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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Cubs Trader Django: The 2013 Turning Point for Theo & Co.



While the sun has not shone brightly on the Cubs lately, this July the trade market will reflect the greatest turning point in the 20-month Theo Epstein & Jed Hoyer led front office.

The reason: pitching.

The abundance of arms ready for other pastures (Garza, Feldman, Gregg, Russell, even Samardjiza bantered) has put the Cubs in the catbird seat. 

Wasting no more time, putting out the initial feelers, entertaining a wide array of offers for their top pitching wares will demarcate the time when Theo and Jed must put up, or shut up. Show that their sabermetric analysis has conclusively divined who will play in the renovated $500 million Cubs Candyland that ownership is pushing hard for approval. The advertising (6000 sq. ft. billboard) and a plethora of night games, are the points of contention there. But money should flow freely come 2015.

As the front office broke ties to Carlos Marmol and still wish someone would take Alfonso for a long drive out to the country, the available pieces remaining for swap are intriguing for teams like the Dodgers, Giants, Padres, Rockies, Rangers, Tigers, Orioles, Red Sox, Rays and Yankees…(The Yankees can always afford interest. LA Dodgers are doing much the same.)

So who really should entice the Cubs palate? If the swap meet is on, how do two teams – one in the ‘now’ contest, the other in the ‘future’ destiny – meet on the street and barter?
Can the Cubs rudely hope for more injuries to SP and corner OF/3Bs? Yes.

But, the Cubs need SP pitching back for these moves. Their minors are low on top tier replacement arms for the ones they currently have. A few project pitchers and really, nothing of serious mention by the fan boards, Baseball America, or Scouting Book.

Yet, too, one should not overlook any prospect on can obtain since the word prospect is potential, not reality. The more stockpiling you can do for all positions, (SP, RP, SS, CF, Corner OF/3B, C) the better chance you find the solutions to a team’s long term woes.

Another thing about trading: while we can always say we want that guy, and no other, the price goes up once your opponent (mark) knows your poison. In Django Unchained, the pretend Mandingo acquirers real bounty hunters suggest to Calvin Candie that they would bid for his 3rd best fighter, even as they REALLY want Jamie Foxx’s wife for cheap, later, once they get to Candyland. The deal is later struck on the former at dinner; but once Sam Jackson points out their real attentions, the price goes up accordingly on the latter.

So Theo & Jed, who’s interesting? 
Who is available? 

And where do SP Matt Garza, SP Scott Feldman, Closer Kevin Gregg, MR James Russell, RF Nate Schierholtz or even, 3B Luis Valbuena or 3B Cody Ransom possibly land?


Arizona: Bullpen and 3th starter help. The AZ offense is pretty solid, but their front line starting pitching is shaky. Patrick Corbin and Ian Kennedy are their top two options – as Corbin has yet to lose this year. JJ Putz (just back) and Heath Bell are their bullpen, with holes in between. 

For Arizona to get to October, their pitching needs an upgrade, even though they have prospects (Archie Bradley, Tyler Skaggs topping that list) to make for a delightful trading partner. However, Zona wants Jeff Samardijza, not Garza, and less given back. The middle ground could be just their 3rd-4th best pitching prospect (LHP David Holmberg), Catcher Stryker Trahan, and LHP Eury De La Rosa for Garza. While not the deal the Cubs ideally would want – top shelf SPs– it gets a useful near MLB ready LHP workhorse, a young but still developing catcher, and bullpen LOOGY for an expiring contract.

LA: 4th starter. Scott Feldman makes sense for the Cubs to go to contract happy Dodgers. Again, their pause might be looking at their SPs. The Dodgers are a bit weak in that area, compared to AZ. So, the Cubs should equate success in getting talent as it is presented. Most prevalent in LA is Outfielders. With Yasiel Puig doing things, and Ethier, Kemp, and Crawford going nowhere too fast due to salary, their best expendable asset is CF Joc Pederson.


Lefty Pederson is a five tool type – hitting at all stops for average, runs well, power, and is patient. (Something Puig is NOT.) Pederson won't see the MLB as a starter in LA, so even though the Cubs have top prospects Albert Almora and Jorge Soler, how about 3 top tier OFers? Brett Jackson is older, and may project to a 4th OF. 

And Soler and Almora are not that far along in the minor league grooming - so getting a more polished OF with all the tools works.  Bullpen Banter have Pederson as having the best hit tool in the Sally League, and improving CF skills so that he may stick there.

The Dodger blue does have RHP Ross Stripling, LHP RobRasmussen, and plausibly their top SP prospect RHP Zach Lee. But is Feldman something that fits for them? 

No. That all said, Feldman has never thrown a ball in Dodger Stadium. As a rental, he probably does not fit the LA glitzy, buy-the-best-cause-we-have-money mode.  Ricky Nolasco or Garza would better attract their eyes as the Dodgers whittle away the lead of Arizona in the race. (Now at 5 games - even with bad defense, hurt pitchers and position players, the Dodgers are there.

Colorado: Bullpen. Kevin Gregg would likely be their particular poison. Yet Colorado has little pitching (have they truly and consistently ever?) So the Cubs would be looking for depth and numbers with Colorado - 2 prospects of their choosing - RHP Chad Bettis comes in the deal.

San Diego: Starter or Closer. Have a catcher in Austin Hedges that would be a nice addition, and is currently blocked by another prospect Yasmani Grandal in the bigs. LHP Robbie Erlin is up in the bigs - but is not considered premier option with a fastball like Barry Zito circa 2004 (89MPH), curve, change, slider, but could could round out a 2-for-1 trade say if Garza is dealt.

Giants: Pitching? Really? May even want an corner OF. Cubs can do both options. This could be their best partner for the right combination. If the Giants can't handle not being in the NL Playoffs again, and winning it, again.

RHP Kyle Crick, RHP Chris Stratton, RHP Chris Heston and C Andrew Susac could fill the bill for Garza and Nate Schierholtz and possibly a minor leaguer from Chicago going back. 

The remaining group are more of the same.
Tampa: Starter.
Texas: Starter.
Baltimore: Starter.
Red Sox: Starter.
Yankees: Corner OF/1B.

Out of this collage of prospects, you hope to build a 25 man dynasty that lasts for 2-3 years.

If the Cubs could get 2 or 3 prospects to hit big, to go with potential position stars Almora, Soler, Bryant, and Rizzo, then 2015 becomes a watchable Cubs product. 

At present, one feels the ship sinking before it leaves dry dock. The bullpen is chalkboard nails by that 3rd grade teacher with too much lipstick and looks like Medusa on a good hair day.

Else, the regime of Theo will be known for all the resources he exploited in Boston (a team that did have luxuries built in – money and prospects), but could not truly duplicate and rebuild the Cubs into a dynamic and quality organization.

This is the tipping point – make no mistake – because:
1) The team will not get better from trading its best assets off before 2014 season
2) The onerous of obtaining good talent falls to their collective minds
3) The remaining parts are platoon types on offense, 3rd starters types, ignoring the bullpen that has to be rebuilt better than the 2013 turned out to be

In short, the Ides of July are upon the Cubs.

The Django Cubs better make the most of its wares.
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