On Monday I looked at three players who, for one reason or another, I think the Cubs are likely to trade between now and Opening Day 2012. That’s right, 2012. In my book, 2011 for the Cubs in the year in which they see what their top prospects can do while waiting for huge contracts to come off the books. 2012 is the year to eye for the Cubs returning to contention (though a Wild Card in 2011 is certainly a possibility). Not all the Cubs prospects will still be with the team by then. Several of them will certainly be traded as the Cubs look to fill in weaknesses and improve the roster.
So who goes? On Monday I referred to three players who could take a job as a backup for a lot of teams right now. Today I’ll list three more guys, but these will be somewhat higher profile. In fact, one of them could very well be a future star.
Hak-Ju Lee: That’s right, the Cubs shortstop of the future is on my “Likely To Be Traded” list. As much as I’d like to see a double play combo of Lee and Castro, I don’t think it will happen. The Cubs have a couple giant holes on their roster that have to be filled before they can contend with the best in the league: First base, Third base, and Starting Pitcher. We don’t know if Ramierez will be back, and while Vitters, Flaherty, or Lake could claim third, that’s not guaranteed at this point. First base is not a strength for the Cubs system, at least not in the high minors. While I think the Cubs have plenty of talent that could turn into elite pitching, it is possible that the team will need one more Number 1 or Number 2 level guy. Trading Hak-Ju Lee can fill any of those holes. It takes value to get value, and that’s why Lee is on this list. He is a very valuable prospect, but he is probably more valuable to someone else.
Jay Jackson: The fight for starting pitching jobs in spring training should be fantastic. Assuming Zambrano, Dempster, and Wells are locked in, that leaves two slots for Casey Coleman, Jeff Samardzija, Chris Carpenter, Andrew Cashner, Chris Archer, and Jay Jackson. Behind that crop is lurking Troy McNutt, Austin Bibens-Dirx, and likely Hayden Simpson, among others. And behind that… well, let’s just say the Cubs are loaded. That means someone can be traded, and I think Jay Jackson is the most likely of the bunch. He was rock solid at Iowa last year, his arbitration clock hasn’t started yet (unlike all of the others in the first crop, except Carpenter), and he doesn’t have Carpenter’s injury history. Jay Jackson should be a quality starter for a very long time; I just don’t think it will be as a Cub. Casey Coleman gets honorable mention here, and I think Randy Wells may well get traded before either which would change the whole list. But today, right now, it’s Jackson.
Sam Fuld: Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time… For years the Cubs’ farm system could not turn out an everyday position player. Then, all in a rush, Theriot, Fontenot, Soto, Colvin, Castro, and Barney all show up and not only make the team, they take starting jobs. They hold the jobs. They play pretty darn well. And suddenly the Cub’s farm system is a pipeline that is primed and ready to spray quality talent all over the field. When we first starting talking about Sam Fuld, there was no one coming out of the minors. Now he is arguably seventh on the Cubs outfield depth chart going into spring training, and I have a hard time seeing how he can rise from that. He is a great defensive outfielder who can hit just enough to hold a job, but with Guyer and Jackson and Snyder leading a pack of Cubs outfield prospects, his time with the Cubs is probably over. Someone needs a fifth outfielder who plays all out and can run down any ball in his zip code, but that team is not the Cubs. Not this season, anyway. Fuld is a guy that fits better on a team making a World Series run, not building up to one. I don’t care what the Cubs get in exchange for him; Fuld deserves a chance to play, and I hope Hendry can find him one, even if he gives him away.