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November 2013

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Cubs Roster: Where Do We Stand?

Written by , Posted in General

I mentioned the other day that it was my goal to begin to discuss more related to the roster construction in the next week. That starts today with a look at where the current roster stands.

As it stands right now, the Cubs currently have seven guaranteed contracts on the books: Starlin Castro, Gerardo Concepcion, Kyuji Fujikawa, Edwin Jackson, Anthony Rizzo, Jorge Solar, and Carlos Vilanueva. Aside from that, the roster is wide open from a flexibility standpoint.

Ten players are arbitration eligible, which means they can either work out a long term deal, work out a short or even one year deal, or take things before a judge to determine a one year deal. If none of those options are appealing, the team can simply part ways with them. The list of players eligible includes an estimated amount they would be due

Looking at that list, I could easily see the Cubs simply parting ways with Darwin Barney, Daniel Bard, and Darnell McDonald. The rest will be back with this team next year and most if not all will be back on a one year deal. The wild card is Samardzija. I have no idea what his future is with this team, but I would lay even odds on if he’s a part of it on opening day.

The list of players is not incredibly long right now so there is a lot of room for growth. We’ll get into possibilities I see in the coming days, until then, our friends over at Inside the ‘Zona have a post going up today talking about Samardzija. As of this writing, it’s not posted, so you get a sneak peak. Be sure to stop by their site later today and say hello and give feedback.

Trade with Chicago Cubs: LHP Tyler Skaggs, C Stryker Trahan, SS Nick Ahmed, and RHP Zeke Spruill for RHP Jeff Samardzija

This trade is not so much of a leap because of the rumored conversations this year at the deadline and again recently.  The sticking point in negotiations over the summer is said to have been Archie Bradley; we don’t want Bradley moved in a Samardzija trade, and we don’t think Towers will actually do that.  But Chicago will certainly want prospects back.  Would they take Matt Davidson?  Doubtful; they have Kris Bryant as a long term answer, as well as Mike Olt, who was acquired over the summer from the Rangers in the Matt Garza trade (and who loses a lot of his value if he’s moved off third base).  Complicating matters at third even more is that former top prospect Josh Vitters is still banging around, that Chicago may want to try out Mat Gamel this year, and that top shortstop prospect Javier Baez may need to get moved to the hot corner eventually.

Baez is also a reason why Chicago may be unwilling to cash out some of Samardzija’s value in the form of Owings, especially with Starlin Castro installed at short for the foreseeable future.  Still, we think Nick Ahmed may be a fit, because he’s certainly going to stick at SS (his manager at Mobile recently said Ahmed was one of the best shortstops he’d ever seen), he’s priced appropriately in this trade, and Ahmed’s floor might be as a utility infielder (which is still helpful).

Chicago is also set in the long term in the outfield, at least with good defenders who might not have the bat to match (probably ruling out A.J. Pollock).  We do think that Adam Eaton is the type of player Theo Epstein is likely to covet – that may be why we’re hearing the name Nate Schierholtz (as part of a swap for Samardzija that includes Eaton, we’re guessing).

We prefer trading Pollock to St. Louis to trading Eaton to Chicago, however, and in Tyler Skaggs the D-backs may have a way to keep Eaton while still landing Samardzija.  Skaggs’s star has fallen since mechanical issues (staying too tall) hurt his command and velocity this season; the risk that he never gets fixed does discount his value, but in the trade above Arizona would still be getting about 75 cents on the dollar.  Stryker Trahan helps Chicago get to where they want in terms of value, although he is several years away from the majors.  Zeke Spruill may not add a lot to this trade, but as roster filler with a bit of upside, Chicago could try him out in a few different roles until they figure out what they have.

  • Doc Raker

    I want to apologize about not posting in yesterdays post, ‘Looking at the 2014 NL Central’. I read the first sentence, “The Cardinals look to remain the class of the NL Central’, and just couldn’t go on. I got a little sickening visceral reaction and broke out into hives, a migraine kicked in and I became very irritable. I lost my appetite and couldn’t even finish my footlong meatball sub with marinara and ranch dressing. I lost my job, ended up drinking to much and my wife threatened to leave me if I didn’t stop writing “the devil lives in Busch” on our walls. Today’s post on trading our $10M underachieving bonus baby has my spirits up today so thanks and once again I apologize about my absents yesterday.

    • Noah_I

      If it makes you feel any better, I had about as much fun writing that sentence as you had reading it.

    • Your English teacher

      “absents” makes the heart grow stronger.

      • Doc Raker

        KMA teach.

    • PLCB3

      What about your raspberry cheesecake cookies?

  • Doc Raker

    I want to apologize about not posting in yesterdays post, ‘Looking at the 2014 NL Central’. I read the first sentence, “The Cardinals look to remain the class of the NL Central’, and just couldn’t go on. I got a little sickening visceral reaction and broke out into hives, a migraine kicked in and I became very irritable. I lost my appetite and couldn’t even finish my footlong meatball sub with marinara and ranch dressing. I lost my job, ended up drinking to much and my wife threatened to leave me if I didn’t stop writing “the devil lives in Busch” on our walls. Today’s post on trading our $10M underachieving bonus baby has my spirits up today so thanks and once again I apologize about my absents yesterday.

    • Noah_I

      If it makes you feel any better, I had about as much fun writing that sentence as you had reading it.

    • Your English teacher

      “absents” makes the heart grow stronger.

      • Doc Raker

        KMA teach.

    • AC0000000

      What about your raspberry cheesecake cookies?

  • Noah_I

    I’d be very happy with that return for Samardzija. Skaggs’ troubles in Triple A were largely due to a massive BABIP, and his K/9 and BB/9 rates were solid or better at both Triple A and in the Majors. He gave up a ton of home runs in the Majors, but in just 38.2 innings the sample size is too small to say anything meaningful. And Skaggs would add one thing the Cubs have very little of: a high ceiling left handed pitcher. As well as something the Cubs have nothing of: a high ceiling left handed pitcher that is essentially MLB ready. And while Trahan is far away, he’d immediately become our best catching prospect.

    • Doc Raker

      So Skaggs was one of those unlucky pitchers in where those hard hit line drives just seems to fall in, kinda like those rockets that were falling in off of our beloved Dempster a while back. Could it be a massive BABIP is indicative of hitters squaring him up to much which would go hand in hand with ‘ton of home runs’. A poor BABIP for a pitcher means to me he gets hit hard, not unlucky. Greg Maddux had a low BABIP because hitters had a hard time squaring him up, he wasn’t lucky.

      • Don’t you dare downplay the vagaries of balls batted into the field of play…

      • Noah_I

        First, statistics show that, even moreso than hitter BABIP, pitcher BABIP in one year is not predictive of pitcher BABIP in later years. Greg Maddux’s career BABIP was low (.281) but not insanely low, and using one of the greatest pitchers in history as your bar for trends for most pitchers isn’t going to end up with a a high correlation.

        In regards to Skaggs’ 2013 in particular, his BABIP against was very high in Triple A (.353), but low in MLB (.282). Yet in Triple A he was giving up very few home runs (5 in 104 innings) while in MLB he gave up a lot of home runs (7 in 38 innnings).

        So it just doesn’t fit your hypothesis. If his high BABIP in Triple A, in the hitter friendly PCL, was indicative of getting hit hard at that level, why wasn’t he giving up home runs? And if BABIP generally is indicative of getting hit hard, and his high home run rate in a small sample size was indicative of generally getting hit hard, why wasn’t Skaggs’ BABIP high as well?

        Now, if Skaggs reaches 200, 300, 400 MLB innings and the HR/FB rate is still high, yes, that’s a big problem that is indicating that he’s getting hit very hard when hitters can elevate the ball.

        But despite the consistent argument I’ve heard that “high BABIP might just be an indicator of someone getting hit hard”, there has been no statistical support for that outside of extreme outliers like Maddux.

      • How does that feel, Raker? You just got schooled in Arizona Diamondbacks minor league sabermetrics, son!

      • Noah_I

        Well, in all fairness to Raker, my first post wasn’t very clear about the fact that the home run rates and BABIPs were inversed between AAA and MLB.

      • Seymour Butts

        There is absolutely no reason to be fair to Raker.

      • Doc Raker

        “Thou shalt not be fair to anyone who is not a believer in the Church of Global Warming. Only true believers can heal the earth and all others are to be banished, ridiculed and mocked. False testimony can be passed upon any non believer for the good of the earth.” Book of Gore 32 4-6

      • How does that feel, Raker? You just got schooled in Arizona Diamondbacks minor league sabermetrics, son!

      • Noah_I

        Well, in all fairness to Raker, my first post wasn’t very clear about the fact that the home run rates and BABIPs were inversed between AAA and MLB.

      • Seymour Butts

        There is absolutely no reason to be fair to Raker.

      • Doc Raker

        “Thou shalt not be fair to anyone who is not a believer in the Church of Global Warming. Only true believers can heal the earth and all others are to be banished, ridiculed and mocked. False testimony can be passed upon any non believer for the good of the earth.” Book of Gore 32 4-6

      • Doc Raker

        Seems like you are twisting yourself into a pretzel to come to the conclusion that these contradicting metrics do not confirm any one thing about this pitcher Skaggs. This is where a scouts eyes does a heck of a lot better job at understanding a prospect than these metrics give you. If you don’t know what a metric really tells you how good can it be?

  • Noah_I

    I’d be very happy with that return for Samardzija. Skaggs’ troubles in Triple A were largely due to a massive BABIP, and his K/9 and BB/9 rates were solid or better at both Triple A and in the Majors. He gave up a ton of home runs in the Majors, but in just 38.2 innings the sample size is too small to say anything meaningful. And Skaggs would add one thing the Cubs have very little of: a high ceiling left handed pitcher. As well as something the Cubs have nothing of: a high ceiling left handed pitcher that is essentially MLB ready. And while Trahan is far away, he’d immediately become our best catching prospect.

    • Doc Raker

      So Skaggs was one of those unlucky pitchers in where those hard hit line drives just seems to fall in, kinda like those rockets that were falling in off of our beloved Dempster a while back. Could it be a massive BABIP is indicative of hitters squaring him up to much which would go hand in hand with ‘ton of home runs’. A poor BABIP for a pitcher means to me he gets hit hard, not unlucky. Greg Maddux had a low BABIP because hitters had a hard time squaring him up, he wasn’t lucky.

      • Don’t you dare downplay the vagaries of balls batted into the field of play…

  • I’m not sure I’m ready for names like “Stryker” yet.

    • Eddie Von White

      Stryker belongs in a rotation with Balfour. A Stryker can only make a Balfour better.

    • Jerry in Wisconsin

      A catcher with a name of Stryker should be able to Frame the pitches properly

    • Seymour Butts

      It would make for interesting “airplane-like” locker room scenarios where slapping is involved.

  • I’m not sure I’m ready for names like “Stryker” yet.

    • Eddie Von White

      Stryker belongs in a rotation with Balfour. A Stryker can only make a Balfour better.

    • Jerry in Wisconsin

      A catcher with a name of Stryker should be able to Frame the pitches properly

    • Seymour Butts

      It would make for interesting “airplane-like” locker room scenarios where slapping is involved.

  • Chuck

    I, for one, will be very disappointed if the Cubs continue to cash out youngish quality players for more prospects. That is a signal to me that they are raising a white flag and throwing in the towel for yet another season.

    Shark is a quality youngish player (29 next season) that the Cubs should be using to solidify the rotation. He is not an ace but he can give you 200 quality innings.

    To me, Wood and Shark are the only must-keeps on that list. Strop is a keeper if the price is right and Nate is a useful 4th OF guy or platoon player if the price is right. Murphy could be useful as a backup utility IF guy. Only Wood and Shark are really important and quasi-irreplaceable.

    • Noah_I

      The thing with Samardzija is that he’s a free agent after just two more seasons, and legitimate questions have arisen as to whether he’ll be anything more than quality innings eater. There are also questions regarding what kind of deal he is expecting in free agency. Now, I think any trade for Samardzija would likely have to be headlined by an MLB ready or very near MLB ready young starter with upside (ceiling of a legitimate 2 at least). If the trade was headlined by someone a couple of years away, I’d be disappointed. But IF Samardzija isn’t willing to discuss a reasonable extension and you’re looking at someone who, without everything breaking right, could be just as good as or better than Shark as the main piece you’re getting back with some promising other pieces, I’d be happy with that trade.

    • Jedi

      Which season has he given us 200 quality innings? What I see is that the more he throws the more hittable he becomes – he’s not getting better as a starter, he’s getting worse. In 3-5 years is he a reliable middle-of-the-rotation starter? I think it’s more likely that he’s not…I wouldn’t invest in him at this point.

      • Noah_I

        This is a solid point. Samardzija was very good through his first 120 innings or so this season (at least based on peripherals), but pretty bad after that.

  • Chuck

    I, for one, will be very disappointed if the Cubs continue to cash out youngish quality players for more prospects. That is a signal to me that they are raising a white flag and throwing in the towel for yet another season.

    Shark is a quality youngish player (29 next season) that the Cubs should be using to solidify the rotation. He is not an ace but he can give you 200 quality innings.

    To me, Wood and Shark are the only must-keeps on that list. Strop is a keeper if the price is right and Nate is a useful 4th OF guy or platoon player if the price is right. Murphy could be useful as a backup utility IF guy. Only Wood and Shark are really important and quasi-irreplaceable.

    • Noah_I

      The thing with Samardzija is that he’s a free agent after just two more seasons, and legitimate questions have arisen as to whether he’ll be anything more than quality innings eater. There are also questions regarding what kind of deal he is expecting in free agency. Now, I think any trade for Samardzija would likely have to be headlined by an MLB ready or very near MLB ready young starter with upside (ceiling of a legitimate 2 at least). If the trade was headlined by someone a couple of years away, I’d be disappointed. But IF Samardzija isn’t willing to discuss a reasonable extension and you’re looking at someone who, without everything breaking right, could be just as good as or better than Shark as the main piece you’re getting back with some promising other pieces, I’d be happy with that trade.

    • Jedi

      Which season has he given us 200 quality innings? What I see is that the more he throws the more hittable he becomes – he’s not getting better as a starter, he’s getting worse. In 3-5 years is he a reliable middle-of-the-rotation starter? I think it’s more likely that he’s not…I wouldn’t invest in him at this point.

      • Noah_I

        This is a solid point. Samardzija was very good through his first 120 innings or so this season (at least based on peripherals), but pretty bad after that.