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Wednesday

8

November 2017

42

COMMENTS

If Somebody Must Go…

Written by , Posted in General

As we all can guess, putting together a major league roster is not an easy task.  What players do you need, what contracts can you afford, who can be moved to the minors in a pinch, how close are you to the luxury tax, do you have (or can you get) international signing money, how is arbitration going to end up?  Inevitably, the reality of roster construction means someone has got to go.   Given the Cubs’ needs right now–pitching, pitching, and more pitching–combined with the assets that they have–mostly all on the major league roster–means someone is more likely to go than not.  If we had to pick someone, who would be the best to choose?

Kyle Schwarber:  The man with no real position on a National League roster.  Kyle’s struggles through the 2017 campaign were well documented and included a brief return to Iowa.  I suspect that being stuck out in left field, where he isn’t a reliable fielder, has much to do with his offensive struggles.  Getting to a team that, ideally, has a need for DH would probably be for the best, but absent that, a team needing a catcher or first baseman may also be a good fit, and given that he’s under team control for a few more years, he could net a nice return–despite his poor average, he did hit 30 home runs.  You also open a spot for a more reliable batter who is also a better defender.  There’s not much downside to a trade here, provided some other guys can get going.

Albert Almora: Another young player, who is already a damn good MLB center fielder, but can play in the corners too.  In 2017, his bat wasn’t bad either, as he hit near .300 in 323 PA.  Given that he won’t even hit arbitration for 2 more years, he has quite a bit of value for a team that is in need of an outfielder.  Make no mistake, Almora can be and should be an everyday player.  If the Cubs are willing to give him a full-time role, then you have to keep him.  If you’re looking to bring in someone else to play center, though, it may be worth kicking the tires on the trade market.  Almora would be a nice cost-controlled piece for a team either at the end of a rebuild, or looking to keep their window open.

Addison Russell/Javier Baez: When Russell went down with an injury, Javy Baez stepped in brilliantly, and made the shortstop position look easier than Russell did.  Neither has a fabulous bat, but they get on base decently enough that their defensive upside is worth that downside.  The combination of Russell and Baez up the middle is a great one defensively, but where both of them are offensive liabilities, it may not be worth keeping both around.   Moving one would mean a steady diet of Ian Happ and/or Ben Zobrist at second, but it’s likely we see them alot anyway, just in the outfield.  Given that Russell is getting into arbitration, and will see his cost begin to creep up, you probably don’t get as much, but he’s still under team control for a couple more years, which is always valuable.

Jason Heyward: Moving Heyward has a LOT of caveats–he does have a no-trade clause, after all–so your options are limited based on where he may want to go.  However, since coming to Chicago, he’s been basically a glove-only player.  Some teams may be willing to take a gamble that a change of scenery would be good for him, particularly if they’ve got a bad contract they can send to Chicago in return.  There has been some talk of a trade involving Jeff Samardzija and Heyward, which wouldn’t necessarily be ideal–but it would at least get the Cubs an arm for the rotation, while opening an outfield spot for a better bat.

Jen-Ho Tseng:  The Cubs need pitching, why include a pitcher here?  Well, the simple fact is that pitchers are a gamble.  Tseng did well enough in Iowa to get a look in September, and promptly got eaten in his lone start with the big-league team.  I honestly don’t think Tseng is part of the Cubs’ plan for the pitching staff, except maybe as emergency depth–but they can get that in other ways.  A move here probably would be a late spring-training item, if he looks good in Arizona–and probably won’t yield much of import since he’s not proven at the major league level.  But, it’s better than clogging up a spot on the 40-man roster with someone who has little chance with the squad.

Any other moves that seem logical?  Think I’m deluded?  Let’s hear it!

  • Buddy

    As always, it depends on the return haul. If the Cubs can get a solid, controllable SP for Baez, they should definitely consider it. The problem with trading Russell or Schwarber is that their value has never been lower considering the seasons they just had. No one in the world would even consider the giant Hewyard contract, so shopping him around the league is pissing in the wind. Can’t imagine they’d get much for Tseng. Just my two cents…probably worth less.

  • Buddy

    Sorry, forgot one…I’d say keep Almora. He’s really the only true CF on the roster. Hope they keep Happ as well.

    • Doc Raker

      Well, ya.

  • Doc Raker

    Almora is a no trade player for me. He can hit and plays exceptional defense and other than Heyward we don’t have exceptional defense in the outfield. Almora has some of the best AB’s on the team, he is the best lead off option we have right now and we need him- #donottradeAlmora. Happ is not a major league second baseman, he is a corner outfielder. Zo is a utility player at this point so Russell and Baez need to stay unless you have another quality middle infielder which we don’t. Schwarber is the obvious tradable player but I would not trade him unless we could get an ace pitcher. Schwarbs value as a DH is enormous, the FO needs to be patient for the right deal, they shouldn’t just deal him to deal him. If they have to wait for the trade deadline or next offseason they should, Schwarbs rakes as a DH and can hit 83 jacks as a DH.

    • Almora is no trade for me too except for the fact that Maddon seems to have an aversion to using him. Even an excellent player is useless with a manager aversion. So if Maddon can’t get over that, whatever the reason, might as well just trade him.

      • JTBarrett16

        Wouldn’t the better solution be to fire Maddon after 2018 and hire a manager who will play Almora like Girardi?

      • This discussion is about trades that might happen in preparation for the 2018 season. If Maddon is the coach in 2018 and he doesn’t intend to play Almora then we might as well get rid of Almora in favor of someone he will play. That’s what’s on the table right now. If they fire Maddon then the place setting will change in many respects, but Almora doesn’t need to be wasting away in the meantime.

      • Doc Raker

        I think Almora will play more in 2018. He earned it and as of now we won’t have another CF option other than Heyward with JJ not returning. They need pitching but they also need a CF. If you trade Almora you have to replace him with another CF’er. It makes no sense to trade Almora and pick up another CF in free agency or trade. Almora will stay and he should play a lot more. If Thed doesn’t give Maddon another CF choice than Maddon will have to play Almora more than his IPad would like.

      • Brad Lyerla

        I agree. I am not completely sure how to interpret Epstein’s recent comment that playing time will be based on merit next season, but it seems to portend well for Almora and may have been pointedly stated for the benefit of Maddon’s ears.

      • Doc Raker

        Playing time will be based on merit is a shot across the bow of a guy named Zo.

        What does that say about a manager when the FO has to say, ‘playing time will be based on Merit.’ Isn’t that the way of sports, you play if you produce.

  • theguz7

    Ridiculous to call Baez–with a BA equal to Rizzo, an OPS close to .800, 30 HR power if he were allowed the 150 PA stolen by Zobrist, Heyward and Jay, and the team lead in SB over past 2 seasons an “offensive liability”. Please don’t confuse him with Russell, who is married to the concept of a .240 BA for 3 straight yrs, and who has yet to land even a league-average OPS.

    • Jerry in Wisconsin

      I agree Baez clearly needs to recognize what a strike zone is, but he is not an offensive liability, and when he does discover what a strike zone is he could morph into a major asset.

      • Buddy

        You could certainly argue that to this point in his career he has been an offensive liability vs. RHP–.242/,282/.398 career numbers vs. righties. However, he has no trouble with left-handed pitching–.293/.347/.506. For what it’s worth, here are Russell’s career splits:

        VS. RHP: .230/.279/.408
        VS. LHP: .264/.373/.448

      • Doc Raker

        If only Zo could hit Zo and Baez would make a good 2b platoon.

      • theguz7

        Author used present tense to describe Baez as an offensive liability. Let’s leave a 21-year-old in 2014 outta this, shall we, esp since Baez has improved each successive year since?

      • Buddy

        That is a fair point. He was in fact better against righties in 2017. Unfortunately, he’s still a serious outmaker vs. that side–only a .304 onbase vs. RHP. Hopefully that improves as he matures. Otherwise he’s basically Jose Hernandez with a better glove, which is still a useful ballplayer. Just nothing special.

      • Michael S.

        In 2017, there were 4 players on the Cubs who struck out more than 100 times. Baez was 2nd behind only Kyle Schwarber in terms of number of strikeouts, and only behind Ian Happ in terms of K% (144K in 469 PA, or 30.7%; Happ was over 35%). Pitchers got to 2 strikes on him in 277 ABs–more than half the time (51.9%), a two-strike count was good for a K, and the pitcher wouldn’t have to give him anything to hit to get it. As far as improving year-over-year, if we compare 2016 to 2017, he got 58 more PA, and recorded 34 more Ks and 9 more HR (in a year where home run hitting was up across the board), while keeping the same average and only a slightly higher OBP and improved OPS. There’s a reason he’s hitting 8th in the order; he wouldn’t fare better elsewhere, and won’t until he learns where the strike zone is.

        Sure, there’s untapped potential there; but there’s no guarantee he’s ever going to realize it. Power doesn’t do you much good if you can’t consistently make contact.

      • theguz7

        Trout struck out 186 times 2 years ago, while Bryant was striking out 199. Judge exceeded 200 this year and will/should be MVP. Let’s quit talking K-rate and look at production. If you wanna talk OBP, I’ll do it briefly: Zobrist beat Baez by exactly point this year. OBP admittedly tells a more complete story than BA, but not necessarily better than SP, and absolutely less than half the story of OPS.
        Baez’ OPS has improved each successive year in the bigs, to the point where he nearly eclipsed the .800 mark this year. How many Cub regs did that? The answer is 3, and they are all not “offensive liabilities”, not merely average or good, but elite offensive weapons. Baez is also their most dangerous baserunner. Joe had him barely qualify as a full timer, with 509 PA. Give him 650 like Bryzzo and see what he does, not only in production, but development. Again, bat him BEFORE worse hitters– not after. This year, had Joe ever gotten the OPS memo, that would have included Russell, Jay, Almora, but by far and most obviously Zobrist and Heyward.
        Those guys, horrific as they were, still have knowledge of the zone, and therefore were obvious, better choices to bat BEHIND Baez, not only to “protect” him (stretch), but also to lay off pitches outta the zone when opponents tried to pitch around them. Hell, it coulda partially salvaged the abysmal offensive performance from both Zo and Heyhole– maybe even given Heyhole some confidence (“Hey guys– not only am I getting on base now, but they’re pitching AROUND me!”).
        At every level of the minors, Baez struggled at first, adjusted, then mashed. Same exact process in the bigs. He will soon be at the 37 HR realm he eclipsed between A+/AA ball back in 2013.
        Wanna do some studies? Check out Baez’ minor league data– and K-rates– vs. those of Moncada, last year’s #1 prospect.
        Play this kid every day, bat him early and often.
        And until Russell files for divorce from the .240 he’s been married to for 3 years, or steals 6 bases or so, let’s not group him with Baez offensively.

      • Michael S.

        Comparison to Trout and Judge here are…frankly a little ridiculous. When Trout struck out 184 times in ’14, he did so with 197 more PA than Baez had this year (which actually gave him a slightly better K% than Baez). He also walked 83 times and slashed .287/.377/.561, with an OPS of .939. He also didn’t account for nearly a THIRD of his own runs AND RBI on the year, like Baez just did–meaning he was reliably driving other guys in, AND being driven in by others. Judge this year also had a fair few more PAs than Baez (170 more), had homers account for 40% of his hits and walked 127 times. Show me a Baez that can hit 50+ HR a year and he can strike out every other at bat, and I probably wouldn’t care–but it’s absolutely inconceivable that Baez (or really, virtually ANY other current major leaguer not named Giancarlo Stanton) is going to have that sort of season with any regularity.

        And having someone bat behind him–well, he batted 7th about as much as he batted 8th this year. Guess how that went? .227. The only other spot in the order he had any appreciable number of PAs at with 6th, where he did respectably…but when you’ve got other guys that are better options with runners on, you give up good RBI chances if the top/middle of the order are doing their job. Same for giving him an extra 150 PA or so–again, the extra 50 or so PA he got THIS year as opposed to 2016 led to a high number of those going to Ks. He’s a liability right now. Not saying he always WILL be, but he is not someone to trust in a big spot.

      • theguz7

        “Power doesn’t do you much good if you can’t consistently make contact.”
        How does Reggie Jackson feel about that? How do you feel after considering Reggie’s feelings?

      • theguz7

        Agree–and as much as Javy needs to learn the discipline, perhaps his brilliant “open-minded” manager can help at least as much, maybe more…

        Why the fork do u hit the guy who is a combination of one of your most dangerous hitters and least-disciplined 8th, with a P behind him? Why on earth do opponents ever bother throwing a single pitch in the zone to that dangerous hitter? The worst those opponents face is the remote possibility that Baez walks–but then a P comes up.

        Why? Cuz Joe, that’s why.

        Baez will not become an OBP machine overnight, and probly not ever, but that’s OK: aggressive sluggers are also dangerous. But wanna see Baez become a .300 hitter overnight? Bat him IN FRONT OF Bryzzo and see what happens when he actually starts to get pitches to hit.

  • Doc Raker

    Do we still have the Asian Erkle for short stop? So if we traded Russell we got the bespectacled Asian Erkle who could end up having a very 1998 Jeff Blauser like year going for us.

    • <— still wearing my goggles in case he shows up

    • JTBarrett16

      He went back to Japan and won the World Series.

    • Adam Peters

      Every demographic needs an Urkel (correct sp.).

  • Brad Lyerla

    I would like to see the Cubs keep Russell, Baez and Almora. Each has substantial upside. Each is under ball club control. I did not check, but I think we have two more years of control for Russell and more for Baez and Almora.

    If we have to move someone, Schwarber is most logical. He does not have a defensive position on our team. While his power is impressive, it does not make up for problems he presents defensively or the high rate at which he takes poor at bats. I would try to package Schwarber and Heyward and see if I could move them together. If that did not work, then I would move Schwarber alone though, as others have pointed out, I don’t think his value is as high as it once was.

    • Adam Peters

      Russell isn’t a free agent until 2022. Ditto Baez and Schwarber (and Bryant for that matter). Almora 2023.

      Just curious, what do you think you would get in return for Schwarber and Heyward?

      • Sherm

        Mookie Betts, dammit.

        Gold Glove for Gold Glove and two bats for one.

      • Adam Peters

        That would only be a fair trade from the perspective that Schwarber and Heyward together had about the same number of hits as Betts did last year.

      • Sherm

        Boston would have to do it based on “Schwarber Spec” that he’d light up Fenway as a DH…which I personally think he would. No reason he couldn’t be “White Papi” and be the future king of Boston. His swing is much like Ortiz’s was, he can inside-out, or dead pull, and both of those would favor him in that park. Raker’s 83 jacks might be only about 25 – 30 high there. You know what you’d be getting in Heyward. Schwarber could be all upside and has shown that when he doesn’t have to play the field, he can really hit.

        You have to give something to get something, so the Cubs would have to eat a bunch of Heyward’s salary, but it gives Boston something they are really needing. Who are they going to have DH that can hit like that? Bautista? Think they can pull off a Stanton trade?

      • JTBarrett16

        If I’m Boston I would want to unload Price

      • Brad Lyerla

        Have to eat a lot of Heyward’s salary.

      • Brad Lyerla

        Not much for Heyward and Schwarber. Addition by subtraction mostly. Maybe a couple of long shot pitching prospects.
        The justification for throwing in Schwarber would be to induce someone to take Heyward’s contract.

  • Adam Peters

    IMO Theo almost has to trade Schwarber this off season. He would be selling low, but he can’t sit by and watch the 2017 OF situation recreated in 2018. That said, he’s not going to get an elite starting pitcher for Schwarber. He’s just not. Maybe last offseason, but not now. And I don’t think you trade Russell or Baez or Almora at this point with the farm system having been depleted of replacement talent.

    Heyward ain’t going anywhere. Who would want him?

    If they are letting Arrieta go, it doesn’t make much sense to spend big for Darvish, especially after his World Series meltdowns. So who’s the #4 starter next year? Do they sign Lance Lynn and then look to make a big splash in the much better 2018 free agent class?

    • theguz7

      I still want Jake, over Davis, and earning at least what Lester earns. But Lynn and Cobb would do them just fine. The two together would be about equal to how Jake and Lackey performed last year.

  • Sherm

    Trades I’d make in a heartbeat:

    1. Joe Maddon to Binny’s for some champagne to named later
    2. Len Kasper and JD (I’d throw in Ron Coomer, too) to Fox Sports for Matt Vasgersian and either Ron Darling or John Smoltz
    3. Justin Wilson for a box of Kingston Trio 8-track tapes
    4. Pedro Strop for 2 tickets to a Bryan Adams concert (which I’d GIVE to Cap’n, because it’s Bryan Adams and he’s the only man I know who likes him.)
    5. Jason Heyward for Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues. One can field, the other can sing. Neither can hit.

    The players, for the most part, I’d leave alone. I think 2017 was more of an anomaly season because of the World Series victory the year before – and I think 2018 will be a bounce back year for most of the players and I’d hate to see them do it elsewhere simply because of a knee-jerk reaction to 2017. Maddon and crew probably didn’t handle the team as well as they could have…but honestly, these are men, not children who shouldn’t have to be “watched” during the off-season to be sure they are ready to go. This year SHOULD be different – hopefully they ALL learned something from it.

    • Adam Peters

      I’d trade Len, J.D. and a case of Maddon’s champagne just for Darling.

      I would want an 8-track of Jim Croce’s Greatest Hits *and* Don McClean’s American Pie for Wilson, but I drive a hard bargain.

  • Eddie Von White

    I would puke if they brought Samardzija back.

    • CAPS would correct that to Suckmarja, but he’s galavanting about the Magic Kingdom.

      • JTBarrett16

        Actually I call him Sasuckzidja and today I’m at the Simpsons land at universal studios. D’oh!

      • Jerry in Wisconsin

        Either way he sucks, but I would not recommend Eddie to do that if the Cubs bring him back.

      • Doc Raker

        CAPS is in his happy place in Simpsons Land.
        Where is your happy place?