Chicago Cubs: Club has plenty of minor league trade chips available


With the hot stove beginning to heat up and the Chicago Cubs identified as a potential major player this season in acquiring new talent, the Cubs are able to dip into their deep farm system and a pool of young major league talent in order to continue their quest for a World Series title.

While team President Theo Epstein and his team reach out to rival general managers in order to secure the players they feel will lead them to the Promised Land, the Cubs will need to give up players on their end to strike any deal.

The majority of teams the Cubs will be linked to are looking for young talent consisting of either high-level prospects or major league talent under team control for the foreseeable future.

The Cubs have built their system for the past few years with this in mind and are now flush with that exact type of talent. With that in mind, teams will be asking about a number of players to make a deal happen at both the minor and major league level.

Even after a season that saw the Cubs call up a number of elite prospects including Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber to join their talented roster, the Cubs farm system is still among the best in baseball. While they have a number of players that still fit into the future plans of the club, some names stand out as options to be moved for a variety of reasons.

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The first names that jump off the prospect page are first baseman Dan Vogelbach and third baseman Christian Villanueva. Both are former top prospects in the system that have had their stock slip for different reasons.

Vogelbach had once ballooned to over 280 pounds before trimming back to 260 this season, but is still a below average defensive first baseman and is seen by most as a DH which obviously the Cubs don’t need.

Even if he were defensively adequate, he is stuck behind All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo and has no path to the major leagues, making him a nice trade chip to an American League team looking for some pop.

Villanueva has also seen his stock drop over the past few seasons after being acquired in 2012 by the Cubs from Texas for Ryan Dempster. He was once seen as a top level prospect but being the third baseman was trying to keep pace with Kris Bryant and lost track of his swing in doing so.

He may be the best defensive third baseman the Cubs have in their system, but with Bryant ready to set up shop at the hot corner in Chicago for what Cubs fans hope is the next 15 years, Villanueva is stuck.

He would be a valuable trade chip seeing he regained some of his forms last season at Triple-A when he stopped trying to hit every ball 400 feet and worked on his line drive rate.

Everyone remembers Addison Russell as the gem acquired for Jeff Samardzija in 2014 at the trade deadline, but the Cubs also received another elite prospect in that deal, outfielder Billy McKinney. He is currently ranked #2 by MLB in the Cubs system and #34 in all of baseball and is considered one of the best pure hitters in the minor leagues.

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While he lacks high-end power, he is expected to be a solid major leaguer. The issue again is while he came up as a center fielder, he is expected to man left field due to his below average arm strength, a position the Cubs are hoping Kyle Schwarber will take over on a full-time basis starting in 2016.

That leaves the talented 21-year-old McKinney, who is still a year away from the Majors with a tough roadblock to work around.

If the Cubs sell high on Schwarber, he may be in their future plans but if the Cubs are intent on keeping Schwarber, McKinney may be better served as a trade chip than a young player battling for playing time.

The Cubs also have their top prospect shortstop Gleyber Torres who once again finds himself in the unenviable position of waiting to dethrone a young star at his position, in this case, the defensive whiz Addison Russell who will be just 22 on Opening Day in 2016.

The case against Torres is that he has been even better than expected when he signed his pro deal back in 2013 and made his pro debut at just 17 years of age.

He is still a few years away from being a Major League ready prospect and may actually be better suited at second base instead of shortstop when he does debut, meaning the Cubs situation may have changed by the time he’s ready.

The return for Torres could be sizeable but given he’s so young, he may be worth more as he closes in on his Major League debut.

The first names that jump off the prospect page are first baseman Dan Vogelbach and third baseman Christian Villanueva.

Outside of the wealth of position players, the Cubs have a number of pitching prospects, but few that project to be starters. Given that the Cubs focus this offseason will be starting pitching, it may make sense to deal their pitching prospects for proven Major League talent.

Pitching is typically valued higher than position players on the trade market so the Cubs front office may be able to move their young talent who all have question marks as to when they’ll be ready and where they will fit when they are ready to arrive.

Many project to bullpen arms where the Cubs are set up for the foreseeable future with Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop on the back end and Epstein tends to prefer veterans in the other relief roles having gone to reclamation projects like Trevor Cahill, Clayton Richard, Travis Wood, Carlos Villanueva and others over the past few seasons.

Should any of their young arms return pitching that helps now, it would be worth the risk of what the prospect may become for what the player they get now can bring the team.

Besides the deep talent that exists on the farm, the Cubs have players on their 40-man roster that also could also be used as trade bait to get the missing pieces they need.