For the fourth season in a row, the Cubs will be sellers at the trade deadline. This year, however, the Cubs don’t have just one or two pieces that other teams could value. I have started thinking that the Cubs’ front office has noticed two market inefficiencies they think they can take advantage of: (1) the otherwise unwanted starting pitchers who are willing to sign less expensive, short term contracts; and (2) good fielding, left handed hitting outfielders who could be the strong side of a platoon. These, combined with Jim Hendry’s last big move, have left the Cubs with five eminently tradeable assets this season:
Matt Garza, 2 GS, 9 IP, 4.00 ERA, 4.52 FIP, 4.18 xFIP, 12.0 K/9, 7.0 BB/9, 44.4% GB rate
Scott Feldman, 9 GS, 54.2 IP, 2.80 ERA, 4.28 FIP, 4.02 xFIP, 7.24 K/9, 3.13 BB/9, 50% GB rate
Carlos Villanueva, 10 G, 8 GS, 3.72 ERA, 4.28 FIP, 3.89 xFIP, 6.31 K/9, 2.59 BB/9, 45.2% GB rate
In case you are wondering why some players aren’t noted, I’ll hit on the most commonly tossed about names not present on the list: Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Marmol, and Darwin Barney. Regarding the first two, these are not players who the Cubs will likely get to choose whether or not they can trade for reasonable return. I just do not think the Cubs are going to get serious offers for either in July (and potentially no offers for Marmol), so I did not include them. Regarding Barney, I just don’t think the Cubs are really considering actively shopping the slick fielding second baseman at this time.
Regarding the players I did list, I think the Cubs should trade only two of this season. And both of these players have something a half season’s worth of numbers cannot make up for: reputation. A player with a longer reputation as a successful player will pull more in a trade than someone who may have just arrived to that status. This makes sense, becuase you’d presume a player with that reputation is less likely to just be experience a hot half season. And a team is more likely to receive a return in excess of the traded player’s value for someone with that sort of reputation.
On that note, I think the Cubs should be actively looking to trade Garza and DeJesus. Garza could be the big prize here. While I’ve come to view Garza as a more of a 3 in a good rotation who had one really fantastic year in 2011, it’s clear that others in baseball still see the pitcher with top of the rotation upside who performed extremely well in playoff situations with the Rays. Garza could add a prospect who would slide in as the fifth best in the Cubs system behind the current big three of Soler, Baez, and Almora, and the number 2 pick in this year’s draft.
DeJesus is what he is: a left handed hitting outfielder who shouldn’t start against same handed pitching, but is well above average as the strong half of a platoon, a plus defender in either corner, and adequate in center. His long reputation for putting up solid numbers in that role should lead to a solid return, although I wouldn’t count on anyone who would make the organizational Top 10 at the end of the season.
Feldman, Villanueva and Schierholtz are another story. Despite doing the exact opposite this year, Feldman has long been known as a guy whose results never met his talent. He has also had injury trouble in the past. Villanueva is viewed as a swingman type, and Major League teams haven’t really figured out how to make the best use out of multi-inning relievers. And this season is Schierholtz’s first extended shot at a starting role.
In my opinion, the Cubs should extend Feldman to what should be a team friendly deal, keep Villanueva until at least this season, and bring Schierholtz back via arbitration in 2014.