Rumors have been swirling since Cincinnati and San Diego completed the Latos about a trade that could send Anthony Rizzo to the Cubs. Jordan referred to the deal as inevitable, and I have to agree. Rizzo fits what the Cubs are trying to do like vanilla ice cream fits apple pie.
Unfortunately, it will not be an easy deal to make. Rather than a simple two team trade, this could evolve to include the Rangers or the Red Sox, or both. With each new iteration on the rumors, more possible names get added to the mix. I am not going to be able to talk about all the players that are being discussed, but I think there are definitely a few names all Cubs fans should now. As this trade drama plays out over the next few days, consider this your cast list.
From the Cubs:
Matt Garza – He’s fairly young, not too expensive, and is a very good starting pitcher. He has two years left before he hits free agency, and that puts the Cubs in an interesting position. If they want to keep Garza as a long term piece, they need to lock him up on an extended contract in the next year or so. However, the Cubs are probably one season away from really contending for the division title, and maybe two seasons away from being a strong World Series contender. Garza might actually be move valuable to someone else than he is to the Cubs. If the Cubs are going to trade him, this is the logical time to do it. They may not see a better market for high level starting pitching in the next two years. If they do trade him, the return will be huge. The Cubs should be able to turn Garza into a good starting pitcher, at least two regular position players, and maybe a few other players besides. San Diego has absolutely no need for Garza, but Texas and Boston do. That is why this rumor is not a multi-team extravaganza.
Carlos Marmol – While some Cub fans are understandably frustrated with the Cubs’ closer, he is one of best on the market. Given the contracts that other closers have been receiving this winter, he is actually a fairly good value. Any of the teams in these discussions could have an interest in adding Marmol to their bullpen.
Orlando Hudson – The Cubs need a second baseman, and the Padres have one they really can’t afford. Hudson is not a great hitter, but he is a switch hitter who would help balance the Cubs’ lineup. If this deal goes down, Hudson will almost certainly be moving to Chicago.
Darwin Barney – Conventional wisdom seems to say that if the Cubs get Hudson, they would send back Barney. I am not so sure. Despite his strong first half in 2011, Barney is probably not an everyday player. He is a very good backup infielder who will stay in the majors due to his defense more than hit bat, but he is not a long term solution at second base. Meanwhile, without Barney the Cubs will have a need for a backup shortstop. I think he stays with the Cubs.
From the Padres:
Anthony Rizzo – Rizzo is a big, left handed slugging first baseman who can drive the ball to all fields and is willing to take more than a few walks. He is at worst an above average defender, and is only 22. This guy is the definition of what the Cubs are looking for at first base. Some fans seem to be down on him because he struggled when called up to the Padres this season. That is just nonsense. A lot of players struggle when they first arrive in the majors, especially when they are called up at 22. Early struggles do not negate his abilities or the fact that scouts love this guy. At worst I think he could just about match the production Carlos Pena gave the Cubs in 2011. And he is just 22, and will only be getting better for several years to come. I doubt the Cubs ever dreamed they would have a chance to trade for Rizzo, but I do not see them passing it up now that it has fallen in their lap.
Casey Kelly – Kelly is a big right handed starting pitcher with above average stuff. He may be a little prone to the long ball, but he does tend to get ground balls. He started his professional career as a shortstop, and as a result his command is still a bit of a work in progress. To me he looks like a #2 or #3 starter, but the Padres apparently believed he had ace potential. Either way, he could step into the Cubs rotation in 2012 and would likely do just fine. As a prospect, he profiles similar to Trey McNutt, although McNutt is more advanced.
Simon Castro – Castro is another big right handed pitcher who profiles best as a mid-rotation starter. He throws hard, throws strikes, and doesn’t walk very many hitters. If he became a Cub, I would probably slot him in the lower half of the Cubs top 10. He could also join the Cubs starting rotation in 2012, and would probably do just fine.
Keyvius Sampson – Drafted in 2009, Sampson is a young right handed pitcher with a lot of potential. He throws hard, avoids the long ball, and compiles some impressive strikeout numbers. He is also years away from the majors. In the Cubs system he would go into that mountain of pitching prospects headlined by Luis Liria. He could be a mid-rotation starter or a closer down the road, but he has a lot of work to do to get there.
Jedd Gyorko – This one does not make much sense to me. Gyorko is a third baseman who will win his job with his bat. He jumped to Double A in two years, but even so I’m not sure he would be in the top five among third base prospects for the Cubs. Javier Baez, Junior Lake, Josh Vitters, and Jeimer Candelario all rank clearly higher in my book, and I think I’d move Gioskar Amaya above him as well. If there is anything the Cubs do not need in their farm system, it is another young infield prospect. On the other hand, only Vitters and Lake in that group have a chance to be ready in 2012. Gyorko could be a nice insurance policy until the higher ceiling guys in the low minors arrive.
Robert Erlin – Erlin would likely need a little time in the minors, but his uncanny control could arrive in the majors sooner rather later. A lefty, Erlin is not going to over power anyone. He’s just going to throw strikes at different speeds and in different places and make the batter earn his paycheck. Most of the time, pitchers who operate that way do every well, and Erlin is no exception. His ability to throw his entire arsenal for strikes makes him a tough pitcher to face, and could lead him to becoming a staff ace in a few years.
Topics: 2012 Roster, Anthony Rizzo, Carlos Marmol, Casey Kelly, Chicago Cubs, Cubs Farm System, Cubs Prospects, Cubs Trades, Darwin Barney, Hot Stove League, Jedd Gyorko, Keyvius Samson, Matt Garza, Minor Leagues, Orlando Hudson, Robbie Erlin, Simon Castro