TRADE TARGET: CHRIS SALE

Ahhh, the offseason. My favorite time to write about the Cubs, to dream, and to comment on everything. Last offseason I dreamed about this free agent signing: Ben Zobrist: 3 years/$50 million. Not too far off on that one, huh? But I did also dream about this trade: Baez, Almora, Vogelbach, Hendricks for Chris Sale, mid-level prospect. Look at that now! Hendricks alone was better than Sale, Vogelbach netted us Montgomery, a valuable bullpen piece, and Baez was the Co-NLCS MVP. You can read that post HERE.

Chris Sale has one less year on his contract than last year, so how much has his value declined? Not at all. In fact, his valueit has probably increased. I do want another Starter in our rotation. A stud. Imagine a pitching staff where Lackey is the #5 starter. But with a Cy Young caliber top three, does this stud have to be a Chris Sale type? No, he just has to be better than Lackey, but right now, it’s more fun dreaming big.

It’s so weird going into the offseason knowing we don’t need to make a big splash. We don’t need a Chris Sale to finally win that World Series…we already won one! I actually find myself of dreaming about not trading players more than trading for them (cough, cough, Kyle Schwarber).

I don’t want to trade Baez or Schwarber at this point, but to get a Chris Sale, would it be possible without them? I don’t think so, but I’ll try. I’m probably veering into the unrealistic here without those pieces, but I’ll do my best.

The White Sox are not very good, they have holes everywhere, need help in their farm system, and Sale has not been fitting in well with the team. He’s their biggest chip to quick improvement and should be traded to someone this offseason. The Cardinals, Dodgers, and Nationals will all be targeting him too, and that’s scary.

At the moment, Ian Happ is our #1 prospect, but is blocked at 2nd base. He’s my favorite prospect though and is the one guy in the farm system I’d like to protect (he was also the guy I wanted to protect last year, so at least I’m consistent). Eloy Jimenez is out #2 prospect and is highly coveted by everyone. He would be the big farm chip in any big trade like this. He was the #1 ranked guy in the 2013 international crop, and hasn’t disappointed. And as the #23 ranked prospect in baseball, he’d become the #1 prospect on most teams…including the White Sox.

The question is really how much would the Cubs have to give up to get Sale. Major league talent will help immensely. Every trade dream this offseason will include Soler as that major league chip. It’s not that Soler is bad, it’s that he’s the odd man out for the Cubs. He’s young, affordable, controllable. He’s still got four years left on his contract and is only owed $15 million dollars over those years. Never underestimate just how valuable this cheap contract is. Especially for someone who could very easily become a 30 homer player if given the chance to play every day. In the American League with the flexibility the DH offers, he will definitely have that chance.

So now we have Soler and Jimenez. Great start. Not enough yet. Caratini is another great trade chip the Cubs own. They are stacked at catcher as very few other teams are. He may only be our #15 prospect, but I think his value is higher than that to other teams because he’s close to ready (September call-up maybe), he’s a switch hitter, he’s versatile (he can also play 1st & 3rd), and the aforementioned catching position.

The final piece of this trade: Dylan Cease. Our #3 ranked prospect, who would also become the White Sox #3 ranked prospect. He should be ready in 2018 and depending on his improvement, could even be a September call-up.

So there you have it. Soler, Jimenez, Caratini, and Cease for Chris Sale. For the Cubs, it’s a lot to give up. For the White Sox, it’s not enough to get. For me, it’s just perfect. We have no real need to add Sale to our team, and because of that, Schwarber and Baez can be off the table. If the White Sox don’t like that, let them trade Sale elsewhere. But whatever happens, wherever Sale ends up, match that trade up to this one and I’ll bet you’ll find this to be on par in value.

Looking at it from my perspective, Soler makes and immediate impact to the Sox lineup and their farm system jumps way up in the rankings with players that are not too far off from the majors. With two big-time catchers (the other being Zack Collins) the Sox could wait to see who’s better, hoping that of the two, one will make it. Or they could flip one for something else. Or they could continue developing Caratini with position versatility. Cease gives the Sox 4 pitchers in their top-7 ranked farm hands. And finally, Jimenez gives them a new #1 ranked prospect.

THANK YOU CUBS! PART II

Thank you to Ryne Sandberg, who made it possible to wear my Cubs Sandberg jersey in Philly (my home town) for a few years.

Thank you to Andre Dawson, who gave me so much to cheer for in the most hopeless of seasons. Thank you to Astroturf. Because of you we got all those great years with Dawson. In 1987, my first season as a Cubs fan, you got beaned in the head. After you stood up, face bloodied, and chased the pitcher off the field. Still one of the coolest moments I’ve ever witnessed in baseball. Thank you!

Thank you to the 1989 Cubs, who gave me a taste of the possibilities of winning early on in my Cubs fandom.

Thank you to Sammy Sosa. Take away everything that happened at the end, and after retirement. Take aware all the steroids. While he was a Cub, he was the Andre Dawson of the late 90’s and gave us all a lot to cheer for.

Thank you to Bob Brenly. You were one of the best commentators the Cubs have had in my lifetime. Still, to this day, when the Cubs play the Diamondbacks, I switch over to the Arizona feed to hear you.

Speaking of commentators, thank you to Steve Stone. You were paired with Harry Carey, and thus were one of the voices of my childhood baseball memories. I do try to tune into the White Sox feed when they are playing the Cubs, but I can’t stay long because Hawk is annoying.

Thank you to the Phillies for trading us Ryne Sandberg. Thank you to the Indians for trading us Rick Sutcliffe. Thank you to the White Sox for trading us Sammy Sosa. Thank you to the Marlins for trading us Derrek Lee. Thank you to the Pirates to trading us Aramis Ramirez.

And more recently, thank you to the Orioles for trading us Arrieta. Thank you to the Padres for trading us Rizzo. Thank you to the A’s for trading us Russel. Thank you to the Rangers for trading us Kyle Hendricks.

Thank you to Bill Murray. You were not just a face in the crowd during the World Series to me. You’ve been an occasional voice in the booth since I started watching the Cubs. You’ve always been hilarious, especially when you were calling the game for a bit. You were something to brag about when explaining how fun it was to watch the Cubs.

Thank you to Alison Brie. You have nothing to do with the Cubs, but you are so hot and I wanted to thank you.

Thank you to the movie Rookie of the Year for obvious reasons.

Thank you to every player, coach, and front office member of this team. Thank you for making this happen!

Thank you Cubs!!!

THANK YOU CUBS!

In 1986 my favorite after-school cartoon was on WGN. Because I’m old, this was in a day before everyone had a remote control for their TV. This was before there were lights at Wrigley and there was such a thing as a “Wild Card.” Three future Hall of Famers were on that team (Greg Maddux, Ryne Sandberg, and Dennis Eckersley), but Maddux was just making his debut, and Eckersley wasn’t even a closer yet.

Because of all the day games at Wrigley, my favorite cartoon was often preempted for a Cubs game. Because TV remotes didn’t exist yet, and because I was just starting to like baseball, I would often just leave the game on instead of changing the channel for my backup cartoon.

By 1987, I had declared the Cubs to be my favorite team and I was playing 3rd base for my little league team because Keith Moreland was my favorite player. There was something about Wrigley field and Harry Caray that drew me in. The Cubs felt special to me in a way the Phillies (my hometown team) did not.

So the 2017 season will mark my 30th anniversary as a Cubs fan, and we will enter that season champions! I have so many memories as a Cubs fan, and all those memories have crossed my mind while watching this magical season. As Rizzo caught the final out of the World Series, and a tear dripped down my cheek, my first thought was of that summer before college when my dad surprised me with my first trip to Chicago.

In 1994 Mark Grace was my favorite player, Sammy Sosa had not quite yet become a premier power hitter, and Ryne Sandberg was one of the highest paid players in baseball with an annual salary of just under 6 million dollars. My dad took me to three games on that trip, two day games and one night game. I also got to meet Harry Caray at his restaurant!

My first college friend, who became a Cubs fan just by knowing me, had to listen to my preseason analysis each and every year of why this year would be the Cubs year. This year, he just enjoyed his 20th season rooting for the Cubbies. Like most people our age, he’s got a family and a job that requires him to wake up early. He can barely stay awake past midnight even on our annual ski trip. But he was there texting me every step of the way past the final out of the 2016 season.

So to all those Cubs fans who referred to Ricketts and Epstein as “Dumb and Dumber” before the start of the 2013 season, what do you think now? Are you pretending you never said that? You can read what I had to say about all that back in December of 2012 HERE

To all those Cubs fans who have suffered through seasons of hope and seasons of heartbreak. To all the Cubs players throughout the years that gave me something to cheer for even in the gloomiest of seasons. To the Tribune Company, who made this all possible by letting go. To WGN, without you, I never would’ve known the joys of being a Cubs fan. To Harry Caray, because I’m not sure how long I would’ve stayed tuned into Cubs games without you. To Theo…you are God! Most of all, to my dad. You always supported my fandom, even if you didn’t get it. You took me to my first game at Wrigley. You took me to a Phillies game each and every year the Cubs came to town. You didn’t say one word that I had dyed my hair purple the summer you took me to Chicago. Thank You!

Thank you Cubs!!!!

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SHOULD THE CUBS BE DONE?

Even though I thought Torres, our #1 ranked prospect, could’ve been a key piece in a bigger trade for a non-rental player, I’m very happy with the trade for Chapman. Obviously I was off about the value of Chapman. The bullpen value this year is at a ridiculously high premium. Now I’m hearing that the Yankees want 3 times the value for Miller compared to what they got for Chapman. This makes me even happier for the trade we pulled off.

My one wish was to not give up Major League talent for a closer. No Schwarber, no Baez, no Solar. We did that, and our bullpen went from a weakness to a strength. Can’t complain about that.

So now what? There’s only a few days left before the trade deadline, and all Cubs fans are wondering if we’re done or not. Do we pursue an outfield piece? A starting pitcher? I think we could be done. If we made no further moves, I like our odds in the playoffs. But lets break down the two possibilities:

Trade For A Starting Pitcher

Our pitching staff is great. Forget about the recent struggles. Every pitcher is going to struggle at some point, it just happens that our pitchers were struggling at the same time. Unless we can pull off a trade for a big-time pitcher, lets leave well enough alone. I don’t want a Rich Hill-type (even if he wasn’t struggling with a blister). I’m talking a Chris Sale or Jose Fernandez-type player, or nothing at all. Obviously this will mean nothing at all, and that’s okay by me.

Trade For An Outfielder

Our outfield is fine. It will be even better next year with the return of Schwarber. Because of this, a rental like Reddick should be the only target we go for. I don’t want Ryan Braun or Jay Bruce. We don’t need them. Hell, I don’t even think we need Reddick.

Final Thoughts

I get it, trades are exciting. I’m a sucker for them and would be super-excited if we traded for someone big, just like everyone else. But the fact is that we don’t need to do anything else. Barring a Sale-type trade, leaving the team as-is, I would feel confident in a world series championship.

So normally, here would be a good place for a trade proposition. The trade deadline is about 48-hours away, how can I not ponder a trade? I’ll tell you why: Vogelbach has been traded. As a Cubs fan, I’m lost now. How can I continue to ponder a trade without Vogelbach as a piece in that trade? If a trade was pondered without Vogelbach,  did it make a sound?

And now…my vote for the next Vogelbach: Victor Caratini.

Caratini is a high-batting average, switch-hitting catcher, who’s also learning 1st base. I can’t imagine a guy more blocked at the major league level. He’s also young enough and far enough away from the majors, that you can easily imagine him getting better quickly and rising up those prospect rankings significantly. Candelario may be just as blocked, but at this point his value is what it is and he has no lure of potential that hasn’t already been seen.

So from here on out, I will not imagine any trade without Caratini as a piece. I vow to overvalue him, and explain to anyone who will listen why (insert team name here) will part with (insert big-name player here) if Caratini were a part of the deal. Here’s an example: The White Sox will part with Chris Sale for Caratini, etc., etc.

 

TRADE DEADLINE 2016

You will not find another fan of Chapman as big as me. I’ve been following him since the minors and have had him on my fantasy team since his call-up. That’s saying a lot since he was never a Cubbie and played most of his career for a rival division team. That being said, can we not trade anything of value for a three month rental? The speculative offers I’m reading for him are absolutely ridiculous. As much as I believe he would be helpful, I’d question trading Vogelbach for him (I’d do it of course, but this is probably where my line is for how much I’d give up).

What I want is to trade no major league talent to get important pieces that will win us the world series. You can read my evaluation of the Cubs minor league talent HERE. Since that post, both Contreras and Almora have been called up, but I would definitely include them if the right pitcher were to come back to us (Like Andrew Miller or Dellin Betances). I want someone that will have an immediate impact on our team and someone who is not a rental.

I’m not being a crazy fan wishing for the world here. We’ve spent a long time as losers while slowly building our team from the bottom up. We finally have a strong team in both the majors and minors. Time to use those blocked players…and they don’t lose value simply because they’re blocked. Vogelbach is not a “pot-sweetener” just because we have Rizzo (which is contrary to what I wrote in the linked post above, but that was written before his performance this season).

I’d take Arrieta-Lester-Lackey in the playoffs any day. Sure, I rank the Nats’ top 3 higher, but our batters are better. I don’t think we need to trade the world for a pitching upgrade when Hendricks may be one of the best, if not the best #4 starter in baseball. Bullpen help is and should be our only priority in the trade deadline.

Now, that being said, there are two players in all of baseball that would make me reverse my thinking about everything I just wrote: Jose Fernandez & Mike Trout. Obviously a trade for one of them most likely won’t happen. It’s a pipe dream, and a fantasy. Also, if for some crazy reason this were to actually happen, the deal would include more or better pieces than what I’m about to offer.

Jose Fernandez for Solar-Almora-Contreras-Torres-Vogelbach.

That’s a big haul for the Marlins if you really break it down. And I know this deal would most probably not happen without Baez and/or Schwarber. I would still be happy if this deal were forced with Baez substituting for Solar, but I think the value matches up without him.

The Marlins get countless controllable years from a large haul of talent. Solar has yet to peak. Almora and Contreras have already proven themselves at the major league level. Torres is a top prospect in all of baseball. Vogelbach is proving himself yet again in AAA and will easily transition to the majors.

The Trout deal would be the same, except taking out Solar and adding both Baez and Schwarber. Unfortunately, if the Angels were to make a stupid trade like this, I’m sure they’d want at least one pitching talent in return, but if we overwhelm them by giving them a ton of major league or major league ready batters, they can flip a couple of them for a pitcher if the so desire.

EDIT: Vogelbach has been traded. I’m very happy with the trade, but more importantly, I’m excited to finally be able to stop dreaming of who we can get for him.

 

EVALUATING THE CUBS MINOR LEAGUE TRADE BAIT

In evaluating the trade chips from the Cubs farm system, I’ll be protecting all the pitchers. And if I were to protect them, what kind of value do we have for an all prospect trade (meaning we fulfill our needs without having to give up Solar or Baez)? We’ve brought up a lot of our prized prospects already, which has created a logjam at many positions in the big league. So now it’s time to utilize to the best of our ability these blocked players to upgrade our starting pitchers both in the big league and minor league.

Value of course depends on who is doing the valuing. Bleacher Report currently has the Cubs as the #7 best farm system (trust me, I had to go through 25 aggravating slides in a stupid internet slide show to find this out). I’ve also seen wildly different ranking for the individual players in our top 20.

Beyond protecting the pitchers, I’m also allowing one, and only one, position player to be untradeable. I’m selecting last year’s #1 draft pick, Ian Happ, for this role.

#6: VOGELBACH

He’s a Top 10 prospect on at least 2/3 of major league teams. He’s blocked by Rizzo. There’s no DH in the National League. No trade bait list would be complete without him. No imagined trade for Major League talent could possibly be made without him. Hell, even I included him as a piece in a trade for Chris Sale (read that HERE, a post where I dreamed about wild, unrealistic moves the Cubs should make, one of which was signing Ben Zobrist at 3 years/$50 million….so close!). The problem is that all of us Cubs fans have dreamed about Vogelbach being the main piece in a trade for a top notch major league talent. That ship has sailed, if it was ever sailing to begin with. He could light up AAA ball and regain top value by the trade deadline, but as of now, he’s a minor piece in a larger deal, a deal that would sound very realistic without him in it at all. He’s a pot sweetener and that is all.

#4: CANDELARIO

Candelario has wildly different rankings in our system depending on what list you’re looking at. But rankings aside, he should be ready for a September call-up and should be a starting third basemen somewhere next year. He hits for average and power, and he’s a switch hitter!

#3: ALMORA

Trading a future center fielder with great defensive skills would be tough to swallow, but when you’re leaving so much off the table, you gotta give somewhere.

#3: MCKINNEY

He was a piece in the Samardzija trade and has great potential. He knows how to take a walk and doesn’t strike out much. McKinney is a sweet swinging lefty who will hit for a high batting average. Although this outfielder won’t hit for much power, he’s still got tons of value, ranking ahead of Contreras (see: #2) on some lists. If I could protect two position players, he would be my second.

#2: CONTRERAS

Contreras could be what we all wanted out of Vogelbach. He’s our #2 prospect on most lists, a top-50 prospect in all of baseball, and the #1 ranked catching prospect in MLB. He could be ready for the majors this season. There aren’t a lot of teams that have no need for a promising catcher.

#1: TORRES

Torres is our #1 prospect on almost every list I read. His value is as high as a top-30 prospect in all of baseball. He’s also a shortstop, and shortstop prospects always have high value in trades. And he’s blocked on our big league team.

FINAL THOUGHT

Combine Contreras with Torres in a trade and we’ve got a great base for a major deal. Right now their value is strong, but if they continue to play well, or improve, their value at the trade deadline should be astronomical. I see no reason we couldn’t or shouldn’t be able to put together a package of these players for a top-notch major league starter…a starter that is not a rental, a starter who is young, a starter who is Shelby Miller caliber or better.

 

 

ARE THE CUBS DONE?

Are we done? Should we be done? Depends on who you ask or what article you read. On the side of “we are done” is the fact that we’ve done so much already, and the team is set with no further holes. On the side of “we’re not done” is the fact that the pitching staff still needs one more piece and the worry of Hayward in center field.

So let’s break things down…

“We Are Not Done”

Hayward’s defensive excellence is in right field. A lot of value that all this money was spent on is because of this, so moving him to center field surly will decrease his defensive value at least a little. We need a center fielder…we need to keep Heyward in right to get the most value out of him.

Arrieta and Lackey are coming off career years; can they both repeat this feat? Is the back end of Hendricks and Hammel strong enough to win the world series? No way! We need another pitcher if we want to win it all.

So if we have to move Hayward to right, Solar has to go. We also have another valuable piece without a regular position in Baez. These guys can be traded for a good pitcher and we can grab back Fowler for center. Just an idea, but I’m sure we can also be creative in getting a center fielder in a trade too.

“We Are Done”

Baez is a necessary piece to give Maddon the roster flexibility he likes so much. Also, his trade value is much lower right now than it could be if he continues to grow into the player he’s expected to be.

Solar is the most valuable trade piece we have (obviously excluding the untradeable guys). We might need this piece in July. We’ll also need his bat in the lineup. Any potential free agent center fielder instead of Solar in the lineup makes us weaker.

You only need four pitchers to win a world series. We have three now, and between Hendricks and Hammel, surely one of them can pitch a game. And if we’re not confident in either of them by July, there’s always a trade deadline deal.

“The Final Thought”

We should be done. I believe much more in the points made in that argument than the other. I also believe that Hendricks will continue to grow and improve. At the very least, the current pitching staff will get us to July. Unless we can get a Chis Sale-type pitcher for Solar and/or Baez with prospects – which we can’t – than we absolutely don’t need another pitcher right now.

Hayward is good enough to easily make the switch to center. He’s young enough and fast enough to handle the switch without skipping a beat.

If we are to make one more move, I think it should be a big bullpen piece. A closer-type. Dare I say one more time that nothing would make me happier than seeing Tim Lincecum here?!?! YES!