While the Cubs have been relatively quiet on the offseason front thus far, in fact dead silent apart from inking Wesley Wright to a 1-year deal. However, our friends over at Marlin Maniac have recently been discussing potential trades with each of the 30 Major League teams regarding first baseman and outfielder Logan Morrison – a former top prospect of the Marlins organization.
Chicago would only be in on Morrison if he was interested in converting back to a full-time outfielder in 2014. With Anthony Rizzo signed long-term, the Cubs have little-to-no need for another player at that position. With that in mind, Chris Logel of Marlin Maniac proposed the following trade between Miami and Chicago:
The Cubs trade shortstop Starlin Castro to Miami, which is in the midst of a major rebuilding effort, in exchange for Morrison, Henderson Alvarez and Justin Nicolino. So let’s start from the beginning on this one.
Castro, 23, is coming off a disappointing 2013 campaign in which he slashed .245/.284/.347 – all marks far below his career averages of .283/.322/.404. Cubs fans, at many times, were calling for his trade throughout the season, but with him inked to a team-friendly 8-year/$60 million contract, it does not appear that Castro is being shopped currently.
That being said, with the up-and-coming stars of the organization – including infielders Kris Bryant and Javier Baez – well on their way to the big league level, Castro offers the Cubs a young, controllable asset that several teams could be interested in, especially when the market for shortstops is as weak as it is this winter.
In return for Castro, the Cubs would receive, as mentioned, Logan Morrison. Just 26 years old, the former phenom appeared in just 85 games for the Marlins last season, hitting six home runs and driving in 36 runs. Slashing .242/.333/.375 over the course of roughly half a season, it was clear that he was a step backwards from when he was considered the next high-rising stud in the organization. A career .242 hitter, Morrison broke out in a big way, clubbing 23 home runs and driving in 72 runs.
In addition to Morrison, Miami would send a pair of young arms – Henderson Alvarez and Justin Nicolino – to Chicago, filling a need that sticks out on a regular basis in Chicago – pitching.
Alvarez, 23, pitched in the National League for the first time last year in Miami after spending the first two seasons of his big league career in the dangerous American League East with Toronto. His numbers indicated that he was much more comfortable in the NL, as he went 5-6 with a solid 3.59 earned run average in 17 starts for the Marlins. He posted career-bests in both H/9 (7.9) and HR/9 (0.2) – significant improvements from his career averages.
The right-hander won’t hit the open market until 2018, meaning he would be controllable for several seasons at an affordable rate – something that has eluded Chicago for some time now. While the Chicago farm system has some pitching prospects working their way up through the minor leagues, there is still a lack of major impact arms outside of C.J. Edwards, who came to the Cubs in the Matt Garza trade last year with Texas.
Henderson would be joined by Justin Nicolino, a 22-year-old prospect and former second round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays. Nicolino has never pitched above Double-A ball, splitting 2013 between High-A and Double-A, pitching to the tune of an 8-4 mark with a 3.11 ERA in 27 starts. He did, however, struggle with the adjustment to Double-A ball, going 3-2 with a 4.96 ERA – much higher than his numbers at the lower levels of the minors.
Prior to last season, Baseball America ranked Nicolino as the #86 prospect in Major League Baseball, with MLB.com slotting him as the 72nd-best – indicating the high regard most in the industry hold him in. During his young career in the lower levels of the minors, the lefty has gone 24-10 with a 2.53 earned run average and a 1.121 WHIP.
So what’s the verdict? Chicago should certainly be willing to entertain trades such as this, especially when the organization needs to begin drawing more young arms to join the position players that are so highly touted. Alvarez and Nicolino are both quality prospects and if Morrison can regain his stroke, he could be a valuable fourth outfielder on a contending Cubs team in the next few years (2105-16). Even if the Cubs choose to flip Morrison should he bounce back, they could continue to rebuild the farm system through trade, as we have seen many times under the new regime.
Let’s give it a shot. With Baez nearing the big-time, Castro will soon be displaced in Chicago. He could, of course, transition to second base, if Darwin Barney fails to bounce back offensively, but no official mention of that has been made of yet. There’s no doubt that he is a talented player, but maybe he would be better served playing in the less-tense atmosphere of Miami, rather than in front of tired, disappointed Cubs fans.