The Chicago Cubs’ biggest problem is an excess of minor league talent?

moshethecubsfan
Mar 8, 2014; Goodyear, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs third baseman Christian Villanueva (61) hits a two RBI single in the eighth inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Goodyear Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 8, 2014; Goodyear, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs third baseman Christian Villanueva (61) hits a two RBI single in the eighth inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Goodyear Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /
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It cannot be avoided for much longer. The Chicago Cubs have a problem. Sometime soon, they need to trade Christian Villanueva and Dan Vogelbach, two top prospects who are position blocked in the organization.

Yes, this is the happy state of the Cubs as we begin 2016. An overabundance of positional talent in the minor leagues now qualifies as the organization’s most pressing concern.

Vogelbach – the Cubs 2011 second round draft pick – slashed .272/.403/.425 in Double-A last year. He earned 57 walks in only 313 plate appearances last year and has power (60 career home runs in only 411 games). He is a good prospect.

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Unfortunately for Vogelbach, he plays first base, a position occupied by Anthony Rizzo for the foreseeable future. Worse, Vogelbach is not athletic enough to play elsewhere.  So Vogelbach is a major league talent, with nowhere to go.

Villanueva is a similar tale. He was a top third base prospect when the Cubs traded Ryan Dempster for him in 2012 (Kyle Hendricks was a throw-in). But in the past two years, Villanueva was overtaken by not one, but two other third base prospects.

First, Kris Bryant shot past him, then Jeimer Candelario exploded in 2015 – to the tune of .291/.379/.462 – and supplanted Villanueva on the organizational depth chart.

As such, there is unlikely to be a major league roster spot for Villanueva anytime soon. Yet Villanueva is nearly major league ready. He hit a respectable .259/.313/.437 in Triple-A last year with 18 HR and 88 RBI and plays above average defense. He has little left to prove in the minors.

So the Cubs have a conundrum. Neither Vogelbach nor Villanueva is needed, but both are too talented to simply be released. The Cubs also addressed every other offseason need so quickly and thoroughly that Vogelbach and Villanueva may now qualify as the Cubs’ most pressing concern.

This is the baseball equivalent of having ‘first world problems.’

I initially assumed that one, or both, would be thrown into an offseason deal for pitching. Nearly every proposed trade I read online during November & December seemed to end with the phrase “maybe sweeten the deal with Vogelbach.”

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It very nearly reached meme proportions. Instead, the Cubs made only one trade, dealing Castro for Warren. So the Cubs enter 2016 with the two V’s still taking up valuable 40-man roster spots, yet providing little real value to the team.

This brings us back to my original point. The Cubs need to trade Vogelbach and Villanueva soon. In addition to the wasted roster spots, time is starting to become a factor. Villanueva will be 24 this season and Vogelbach will be 23.

Both are approaching that magic line that divides prospects from has-beens. Also, Villanueva is out of options and would need to clear waivers to be sent to Triple-A Iowa. The longer the Cubs delay, the harder it will be to get fair trade value.

Vogelbach could be intriguing to the Red Sox as they look to replace David Ortiz. He profiles as the same type of player.

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Perhaps the Mets could use Villanueva as insurance against a David Wright injury. Neither is going to bring a major haul in a trade. But even swapping them for slightly younger equivalents would be helpful. I just hope Theo finds each of them a happy new home in 2016.

I just hope Theo finds each of them a happy new home in 2016.

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