Chicago Cubs: Team must find balance with young superstars, prospects
There’s no question that the Chicago Cubs have one of the youngest and most talented teams at the Major League level. But there’s a fine line to using prospects that don’t currently have a place to play as “trade bait” when they very well could be the next wave.
It’s almost filthy what the Chicago Cubs have right now. And the timing of it all? Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez were two keys the Cubs thought they’d have moving forward. But who would have thought they’d add Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant and Addison Russell to that mix for a solid core? And that’s not even mentioning the likes of Albert Almora, Jr. and Kyle Hendricks. It really is an embarrassment of riches. But eventually, it will take riches to keep all those players in Cubs pinstripes.
As the current group of..let’s just call them superstars, continues to progress, there’s plenty of players who are left waiting outside the door. Guys like Ian Happ and Jeimer Candelario have been referred to as “trade chips”. They aren’t far off, but there’s nowhere to play them. Gleyber Torres and Dan Vogelbach were victims of this situation already. But both led to acquisitions that garnered players that helped win the World Series.
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But should every prospect that doesn’t have a clear path to Chicago be trade bait?
It’s not that simple, exactly. But the answer is no. And the reason that the Cubs are likely to pass on Jake Arrieta after this season is a good example of why. With the big contracts of Jason Heyward and Jon Lester, taking on another would be a poor business decision. Could they do it, pay the luxury tax and keep moving forward? Possibly. But it would hinder them in the long run.
And in a few years, you’re going to have to start figuring out how to sign all these superstars. The chances of a team having all these players “peak” like this is unreal. Trying to pay them all when it’s time to sign them? That would be the one time I wouldn’t want to be Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer.
In the case of many teams–good teams– you’ve got a few players that you sign from free agency to go with the role players. And you’ll see a few rookies that are standouts on a team. But the Cubs have several more than that. And there’s a chance that some of these guys might night end up Cubs once they hit free agency. I know. It sucks for me to write it as well.
Having players like Happ, Eloy Jimenez and pitchers like Dylan Cease are critical to the Cubs “keeping the line moving”. Trading these guys would more than likely be for veteran help, depleting the farm system. The trades for Mike Montgomery and Aroldis Chapman worked, but they aren’t always going to.
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Epstein and Hoyer could have some difficult decisions to make in the near future. It might not be a matter of good versus bad, but good versus better. What if Happ develops into a better hitter than Baez, and the time comes to sign Baez or let him go? It’s easy to say “trade Happ” because he hasn’t developed any rapport with the fans. But do you recall when Baez was the player on the other end of this? Cubs’ fans were fine with trading him. Things can always change.