Minor League Trading Chips 1


The Cubs farm system is loaded with talent, particularly pitching, catching, infield, and pitching talent. As the Cubs maneuver into the 2011 season, some of these players will be promoted and given the chance to prove they can help the Cubs in 2012 and beyond, when the Cubs should be back in contention. Others of these players will be traded away, either in major deals such as the rumored Matt Garza trade, or in smaller deals that simply shore up a weakness on the team. A purely minor league trade is very likely, one in which the Cubs would trade from strength to acquire from another organization’s strength.

So who is on the move? Who, in the Cubs system, is mostly likely to be traded before Opening Day 2012? In a bit, I’ll try to answer that question. This list will change substantially, even over the course of the next few weeks. I make no assumptions about deals that have not yet happened. I am also assuming that the Cubs won’t decide before now and 2012 to blow up the farm system and go for it in 2011. Keep in mind that is not a list of the Cubs best prospects, but the ones that for one reason or another I think are likely to be moved. All set? Then here are the first three guys to make my “Likely To Be Traded” list.

Thomas Diamond: In three starts with the Cubs in 2009, Diamond wasn’t fantastic, but he wasn’t a disaster either. Unfortunately, I think he is pretty much blocked from having much of a shot at starting for the Cubs again. Primarily a reliever, his numbers weren’t bad for the Cubs in 2009, but I think he projects better as a starter. And with arms like Cashner and McNutt on the way, I don’t think the Cubs are likely to keep Diamond around even in the pen. I see Diamond being dealt to a team looking for a few guys to compete for a fifth starter’s spot, and I would not be surprised to see Diamond win that job with a lot of teams. The Cubs are just so deep in pitching he is unlikely to get a shot here.

Robinson Chirinos: If I were a GM, I’d be asking the Cubs for Wellington Castillo, not Chirinos, but all the talk is about Chirinos, and so he makes this list. Chirinos has been in the minors for a long time and is a fairly polished minor league hitter who projects to have pretty good power in the majors. His ability as a catcher has progressed rapidly since being converted into one, and I think there is no doubt he can hold down a job behind the plate. Chirinos could make a lot of teams as a backup catcher today, and I think he could get that shot shortly.

Marquez Smith: Yes, after hoping against hope that Smith would survive the Rule 5 draft and remain a Cub, I now think he will be dealt from the Cubs. Marquez Smith is a very good defensive third baseman trapped behind Aramis Ramierez. Even if Aramis leaves after 2011, I doubt Smith gets the third base job over Josh Vitters no matter how their defense compares. The Cubs last year were offensively challenged, and so far 2011 doesn’t look much better. They cannot afford to have a weak bat at third. That moves Smith into the role of a backup, where he would compete with the versatility of DeWitt. He is move valuable to someone else than he is to the Cubs, and that means he makes the trade list. I’ll stick an asterisk on this one, though. Smith’s numbers last year makes me think he might have more power than a lot of writers give him credit for. If he shows some legitimate offensive power in spring training, then I think I may want to rethink this one.

On Wednesday I’ll have another round of three guys who I think will need a moving truck sooner or later.