There are still more acts to follow in what is the Alex Rodriguez saga, but today the suspension was upheld, while not in its full severity, on A-Rod. Reduced from 211 to 162 games, it is the longest suspension handed down under the current program. Rodriguez has implied he will continue to fight the decision, even taking it as far as federal court. These are long odds and generally when two sides have a collective bargaining agreement, the courts don’t like to interfere.
But for the sake of argument, let’s say it is upheld and final. What does this mean to the Cubs? Does it mean anything?
Yes. But how extensively can be debated.
The first aspect of this is the money saved by the Yankees. Rodriguez’s contract was worth 25 million in 2014. That money is off the books if the suspension holds. The Yankees are one of several teams, including the Cubs, to be interested in Masahiro Tanaka. The figures have been astronomical, even going as high as nine figures as reported here. Now the Yankees would have a few more dollars to throw Tanaka’s way, possibly tilting the advantage their way.
But the most intriguing side of it to me is in the Yankees need for a third baseman. As we’ve been discussing this week on Cubbies Crib, the Cubs have an influx of talent in the minor leagues, especially infielders. The discussion has been had over time and time again by Cubs fans of where all these guys will play. Hypotheticals run wild. Move this guy to here, slide this guy to the outfield. Whatever has to be done to get these prospects up.
Third base for the Cubs going into 2014 is a bit open. Luis Valbuena figures to be the front-runner. But he’s a stop-gap solution. Mike Olt will also have a chance in spring training to earn the job. But most Cubs fans believe it’s just being kept warm for Kris Bryant, who tore his way through the AFL. Javier Baez also figures in, for as it stands now, Starlin Castro has him blocked at shortstop. For now.
The Cubs have commodities on the left side of the infield. Could they strike a prospect rich deal? Who would be the one to go?
I, like any Cubs fan, don’t want to see the core group of prospects be dealt. I’d love to see them turn out as hoped, unlike every other prospect that comes to mind. (Looking at you Corey Patterson and Felix Pie. And does anyone remember Lance Dickson? I do. Ugh.) But that aside, while the Cubs aren’t ready to promote anyone just yet, the Yankees may be more inclined. And while I believe Bryant and Baez are off limits, I give you two options.
Mike Olt and Starlin Castro.
Mike Olt is major league ready, and will in all likelihood be the, or one of the Cubs starting third basemen. A platoon of he and Valbuena is possible. But with Bryant waiting in the wings, and the Cubs still not ready to contend, why not gain assets as they’ve been doing? Olt could garner a couple of mid level prospects, especially if the Cubs can identify some pitching within the Yankees organization.
Starlin Castro has seen a decline over the last two seasons. Some Cubs fans have a deep level of concern. Some attribute it to a poor team and a bad stretch. But the further he gets from his two all-star seasons with the way he’s played recently, his value drops. The Cubs gave Castro a solid contract assuming he was one of the core players. But they didn’t overpay. He’s under team control till 2019, club option for 2020. That’s appealing to other teams. Castro has talent, but whether he will ever reach his potential is unknown. But if he even realizes part of it, he’s better than many other options. And Castro may be a better fit for third. My opinion is there’s too much going on for the young man and that’s part of the loss of focus. Hot corner. Less time to think. Just react. Fits him well.
Most of this is all talk and may not even be a whisper on the organizations lips. The Tanaka part though would be very real. 25 million is not to be ignored. The coming weeks will give us a better indicator. Keep following us to keep up with all Cubs news.