyle Schwarber – He’s a hard worker with a feel for baseball. Both of those traits will give him an opportunity to catch once or twice a week to start his career, which is no small feat. The body doesn’t look like it will be up to catching full time over the long haul, however, and the rest of his defensive skill set belongs in left field. Schwarber can hit and he’s showcased that ability all throughout his professional career. His approach and power potential will be a sought after commodity should the Cubs put him on the market.

Trade Value – B This is about as good as Schwarber’s stock can get before the deadline. He’s showcased some ability at catcher and he has continued to mash at the plate.

Reclamation Projects

Javier Baez – On the one hand, we have the extreme ceiling that Baez’s profile carried all throughout his years as a prospect. On the other, we have the extreme struggles in the minors and majors from last year that paint a neat picture of a profile that is being pulled in two directions at once. Baez’s inability to adjust to what pitchers at the major-league level were doing to him was alarming, but he was hitting well at Triple-A this year before the injuries. Baez has an extreme and risky profile here and perhaps the Cubs would be wise to move him and let someone else find out if he’s a Quad-A player while he still has some value.

Trade Value – C Before the injury there were some signs of encouragement from the young Baez. Still, the lingering aftertaste of his major-league work in 2014 and continued approach concerns might be enough to keep some GMs at bay regarding a trade.

Arismendy Alcantara – Plus speed, sneaky power, feel for defense—the only thing keeping Alcantara from a starting role is his immature hit tool. Alcantara’s athleticism and strong wrists earned him praise as a prospect, but his inability or unwillingness to go the other way is a cause for concern for a player who has the ability to contribute in a multitude of ways. Alcantara was seen as a super-utility player for the Cubs heading into the year, but he might have more value bringing in another arm than trying to figure out an approach at the major-league level.

Trade Value – B- Adjustments are vital at the highest level of baseball, and to this point Alcantara hasn’t shown an ability to adjust to the league. There is upside in the package as his ability to play multiple positions and Swiss Army Knife-esque skill set are intriguing, but the entire package depends on the development of the main knife: the hit tool. He’s a good trade candidate, but it’ll be as a second piece rather than a headliner.

Top Prospects

Albert Almora – The concerns about Almora’s ability to utilize his hit tool were creeping up last year as he struggled mightily in Double-A. The struggles have continued this year; the hit tool isn’t maturing at the pace that was expected out of him during his time in the lower minors and he’s yet to make the adjustments necessary to even show hints of improvement to date. There’s a point at which talent and production need to meld and Almora now finds himself at those crossroads. Almora’s defense was always going to be the carrying tool with the package, but without the benefit of a plus hit tool the bat drags his overall profile down a considerable notch. Almora’s trade value is as low as it can get while still being a viable prospect at this point.

Trade Value – B- The Cubs likely had designs on Almora coming up mid-season next summer and taking over the center-field job, but that looks unlikely now given his recent struggles. There’s some value here via the glove at a premium defensive position.

Gleyber Torres – The odds are long on this one. Torres has displayed an amazing amount of maturity and feel during his time in South Bend. His hit tool is his most impressive skill, but Torres’ entire game is sound, mature, and well-rounded. Torres is a name that would be a popular ask should the Cubs enter the starting pitcher market, but the Cubs love his makeup and on-the-field skills.

Trade Value – B+ Torres’ stock is sky high at this point and he likely finds himself in a similar situation as Schwarber and Soler. Sure, the Cubs would prefer to hold onto those assets, but I don’t think the Cubs will balk if the right deal is there.

Duane Underwood – Once a lost arm with no semblance of command, Underwood has come around in a big way. Underwood’s command improved greatly at the tail-end of 2014 and his change has developed into a viable pitch this year. He’s been shut down since June 30th with elbow inflammation, but it doesn’t appear to be too serious, and Underwood has had an impressive 2015 season all around.

Trade Value – B- Any kind of injury will raise an eyebrow when it comes to a pitching prospect. Underwood’s stock is higher than it was last year, but at this point he’s still a second piece and is not ready to headline a major deal.

Billy McKinney – It was at this time last year that the Cubs landed Addison Russell and Billy McKinney for Jeff Samardzija. Since then, McKinney has displayed natural hitting ability and has raised his stock from second piece to noted second piece in the Samardzija deal.

Trade Value – B- McKinney is a solid player and he’s going to be a contributor at the major-league level, but don’t get caught up in the numbers here. McKinney is still a second-piece type.

Pierce Johnson – Another year, another injury. Johnson’s stuff has never been the question. He has four pitches, including a potential plus fastball/curveball combination and a cutter that has been coming along since last year. He missed the first part of the season with a back injury and has had mixed results regarding the development of his command since his return in June.

Trade value – C This is less reflective of his talent potential and more reflective of his inability to stay healthy. The Cubs could have used him at various points this season, but he hasn’t come along far enough in the command department and he’s been hurt, leading to guys like Clayton Richard and Dallas Beeler getting starts.

The others

Eloy Jimenez has been impressive and will certainly garner some attention from trade suitors. The upside is there but he’s likely just a second or third piece at this juncture. … Once a starter, Carl Edwards Jr. is now a reliever and in a role that best suits his skill set. Relief prospects don’t tend to get much value in return, so his value is pretty low compared to what it was a year ago. … Jen-Ho Tseng’s taken a step back this year and it’s hurt his trade value as there’s just not a lot of projection left with him. … Dan Vogelbach and Kyle Schwarber are frequently mentioned as trade candidates because there’s no DH in the NL. Vogelbach’s stock has taken a dip with the sudden power drought he’s experienced this year. … Christian Villanueva’s stock is not dead; he can be a useful throw-in as a second-division starter in a deal.

Lead photo courtesy of Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

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