Chicago Cubs best trade chips don’t hold much value this year

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 19: Addison Russell
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 19: Addison Russell /

First, don’t read this title as the “Chicago Cubs don’t have to do anything this winter.” That’s not what I’m saying. Merely that trading away one of the young players might not be ideal this season but could happen next year.

The Hot Stove talk around the Chicago Cubs has centered around them trading away one of their young superstars (or stars, should you choose). It seems like every name has been mentioned, from Kyle Schwarber to Addison Russell to Javier Baez. According to someone, somewhere–one of these players will be traded for pitching. But does it have to happen this season?

As the Cubs head into the Winter Meetings, they’ll have a full list of wants for the team. Another starter or two, to begin with. The bullpen will need to be beefed up. And that is with the possible loss of Wade Davis. So apparently the Cubs will need to deal one–maybe two of these guys–to get the pitching that they need. Well, that might be true. But it doesn’t need to happen this year.

Value is low on all accounts

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When you look at some of the Cubs’ top trade pieces (I’m calling them that for the sake of the article, don’t shoot the messenger), nobody is at the top of their value right now. The Cubs had the opportunity to deal Schwarber in 2016 while he was injured for a chance to get Andrew Miller.

Even with the injury, his value was as high as it was going to get. But the Cubs declined. Some were upset they didn’t make a move. But Schwarber helped key the World Series win over who else, but Miller.

Fast forward to the end of the 2017 season, and things are bleak on the trade front for the Cubs. Schwarber finished better than he started, but his .211 season has dropped his value.

With the 30 home runs, the question comes down to his play in the field. Can he do anything other than DH? Could another team utilize him at catcher or first base? I don’t think the Cubs want to move Kyle. So if they didn’t do it before, they aren’t going to do it now.

Russell’s off the field issues a non-issue

Russell is coming off a season in which he had some off the field issues, as well as injuries and a poor campaign. Russell hit .239, right around his career numbers. But his lack of RBIs and power have made him look like nothing more than a flashy glove with an average arm at shortstop.

For the excitement the Cubs organization had when getting Russell, it’s cooled a bit since then. Some are ready to see him dealt because of the issues he had with his wife. But that’s a ridiculous reason that should be given no thought until proven true.

Albert Almora, Jr. saw his role with the Cubs increase in 2017. But still, the keys were never handed to him in center field. While he did play in 132 games, he managed just 299 at-bats. But the results were promising as he batted .298 while knocking in 46 runs. Almora should get the opportunity to play center field every day. At the least, he needs to be in heavy rotation at the position–and not just against lefties.

Javy could be the one

In reality, the only one this leaves is Baez. Over the past two seasons, Baez has shown an uncanny knack for spectacular plays in the field. But with that comes the free-swinging mentality at the plate. Baez has put together two complete seasons batting .273 for the second-straight year.

He raised his slugging almost 60 points, but also struck out 32 more times than last year. Many of the Cubs struggled, so it’s hard to say if he’s trending up or down. Baez likes to swing, and that’s part of what you get with him.

It’s not time..yet

So looking at the cast of characters the Cubs have to trade, none of these players are at a point where they’ll bring maximum value. And in that case, I think it’s best to hold off on dealing any of them. The Cubs could fill the rotation with the likes of Alex Cobb, and maybe a Lance Lynn. The bullpen can be addressed similarly to last year, where the Cubs brought in Brian Duensing on a one-year deal.

Of course, none of these are permanent fixes. But the Cubs would be best to see where several of these players are at midseason. I’m a fan. I don’t want to see them trade any of them, to be honest. I get that they’ve acquired strong positional talent, and this is what they’ll have to use to get pitching.

Next: Do the Cubs need Arrieta or Darvish?

But let’s wait and see if one–or more–of these players can have a breakout year and have more value going into the deadline. Most of this young core will be part of this team until 2020 or beyond, so there’s no need to force anything. The window is still wide open for this Cubs team.