Tagged: Dave Sappelt

Cubs Transactions Galore!

There was a flurry of roster activity of all kinds: trades, signings, call-ups, and DL stints.  Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer didn’t waste any time starting their sell-off, firing the first shot of the deadline season.

We can only gather that there will be even more roster moves in the next day or two with the new additions to the bullpen and over the course of the month as the Cubs continue to move pieces.  This figures to be just a start of things to come…

Dodgers Get: RHP Carlos Marmol, Cubs #4 International Signing Slot, Cash
Cubs Get: RHP Matt Guerrier

What It Means For Cubs:  Carlos Marmol is officially not a Cub, anymore.  Guerrier was in DFA limbo with the Dodgers.  He becomes yet another arm in the Cubs’ busy bullpen this season.  Marmol gets a fresh start.  Adding Guerrier could spell the end for Shawn Camp. *Fingers Crossed*  Jayson Stark, interestingly, tweeted that this is almost a no lose for the Dodgers.  If he doesn’t work out and is released, the Cubs are on the hook for more money if he signs elsewhere.

Orioles Get: RHP Scott Feldman, C Steve Clevenger
Cubs Get: RHP Jake Arrieta, RHP Pedro Strop, Number 3 International Signing Slot, #4 International Signing Slot

What It Means For The Cubs:  Clevenger being moved comes out of right field, since he and the Cubs apparently just within the last day had a difference of opinion on his injuries.  Feldman was expected to go as part of a sell-off, and the Cubs actually did quite well in this move.  Jake Arrieta is a talented 27 year old who hasn’t quite figured it out at the major league level just yet.  He will go to AAA Iowa for the time being.  He could be part of a trade to the Padres, who apparently like both him and Matt Garza.  Acquiring him could help sweeten the return if the Cubs send Garza and Arrieta to San Diego.  Strop is a good bullpen arm and should fill the void being left by Carlos Villanueva being stretched back into a starter.  He, too, has struggled some at the major league level.  Overall, I’d have liked this deal if it was Feldman for Strop OR Arrieta and the pool money.  To get both, while only losing Clevenger in addition to Feldman is a nice move for the Cubs, regardless of whether they view Arreita as a trade asset or as an arm to bring to Chicago.

Astros Get:  INF Ronald Torreyes
Cubs Get:  #2 and #3 International Signing Slots

What It Means For The Cubs:  More international spending money.  Torreyes is a good hitter, but with the logjam in the middle infield in the Cubs’ organization, they could afford to make this move to spend money on potential impact international free agents.  The move brings in $784K to add to the spending pool, which would presumably be used to target OF Eloy Jimenez.  After all of the moves today, the Cubs have $5,520,300 in total international spending money, which is one of the key means of stocking the system with talent.

Cubs Sign: SS Gleybar Torres ($1.7M). P Jefferson Mejia, Erling Moreno, C Johan Matos

What It Means For The Cubs:  The search for impact players continues, with Torres ranked the #2 International Free Agent.  He’s 16, so you can file his name away, but scouts love him and say he is quite polished for being so young.  Mejia is 18 and his contract is for 2013, so he is a name we might hear a bit sooner than Torres.

Cubs Call-Up: LHP Chris Rusin, OF Dave Sappelt

Cubs Place OF Ryan Sweeney on 60 Day Disabled List (Fractured Rib)

What It Means For The Cubs:  Rusin takes the roster spot vacated by Feldman, and he will start tonight at Oakland.  He has been very good at Iowa, being named to the PCL All-Star team.  This is an opportunity to try to stick in Chicago, either in the rotation or the bullpen, as more moves are likely as the deadline approaches.  Sappelt adds a right handed bat to the outfield mix after Sweeney fractured a rib in Seattle.  Sweeney could have been a trade chip, but going on the 60 Day DL kills that opportunity, and is now not eligible to come back until the end of August.

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TRADE DEADLINE: Cubs Have Areas of Obvious Need

Through the beginning of their tenure, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have done nothing short of a masterful job of adding quality talent to the Cubs’ minor league system.  Between the inherited talent and the added talent, the Cubs now have what is a consensus top ten system in the game, and it is likely to get better with the addition of second overall pick Kris Bryant, international signings, and the trade deadline.

Not all of the positions in the organization are overflowing with talent, however.  With the international signing and the trade deadline looming, there are some clear areas of need.  To build the caliber of organization that the team needs to have and the front office wants to grow, weaknesses need to be addressed.

The focus needs to be on positions with glaring deficiencies.  There are positions that are strong at the lower levels of the minor leagues without much talent at the top end, while some are stronger throughout the system or aren’t strong at all.  The focus needs to be on picking up pieces to build a strong pipeline to the majors sooner than 2015-2016 and strengthen areas without much talent to speak of at all.

1. Pitching

This is a no-brainer.  Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have acknowledged that the Cubs will use the international pool and trade deadline to strengthen this piece of the puzzle.  There are some nice pieces at just about every level of the organization, but not nearly enough.  The best prospect in the organization is Arodys Vizcaino, who was acquired last July in the Paul Maholm trade.  When he gets healthy, he has front of the rotation stuff, but his arm trouble might limit him to a relief role.  Pierce Johnson just got his long overdue promotion to Daytona, and he appears to be on his way.  Jeff Samardzija and Travis Wood are nice young pieces at the ML level.  The focus has been on arms in the draft, but none of them appear to be impact arms, with the Cubs grabbing position players with their last two top ten picks.  The clear lack of high end, projectable pitching talent makes it job one for the Cubs this July.  They could start out by signing Cuban prospect Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez.  He’s 26, and could realistically start in the upper levels of the minor leagues this season, if not at the major league level…and all he costs is money.  Which the Cubs don’t seem opposed to spending on international free agents.

2. Catching

Beyond Wellington Castillo and Steve Clevenger, there isn’t a lot of strength to one of the keystone positions.  While Castillo is a young player who is looking more and more like an everyday backstop, organizational depth is paramount at a position where injuries mount and nobody can catch everyday.  Dioner Navarro is a stop gap at the major league level.  While the Cubs can be active in signing veteran catchers for a year or two at a time, there is a ton of value in bringing catchers through the system who have a history with the pitchers coming up through the system.

3. Corner Infielders

Count me among the guys who really likes Christian Villanueva.  And Jeimer Candelario.  And Anthony Rizzo.  Beyond that, there are a ton of question marks.  Josh Vitters may never figure it out defensively.  I am not sold on the idea that Kris Bryant can stick at third base.  Dan Vogelbach appears to best project as a designated hitter.  Junior Lake is looking more and more like a super utility player.  Luis Valbuena is a utility player who is having a nice season as a starter for a rebuilding team, but in no way should or would be a starter on a playoff caliber team.  It really boils down to defense with this group.  While first base at the major league level appears to be filled for the foreseeable future, third base is a bit of a black hole and there is almost no depth in the system at first.  One thing that helps this group along is the potential for Javier Baez or Starlin Castro to slide over to third and fill the slot whenever Baez makes his way up to the majors.

Photo: Paul R. Gierhart/MiLB.com

Photo: Paul R. Gierhart/MiLB.com

4. Center Field 

The cupboard at the major league level is bare.  David DeJesus, Dave Sappelt, and Ryan Sweeney are really nice filler material during the rebuild, but they are similar to Luis Valbuena.  All three are reserves on playoff teams, and none of them figure to be around for the long haul.  Albert Almora looks fantastic at Kane County thus far.  He’s a few years away from being an option, though.  It is up in the air if Brett Jackson makes use of his incredible talent because he is endlessly afflicted by the strike out.  Jae-Hoon Ha and Matt Szczur both look like the DeJesus/ Sweeney type, as in they could be spare outfielders who can play all over as defensive replacements.  For those reasons, it wouldn’t hurt to add a center fielder with upside if the opportunity presents itself.

5. Corner Outfielders

There isn’t much for depth here in Iowa, but there is a lot to like about the potential for corner outfielders in the Cubs organization.  Jorge Soler is obviously the crown jewel of these guys at any level, but he won’t be in Chicago until September of 2014 at the absolute earliest.  The better bet is 2015 at some point.  Kris Bryant, to me, is probably going to end up in the corner not occupied by Soler, should everything go right.  This is a group that could also include Junior Lake, Josh Vitters if his defense stays as shaky at third as it has been.  Reggie Golden is at Kane County and is a sleeper to me.  Overall, I like the group of players the Cubs have stocked up on that could be turned into corner outfielder, where hitting is most important, and where defensive liabilities like Vitters can be hidden.  Again, it wouldn’t hurt to add to it if the opportunity arises, but there are definitely better places to add pieces.

6. Middle Infield

Starlin Castro, Darwin Barney, Logan Watkins, Arismendy Alcantara, Ronald Torreyes, Javier Baez…need I say more?  There is a legit prospect at just about every level of the minor leagues in the middle infield.  And the major league level has a two time All-Star and a Gold Glove winner in the line-up everyday, neither of whom is old by any stretch of the imagination.  The middle infield is the strength of the organization, and unless you’re getting Jurickson Profar in a deal, this area isn’t a priority in the least.

There is no argument to be made that the Cubs wouldn’t be best served to get the best players they can, regardless of the positions they play.  Weaknesses cannot be ignored, however, and the goal when moving players like Matt Garza should be to find high level talent in areas of need, which would make the trade good for both sides.  Again, if the Rangers are parting with Profar (for example), you have to pull the trigger.  Talent like that doesn’t come around very often.  At the end of the day though, the focus has to be on adding impact arms that can make a difference in the near future and catchers to work with them coming up through system.

 

2013 Positional Preview: The Outfield

Starting with the outfield in breaking down the season seems to be pretty easy.  There are no spots up in the air at this point, as all three spots are filled.  Actually, the only question in the outfield is who the fifth and final outfielder on the roster is going to be.

Right Field:  Nate Schierholtz/ Scott Hairston
The most interesting spot in the outfield is the one with the platoon.  Newcomers Nate Schierholtz and Scott Hairston offer a little bit more of what a corner outfielder should be in their ability to hit for power than David DeJesus did for much of last season, but neither of them is a long term solution to the side that has been most problematic since the departure of Sammy Sosa.  They are mere placeholders for top prospect, Jorge Soler, who figures to be the long term solution to what has been a revolving door for eight seasons.
Nate Schierholtz was signed to a one year deal, and is finally getting the chance to be an everyday player (for the most part).  As a former top prospect in the Giants’ system, he sports 24 career home runs, which is a season’s worth for a player you’d want starting in a corner outfield position.  Nate’s defense has never been at issue.  The biggest factor for him coming to Wrigley may be the most challenging RF corner in the game, where the summer sun can make routine fly balls a little more adventuresome than they should be.
Scott Hairston is another player who has not been the everyday player over the course of his nine years, but did show some pop in his bat, hitting 25 long balls last season.  Brother of former Cub, Jerry Hairston, Jr., Scott has the bloodlines to be a good player, but hasn’t gotten the opportunity to be one on an everyday basis.  Considering how long he’s been around, there is likely a reason for that.  There is no reason to think he won’t be productive this year, but a 32 year old on a two year contract makes him a placeholder for Soler.

Center Field: David DeJesus

DeJesus is a little more suited to play center with the numbers he puts up and his defensive ability.  His willingness to work counts and take a walk makes him a favorite of Dale Sveum and the front office, as his approach is the one the organization is working to install into all of its hitters.  As a fan of the game, I admire what DDJ does for the team.  He’s a veteran leader who will give the team four professional at-bats each day.  As an objective (as much as possible) observer, I would prefer to see someone like DeJesus hitting seventh.  The fact that this is the lead-off hitter speaks to how incomplete the rebuilding process is.  David DeJesus could very well find himself on another roster at the deadline this year if Brett Jackson’s progress with his swing continues at the pace it seems to have been.  He could end up being this season’s Bryan LaHair…displaced by one of the up and coming prospects, and my feeling is, if Jackson gets to Chicago this season (likely), he will be there to play, and he will be there to play everyday.

Left Field: Alfonso Soriano

If Fonsi can repeat what he did last season, he’s going to command a high price at the deadline.  I do not see Soriano going anywhere.  Either the coaching staff and front office mean what they say about him and his value to the team as a player and a leader for young players, and truly believe he is a valuable piece of the immediate process of building toward the future by teaching young players like Starlin Castro and Jorge Soler to be professionals and how to deal with being highly touted prospects, or their words are pricing any potential suitors for him out of the market.  I think the team believes the former, but the latter is probably a bi-product of it.  As such, I am pretty confident that Soriano is going to be the left fielder for the Chicago Cubs through the 2014 season.  And I am confident that he will hit 20+ HRs and drive in 85+ runs each of the next two seasons.  If he is able to play at the defensive level that he did last season, I don’t have any problem with it.

Reserves: Dave Sappelt

I am projecting Sappelt to win this last outfield spot.  He can play all three positions and his bat is not a liability.  He stands to be the front-runner to lock up the last spot in a crowded outfield.

Final Analysis:

Quantity and quality are not the same thing.  The Cubs’ outfield is a prime example of that.  Soriano is the best of them, and his numbers say he’s a solid player out there.  David DeJesus is best suited as a fourth outfielder, given his versatility, defensive prowess, and his mediocre bat.  Neither of the right fielders in the platoon sparks much confidence in big numbers, which is exactly why they are in a platoon to begin with.  The outfield is very obviously waiting for the arrivals of Brett Jackson on a permanent basis, Jorge Soler, and Albert Almora.  Until that time, there are going to be stop gap players and guys playing above their ability.  The production should improve in the outfield this season from right field, which is to say there should be some.  The defense should be strong.  But don’t bother buying any of their jerseys…they won’t be around long.

Resetting the Farm System

The Epstein Administration is off to a very honest start, to say the least.  When Theo came, he made no mistake that the intention was to build an organization, from the bottom up, in order to sustain success for the long term.  To this point, he has kept his word.  The Cubs’ system now features five of the top 100 prospects, according to MLB.com’s updated, post season rankings.  Half of the organization’s top ten prospects have been acquired since Epstein and Co. have arrived, and that does not include First Baseman Anthony Rizzo, who would be the undisputed #1 prospect in the system if he met MLB.com’s criteria for what makes a prospect.  The fact that he has had a rookie season in the majors, from my view, does not make him any less of a prospect.  He is by no means a finished product…which is a scary good thought after his 2012 season.

With all of that, here is a positional look at the system:

  • PITCHING: Pitching is still the weakness of the system.  Theo knows it.  Jed knows it.  Even the guy in the bleachers drunkenly screaming to fire Dale Sveum because we could have won the World Series this year knows it.  That is why the focus has been on acquiring pitching.  The new regime spent almost the entire draft on infusing the system with new arms.  They made an unsuccessful attempt to acquire Randall Delgado for Ryan Dempster.  They made a successful deal with the Braves to acquire Arodys Vizcaino, who is the best pitching prospect in the system, according to MLB’s new rankings.  Pierce Johnson and Paul Blackburn are also top 20 prospects in the system, who were drafted in the slots gained from the departures of Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena.  Nine of the top 20 are pitchers, none of whom is Hayden Simpson, the 2010 first round pick.  We are very close to reaching bust status with him.  The front office knows that there is still a shortage of arms in the system, so look for a continued focus on acquiring them, either through trades or in the draft.  Alfonso Soriano and Matt Garza could each become prospect pitching, if there is a deal to be made.
  • CATCHERS: With Wellington Castillo looking primed to crouch behind the dish on a full time basis, with Steve Clevenger being a capable back up, and Geovany Soto being a Texas Ranger, it would seem the system is lacking in catching depth.  That’s mostly true.  The only catcher of note who will be in the minor leagues next season is Anthony Recker, who finished the season in the majors because of a September call-up.  The bright side to the catching situation is that both of the big league backstops are young players, who, like Anthony Rizzo, I would still consider prospects, who are developing at the big league level.  That’s some good news.  The bad news is, catchers tend to be injured more than other positions, and there is not a lot behind them.
  • INFIELD: There is some talent in the infield in the organization, but it’s nothing to jump out of your chair for.  Javier Baez is a notable exception to that, as the system’s number one prospect, again, according to MLB.com.  Christian Villanueva and Junior Lake are also both in the top ten in the organization, but neither seem to be all that close to cracking the major league line-up anytime soon.  Lake is probably the closest prospect, but he projects to be a utility player, who can play all over because of his arm and athleticism.  He has good power, but lacks plate discipline and still needs some polish in the field.  He could be a call-up in the mold of Josh Vitters and Brett Jackson in 2013, to get some experience at the major league level before going back to the minors to work on deficiencies he may not get to know without a call-up.  As for Baez and Villanueva, both finished the season at Daytona.  They may go to AA, Tennessee together next season, but a more sure bet is that they open at Daytona next year.  Josh Vitters, the most major league ready prospect in the infield, showed that he still needs some time to grow.  I could see him being moved to a corner outfield spot if his glove does not improve significantly.  An interesting prospect on the infield is Dan Vogelbach, whose bat will probably propel him up the system.  He hit for a combined 1.051 OPS between Mesa and Boise.  Being a 1B, though, is going to hurt him with the Cubs.  He is blocked by Anthony Rizzo.  If he could become a 3B, he could be a Pablo Sandoval type player in the future, although Keith Law says he has “no shot.”  My guess is, his lack of athleticism is going to be a significant issue with him being anything more than a first baseman or a designated hitter…which the Cubs have no use for.
  • OUTFIELD: The outfield is where the most depth is within the system.  After getting a sight of Brett Jackson, it appears that he has the ability to man CF at Wrigley for a long time, with improvements to his swing and approach at the plate.  The additions of Albert Almora and Jorge Soler, both of whom played well in their first taste of American pro baseball, make them, with Jackson, three of the top five prospects in the system.   With other interesting prospects, like Dave Sappelt and Shawon Dunston Jr, there is some serious talent, much of which is still saturating the low levels of the system.  For the time being, it is interesting to wonder about what an Almora, Jackson, Soler outfield will look like…because it won’t be a reality for a few years.  For now, we’ll get to watch a Soriano, DeJesus, LaHair (or whoever else they can manage to throw out there).

There is a lot more talent in the minors now than there was 12 months ago.  That is something that has to be attributed to building the organization, as opposed to trading any and all talent we can to get veteran players to win right now.  There has been a lot of that over the years, leaving the cupboards pretty bare.  Building it back up will take as much time and effort as it will to build the big league team into one that can consistently win.  It is a good thing to have talent saturation in the minors, and at this point in time, there is much more of it than there was when Jim Hendry left the club.  It is exciting, however, to watch the build-up.  Seeing lower level clubs compete, like the Boise Hawks did in 2012 is a sign of talent infusion.  Hopefully, the Cubs are able to build a system that can compete at all levels.  No organization can have too much talent.  At this point,though, it is still a work in progress.

The Other Guys’ Deadline Thread

3:10 PM: And that’s that.  Garza and Soriano (for now) have not been traded.

2:15 PM: The Cubs are saying that Alfonso Soriano is likely staying put, but that could change in August when he clears waivers, according to Bob Nightengale.

2:04 PM: David Kaplan is back on  Earth, saying the Cubs and Tigers are hard at work on Soriano, but is not sure money is going to work out.

2:01 PM: Harold Reynolds just said his “favorite rumor” is Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza for Justin Upton.  That would be a huge move for the Cubs.

2:00 PM: One hour from the deadline.  Nothing new to report.  Arodys Vizcaino is ranked #3 in the Cubs’ system, though.  So that’s cool.

1:54 PM: The Cubs and Tigers continue to discuss names in a Soriano deal that seems like a long shot at this point.  It is not known of Sori would go to the Tigers at this point.  Other players discussed with Tigers have been Tony Campana and Luis Valbuena.  All of this is speculation, and for his part, Jim Leyland thinks the Tigers are done making trades.

1:50 PM: Carrie Muskat has reported that Casey Coleman, Wellington Castillo, and Adrien Cardenas are going to be called up to Chicago to replace the players traded last night.

1:41 PM: All of the talk around the Cubs seems centered on Dempster, with almost nothing being said about Garza or Soriano.  With so little time remaining, I would be surprised (mildly) if either was not a Cub at 3:01 this afternoon.

10:00 AM: Ken Rosenthal says that as of early this morning, the Rangers did not think they had a match to get Garza.  He also says the Rangers have said there is “minimal attractive talent.”  It appears the Rangers are going to stand still at the deadline as far as pitching goes.

9:55 AM: Dave Sappelt tweets that he is not being called up.  The mystery continues…

9:54 AM: Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the Rangers don’t like the low amount of quality starting pitching available and may wait until the August waiver period.  Meanwhile, Buster Olney is reporting that Garza is an interesting option for GMs that have confidence in the doctor’s report on his MRI, and that the Diamondbacks have the prospects and aggressive GM to make a trade for Garza work.

9:32 AM: For what it’s worth, the Geovany Soto deal is now official.  They will get the dreaded player to be named later…or some of their money back.

9:28 AM: David Kaplan says he spoke to Brett Jackson, who told him that he would be playing in today’s day game for the Iowa Cubs.  I still think it’s going to be Dave Sappelt getting the call up.  We know now it will not be Jackson, at least not today.

9:08 AM: Jon Heyman reports that the Cubs are talking to the Rangers and two other teams about Matt Garza.  Those teams are assumed to be the Reds and the Blue Jays.  He also says it is still possible that Garza could stay until at least winter.

9:04 AM: Not really trade related, but since Brett Jackson is not being traded and it does not appear that he is going to be called up, Twitter exploded on Jackson for nothing more than a coincidence, which was Jackson being removed from the Iowa Cubs’ game last night in a double switch right around the same time Reed Johnson was getting hugs in the Cubs’ dugout.

8:54 AM: The Dodgers appear close to acquiring Shane Victorino from the Phillies for Josh Lindblom and a second player.  That pretty much kills any chance that the Dodgers would be willing to take on Alfonso Soriano.

Brett Jackson not Expected to be Called Up

Photo: Chris Donahue

Cubs.com blogger Carrie Muskat says that OF Brett Jackson should not be expected to be called up on Tuesday when the roster spots of Reed Johnson, Paul Maholm, and Geovany Soto are filled. Wellington Castillo and Casey Coleman are likely to be called up to replace Maholm and Soto on the active roster.

With Jackson not being called up, the most logical choice would be Dave Sappelt, who is hitting .252 with 4 HR and 35 RBI with the Iowa Cubs this season.  He has major league experience with the Reds, and came over in the Sean Marshall trade.  He also hits from the right side, which would make him a logical choice to replace Johnson.  Sappelt is hitting .318 against left handed pitching in Iowa this season, so he could realistically platoon with David DeJesus as Johnson has been doing since DeJesus moved over to center field.

Who Should Stay…and Who Should Go

Here is the reality of the 2012 Chicago Cubs…we’re going to be sellers at the trade deadline.  That leaves us in an interesting place.  With the new regime looking for “long term assets,” the decision is going to have to be made in the not too distant future as to who should stay and be a long term asset, and who should be turned into additional long term assets.

Who Should Stay:

  • SS Starlin Castro: I’ve read some comments over the last few days where people have been saying that since Starlin has been in the majors for two years and his defense is still not great at the short stop position, maybe the Cubs should turn Starlin into additional prospects.  Stop it.  Trading Castro at 22 would be a colossal mistake.  Castro is the definition of a long term asset, being 22 with terrific range and, oh yeah, the 6th fastest player in MLB history to 400 hits.  His defense is improving and his bat will only get better as he continues to develop into a better hitter.  He’ll take more walks and hit more home runs as he gets better, bigger, and older.  Starlin is still 3-4 years away from being in his prime.  Give him time.
  •   1B/ OF Bryan LaHair: This is a tough one.  With LaHair being one of the best hitters in baseball in the early going, his stock is at its highest point.  With that said, power hitting left handed bats that can team up with another power hitting left handed bat (Anthony Rizzo) are hard to find.  Defense does not need to be a strength for LaHair, as he will displace a corner outfield position (likely left field) when Rizzo arrives.  He’s proving to be a middle of the order hitter at the major league level.  That value can bring in some good mid to upper level prospects, but that is because it is hard to find.  5-6 more years of LaHair hitting around 30 HRs and driving in 90 or so runs would be worth hanging on to as a compliment to Rizzo and Castro as middle of the order type hitters.
  • SP Matt Garza: Matt has proven his value as a starter on the Cubs’ roster, and is probably the ace of the staff.  In 28.1 innings at Wrigley this season, Garza has a 1.91 ERA, and has given up a single home run this season.  In 17 career starts at Wrigley, he has a 2.46 ERA and a .225 batting average allowed.  He is very effective at Wrigley, and has proven to be an excellent pitcher in the National League since coming over from the Rays.  This season against the 3-4-5 spots in the line up, he is sporting a .156 BAA.  He gets hitters out, especially the big bats in the line up.  And he is dominant at the place where he will make roughly half his starts.  At 28, there is still a lot left in Garza’s arm and he wants to be even better than he is.  Getting much better could make him a Cy Young candidate, and that’s something to have around.  For their part, the Cubs’ brass has seen him for what he is, and they are working on an extension for Garza.  For good reason.

Who Should Go:

  • SP Ryan Dempster (Retains 10-5 Rights, and can veto a trade): This is difficult to swallow because Dempster has been so consistent for the team for so long.  However, with a shortage of starting pitching around baseball and Dempster having a career year, his value for a team in the hunt at the deadline is going to be high.  The Cubs will have to eat some of his remaining salary, but could get some decent prospects in return for a 35 year old pitcher in the final year of his contract, and does not figure to be back next season.  Dempster would like to be back, but it is unclear whether he would take a discount to return to the Cubs next season.  If the Cubs can trade him for some value, they should do it and get what they can.
  • OF Alfonso Soriano (Retains 10-5 Rights, and can veto a trade): Duh.  That may be a little harsh because Soriano is a veteran and is a leader in the clubhouse.  However, he is not the player he used to be.  And at 36, father time has caught up with Soriano.  He can have some value for teams in the AL needing a DH, and if there should be an injury for one of the contenders, Soriano could be had for a half empty can of Old Style and some stale peanuts.  Trading Soriano would require the Cubs to eat much of his contract…all but about $1.25 of it, most likely.  However, it will open a slot for LaHair to move when Rizzo arrives.  And the team does have some outfield depth in the minors with Brett Jackson, Dave Sappelt, and Matt Szczur.  Jackson is going to be in the majors in the about the next year.  Sappelt is a likely call up candidate if there are injuries.  Szczur has some time left at the minor league level, but is a speedy outfielder that has a Ron Gant type projection.  Two more years of Soriano after this year just do not work…trading him now is definitely the best option.
  • C Geovany Soto: Hitting catchers come at a premium.  The Cubs have 3 at the moment, in Soto, Steve Clevenger, and Wellington Castillo.  Clevenger and Castillo appear to be a capable platoon of backstops that are young enough to grow and get better.  Geo, on the other hand, is in his 5th season, and has been very up and down.  He could bring back some prospects from say…Tampa Bay…who is always in contention and never has had a catcher that can hit in the middle or bottom half of the line up.  Soto is a good player.  He is solid defensively and is good with a pitching staff.  He is going to hit between 15 and 25 home runs and drive in between 70 and 85 runs each year and will take a walk.  There are not many like him that can be had, so he would probably fetch a decent haul of prospects before his salary gets too high.

Overall:

The Cubs have some pieces that they can build around.  They need relief pitching more than anything else.  Names not on the “Who Should Go” list include Carlos Marmol and Chris Volstad because they have limited value at the moment.  Marmol has had issues with the strike zone for a couple of years, so would not fetch anything near what he could still be.  Marmol is also still 29, and I won’t give up on him finding the strike zone again.  When he’s on, he’s very good.  Volstad has good stuff and his only significant issue is keeping the ball down.  That might be tough for someone that stands 6’8″ and has to push the ball down from the top of a pitcher’s mound.  Volstad has been prone to the big inning this season, and is still only 25.  He, too, has some upside, as he is not yet in his prime.  I think it is too early to give up on either Marmol or Volstad.  Finding a new closer could be what the doctor ordered for Marmol, allowing him to slide into a set up role he thrived in.  Volstad can be a good 4th or 5th starter down the road.

With all of that said, the next 2+ months are going to be interesting…and eventful…around the front office for the Cubs.