by Michael Jimenez

With the trade deadline on the horizon and the draft in the rear view, the front office will begin selling off anything of value for prospects any day now.  The Theo-Dempster chat before yesterday’s game fueled speculation that the Cubs will try to trade the veteran sooner rather than later, so before anything can happen let’s investigate the value of the players the team currently has.

I am blatantly ripping off Bill Simmons’ NBA Trade Value Column he does every year so if you’ve ever read that you’ll be familiar with this. I’ll examine the team’s assets and approximate the value and likelihood each player will be traded in descending order.  I take into consideration current performance, future potential, cost, and the need of other teams for players at that position. In addition to rankings, I place an expected return if these guys were traded.

Value Explanations:

Lottery ticket:  A player with a high ceiling but far more likely to be a bust than anything significant
C prospect: Good chance to be a future bench player
B prospect: Good chance to be a future everyday player
A prospect: Good chance to be above average to all-star level

Will Trade for Anything

25. Chris Volstad – I’d guess the Cubs keep Volstad and try to rebuild his value after we have rotation spots open; not the best time for the worst season of his career but his peripherals once again show he’s pitched better than his ERA says.

Value: A pitching machine that will give up less hits than Volstad.

24. Koyie Hill – Now that our catchers are getting healthy, it’s time to part ways again. Thanks for the help when we needed it and  I’d shake your hand but I don’t think you can make the proper grip.

Value:  A vintage 3 finger glove.

23. Casey Coleman – The only thing going for Coleman is he’s young, cheap, and has a major league pedigree.

Value:  Joe Coleman… either one.

We Should Have Sold High

22. Carlos Marmol – Not even 2 seasons removed from being the most dominant closer in baseball, now Marmol is worth next to nothing.  I advocated selling high on Marmol because he had control issues that could resurface at any time (well they never really went away, just weren’t as bad) and his delivery plus the amount of sliders he threw raised his injury chances. If the Cubs can deal him, expect the team to eat nearly his entire salary.

Value:  The complete 3-disc set of Major League

21. Geovany Soto -With his offensive skills  in hiding again after 2010, his poor defense, increasing cost due to arbitration, and growing list of injuries have killed the little value he still had going into this year.

Value:  Dime bag and some Funyuns

20. Jeff Baker – I thought former GM Jim Hendry got the short end of the stick while in Chicago, but this is one of the moves I never understood.  A bench player, even one who hits LHP as well as Baker, should never be untouchable.  Baker has struggled thus far this season after a bout with the flu but a look behind his numbers show he could still have some value. His BABIP is nearly 60 points below his career norm, his BB% is up and his K% is down; and with a bit more luck on the balls put in play he could get his average and slugging back to his career averages before the deadline.

Value:  Creighton’s 1991 CWS run

19. Randy Wells -  His move to the bullpen has shown he still has value but nothing close to where he was in 2009 and 2010.  The team is better off keeping him around like Volstad and putting him in the rotation to see if he can reestablish some value as a starter.

Value:  Internet Hottie Status

Lefties Here, Get Your Lefties

18. Ian Stewart – Another guy that the Cubs would be better off holding on to and hoping he figures it out.  A wrist injury has plagued him all year driving his numbers to career lows.  If he can get healthy and bounce back the rest of the season, with the dearth of third baseman around the league some team will be interested.  Josh Vitters isn’t ready to man third at Wrigley just yet anyway.

Value:  C- position prospect

17. Travis Wood -Wood has a solid ERA but his peripherals are screaming that regression is coming.  He has a lower than normal K/9, his highest career BB/9 and HR/9, and is hanging onto a way below normal .184 BABIP in his 5 starts since being called up.

Value: C- pitching prospect

16. Paul Maholm – I expect one of these lefty starters to be traded and unlike Wood, Maholm’s peripherals are not projecting massive regression.  While he has given up a lot of homeruns, the rest of his numbers are right in line with his career averages.

Value: C- prospect

Will 30 Million be enough? Too low? OK how about 40?

15. Alfonso Soriano – I have always been a huge supporter of Soriano. I’ve never understood the amount of vitriol directed his way since his signing with the Cubs.  Granted he’s overpaid, often injured and it’s frustrating to watch him swing at the same slider off the plate away every time but you cannot blame the guy for taking the best offer out there when he was a free agent and until his injury in 2007 (that left a baseball sized hole in his leg and crippled him ever since) he was always healthy.  It was bad luck for Soriano and the Cubs that he was so severely hurt in the first year of his contract which left him a shell of his old self.

That being said, the Cubs will aggressively try to move him this summer.  I am not really sure why the Cubs seem so intent on dealing him and paying that much money for him to play elsewhere with no clear replacement in sight (especially when LaHair has shown he’s just a platoon player) but saving 10 million to use elsewhere over the next two seasons isn’t a terrible idea.

His ongoing hot streak that started way back on April 24th (nearly 3 weeks before the bat change) has shown he’s still got something left in the tank and has raised the chances a team takes him off the Cubs’ hands at a steep discount.  He’s got 2 years left at 19 million each, plus around 10 million left this year.  I’d expect the Cubs will pay close to 40 million of that to find a taker.

Value:  Lottery ticket prospect

Realistically Obtainable

14. Joe Mather – He’s never going to light it up offensively but he is holding his own at the plate while playing solid defense at 5 positions and is signed cheap.

Value:  C- prospect

13. Steve Clevenger – He’s only this high because quite a few contenders need a catcher.

Value:  C- prospect

12. Tony Campana – I love his speed but his bat will never play.   I would spin him off while he still has an OBP above .300 to a team needing a lead-off hitter or speed guy off the bench.

Value:  C prospect

11. Reed Johnson – Solid D, crushes left hand pitching, an affordable contract and playing the best he has since 2006, Johnson should be in demand.

Value: C prospect

 10. Shawn Camp – I thought the Cubs were smart to take a buy-low, sell-high approach with guys like Stewart, Volstad, Mather, and Camp . Posting career lows in ERA and FIP after getting out of the AL East, Camp has established himself as the only reliable righty out of the bullpen that the Cubs have.

Value:  C+ prospect

9. James Russell – The only other guy in the pen that I trust, Russell has shown he’s dominant against left-handed batters.  For his career he’s allowing only a .235 avg/.270 obp/.445 slg versus lefties compared to .289/.352/.519 slash line versus righties.

Value:  C+ prospect

8. Welington Castillo – Hardest guy to place.  He always seems to be injured and is unproven at the majors but has a lot of potential.  Catching is at a premium this deadline and a team like the Rays would rather trade for Castillo who hasn’t hit arbitration yet, than a guy like Soto who is making over 4 million and a year away from free agency.

Value: B-  prospect

7. Darwin Barney – The best sell high candidate after LaHair.  Barney has amazingly posted a .400 SLG% this year (.130 ISO) which is well above anything he’s ever hit in the minors over a full season.  Everything else is right in line with expectations of a bench player but the spike in power is trending him as 3 WAR player for the season.  He’s young, cheap, and with multiple teams looking for capable middle infielders Barney could net a solid return.

Value:  B- prospect

6. David DeJesus – After a slow start DeJesus has really turned it on.  Since May 4th he’s hitting .298/.399/.488 and is one of the only patient hitters the team has.  I don’t see the Cubs trading him this year since there’s really no one to replace him, he’s cheap, and fits in with the philosophy Theo and Co. are pushing into our organization.

Value:  B- prospect

5. Bryan LaHair – I already wrote about LaHair here so I won’t go into great detail again.  LaHair is an above average left-handed power bat against RHP but cannot be built around due to his age and inability to stay in the lineup against lefties.  Flipping him for a borderline everyday player would be a great return.

Value: B- prospect

4. Ryan Dempster – I greatly overestimated the return on Ted Lilly a few years back… and am trying not to do the same here but it’s hard when Dempster is pitching lights out.  There’s pluses and minuses across the board when evaluating his value.  He’s pitched like a mid to front line starter since returning to the rotation in 2008, however he’s only pitched in the NL.  His career ERA is 4.34 which would be close to 5 in the AL, but his ERA & FIP over the past five seasons are well below 4.

This year his ERA is a sparkling 2.31 and FIP is 3.26 but his HR/9 is 35% lower than his career rate and his BABIP is about 60 points lower too.  He’s also lost a little off his fastball and his K% has dropped because of that but he’s also walking far less hitters than at any point in his career,even  a half batter less per 9 than his 2008 campaign.  So he is definitely a candidate for some regression but he has shown that he could keep his HR/9 down (it was 0.61 in 2008, and it’s 0.73 this year) and BABIP below league average (.280 in 2008, league average is around .300, and he’s currently at .243) and with his improved control I don’t expect a massive drop off.  I don’t expect him to hold onto a sub 3 ERA all year again but it’s not out of the question that he can settle in around the 3.26 FIP he currently has after some regression to that BABIP even in the AL.

But what are teams willing to give up for a 36 year old career national leaguer who still has around 8M left on his deal this year? Especially now that they cannot get compensation for him if he walks under the new CBA?  Unless Milwaukee or Philly become sellers, Dempster very well could be the premiere pitcher available this deadline.  With so many teams needing pitching, it’s hard to see the Cubs not getting significantly more than they got out of the Dodgers for Lilly.

Value: two B prospects

We’re Listening…

3. Matt Garza – I think Garza will be dealt for the exact reasons you keep hearing… the Cubs are a few years off from contending so there’s really no reason to keep a high priced pitcher around for that long, he is easily their best trade chip that is realistically available to quickly restock a weak farm system, the AL East teams are all going to be interested as he’s already been tested there,  and he’s shown the capability to dominate great teams in big game situations.

I never really thought the Cubs were serious about extending him unless he was willing to stay for a big discount (his arbitration numbers say he wouldn’t though). And for a full season and 6 weeks into this one he looked like a legitimate ace.  Then back-to-back bad starts happened and after a couple decent starts he got lit up again in last night’s game versus Detroit.  To be fair, if Mather doesn’t kick the ball while trying to field it, ruining a double play, Garza gets out of the 6th unscathed surrendering only 1 earned run over 6 innings; instead, he gave up 6 runs, 3 of them earned and had his ERA inflate to over 4 again.

His defense has to concern teams as he can barely field a bunt and make the throw to first without it ending up in the stands and he may be the worst hitter in all of baseball but he’s still under team control for another season, is affordable, and has great stuff and makeup.  If Garza was pitching like he was at the start of the season, I’d assume the Cubs would be getting at least 2 elite prospects in return.  If Garza’s value is closer to what it was when he was with Tampa, a middle rotation starter, then I’d assume his value is around 2 B prospects… the next 7 weeks will be important for Garza’s value and I wouldn’t expect to see him traded before the days just before the deadline… unless one of the AL East teams get desperate.

Value: tentatively, one A and one B prospect

Worth More to the Cubs

2. Jeff Samardzija – One of Hendry’s most criticized draft picks has turned into gold this year.  Not sure what clicked but the Cubs desperately needed some pitching to develop and got it when Shark showed up in Spring Training with better control and command of his pitches.   He went from overpaid bullpen fodder to potential ace over night.  There’s just no way the Cubs give up a young, cheap, under team control pitcher with his ceiling without getting a handsome return.

Value: two A prospects plus a B prospect

1. Starlin Castro - Only 17 players since 1900 before the age of 23 have hit at least .305 in as many at-bats as Castro has taken, and that list is full of hall of famers or soon-to-be HOFers.  His power numbers have increased yearly, as has his steals.  His defensive has drastically improved this season to the point I now realistically believe he will be able to stay at short long term.  He’s a potential 20-20-20 guy at the most difficult position in baseball. He’s under team control on the cheap for 3 more seasons and has his entire prime ahead of him and then some.

Granted he lacks plate patience which is stalling his development but all things considered there’s just no chance the Cubs find a trade worth the same value he has to the team given what he’s already done and his upside.

Value:  A Visit from Joan Harris

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