Jun
25

Scouting The Trade Market: Cubs’ Position Players

By

The Yankees have a long list of needs heading into the trade deadline, and the Cubs are one of the few teams that we know will be sellers for certain. They’re in the middle of a big rebuild and have been trading away veteran players for prospects since the Theo Epstein-led regime arrived in town during the 2011-12 offseason. This summer figures to be no different.

This morning we looked at Cubs’ pitchers (three, specifically) who could possibly help the Yankees not only this season, but in some cases next season as well. Now we’re going to look at the position players because hey, the Bombers really need some offense. The infield and right field are the two most obvious (only possible?) areas to upgrade. Here’s a look at the Cubs’ position players who could potentially interest the Yankees.

(Mitchell Leff/Getty)

(Mitchell Leff/Getty)

SS Starlin Castro
It’s amazing how quickly the perception of players can change. At the end of last season, Castro was an overpaid, unproductive malcontent who embodied the Cubs’ player development and rebuilding failures. Now? Now Castro is the co-cornerstone of the infield along with Anthony Rizzo, rebounding from a terrible 2013 season to be a top notch producer and model citizen under new manager Rick Renteria. The fielding gaffes and apparent disinterest have been kept to a minimum.

Castro, who is still only 24, has hit .284/.331/.478 (121 wRC+) with eleven homers in 320 plate appearances this season after mustering a weak .245/.284/.347 (70 wRC+) line with ten homers in 705 plate appearances a year ago. He hit .297/.336/.425 (102 wRC+) with 27 homers total from 2010-12, his first three years in the show. Castro’s batting ball profile returned to its pre-2013 levels and at his age he’s simply getting stronger and better. He remains a total hacker (5.6% walk rate) but his bat-to-ball skills are very good (17.2% strikeout rate). It’s also worth noting he’s played in 556 of 561 possible games from 2011-14. Castro’s tools are very impressive.

The Cubs have a top shortstop prospect in Triple-A in Javier Baez, though that doesn’t automatically mean they will trade Castro. Neither guy is a standout defender and could wind up at second base. Plus there’s the matter of Baez hitting .226/.278/.424 (74 wRC+) while striking out in 34.2% of his plate appearances this year. (He had a 28.8% strikeout rate in Double-A last season, so the hacktastic ways are nothing new.) The kid has electric, Gary Sheffield-esque bat speed, but he’s ultra-aggressive and there are serious concerns about his ability to hit at the higher levels. Trade Castro and the Cubs might wind up with no viable young shortstops within a year or two.

Castro signed an eight-year, $60M extension during the 2012 season and is under contract through 2019 (option for 2020), when he will still be only 29 years old. If the Cubs were open to trading him, they’d market him as if 2013 was just a bump in the road. Young, high-ceiling middle infielders signed through their peak years never get traded. I can’t come up with a comparable deal to reference and will simply say it will take a package of several high-end prospects to bring Castro to the Bronx. I don’t see this happening at all.

(David Banks/Getty)

Valbuena. (David Banks/Getty)

IF Luis Valbuena
Valbuena, 28, is quietly hitting .266/.359/.425 (117 wRC+) with four homers and a 12.7% walk rate in 237 plate appearances this year. He’s always been a patient hitter (career 10.2 BB%) and last season’s .218/.331/.378 (95 wRC+) batting line would have been better if not for a career low .233 BABIP. He has a .336 BABIP this year and a .267 BABIP since getting to the Cubs in 2012 (.266 career!), so his true talent level is probably somewhere between his 2013 and 2014 performances.

The Yankees need infield help and Valbuena has a lot of experience at both second and third bases, so he provides some flexibility. The various defensive stats rate him anywhere from average to slightly above at the two positions. Valbuena is a left-handed hitter with patience who could see his power production tick up in Yankee Stadium (his spray charts suggests it may), plus he’ll remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player through 2016. Not the sexiest name in the world, but Valbuena would be an upgrade at either second or third bases for New York. Yunel Escobar fetched a Grade-C upper level prospect (Derek Dietrich) when he was dealt from the Marlins to the Rays two years ago, if you’re looking for a comparable trade.

3B Mike Olt
If you’ve been reading RAB long enough, then I’m sure you’re familiar with Olt. The Connecticut raised third baseman was discussed as a possible trade target more than a few times over the years, particularly when he was with the Rangers. Texas traded him to Chicago as part of the package for Matt Garza last year.

Olt, 25, is having a statistically fascinating season as a part-time with the Cubs. He’s hitting .146/.225/.354 (55 wRC+) with a 38.2% strikeout rate and an 8.4% walk rate, so he’s an extreme hacker/swing-and-miss guy, but he’s also clubbed ten homers in 178 plate appearances. The right-handed pop is there and always has been. Olt is okay defensively at third and he has years to go before being eligible for arbitration, nevermind free agency. He’s a project. If the Yankees think their organizational hitting gurus can fix him up, then he would make sense as a buy low, possible long-term third base option. Olt is not someone who can help the team right away, however.

(David Banks/Getty)

Ruggiano. The one on the ground. (David Banks/Getty)

OF Justin Ruggiano & OF Nate Schierholtz
I’m going to lump these two together because they’re both platoon outfielders. Ruggiano, 32, is hitting .220/.321/.352 (88 wRC+) overall this year with a 102 wRC+ against lefties. The 30-year-old Schierholtz has a brutal .205/.260/.308 (52 wRC+) batting line overall and with a 54 wRC+ against righties. He’s the better defender of the two but Ruggiano is about average himself. Schierholtz will become a free agent after the season while Ruggiano is under team control through the 2016 season.

The Yankees are currently riding the underwhelming Alfonso Soriano/Ichiro Suzuki platoon in right field and could use some more power from the position. Neither Ruggiano nor Schierholtz seems likely to provide that based on their performance this year. Utility man Emilio Bonifacio got off to an insane start back in April but hasn’t hit a lick since and is sitting on a .261/.306/.340 (75 wRC+) batting line. He can provide some speed and versatility off the bench, but nothing more. None of these three would move the needle.

* * *

Since it seems unlikely the Cubs will move Castro in the coming weeks for anything less than a substantial haul, Valbuena appears to be the only option who would actually help the Yankees this season. Olt is interesting in the sense that he has power and is a former top prospect, but he needs to be fixed. He’s not going to help anyone right away. Castro is a stud and Jeff Samardzija is very available and a true impact pitcher, but I think Valbuena and Jason Hammel are the more realistic fits for the Yankees.

Categories : Trade Deadline

62 Comments»

  1. Darren says:

    How many more years of rebuilding has to happen before Theo Epstein is no longer considered a genius?

    As far as Starlin Castro goes, I just don’t see a way to make it work, unless he agrees to play third for the rest of this year.

    And Valbuena is the very definition of meh. Is he really that much of an upgrade over Solaberts?

    • ALZ says:

      This only his 3rd season in Chicago.

      • Darren says:

        With absolutely no end in sight. Sow how many more years? 1? 2? 4?

        • Mike HC says:

          There is definitely an end in sight. Rizzo turned into a monster and Kris Bryant is a monster in waiting. Castro and Baez middle infield. Shopping Shark for multiple pitching prospects. Their future looks quite bright to me.

          • Preston says:

            Yes and no, the one thing about the Cubs is they don’t have to build their entire roster through the farm. As soon as they hit a certain talent threshold they will jack the payroll back up and fill in the gaps. But where is the pitching coming from if they trade Samardzija? They have an impressive list of MiLB position players. Their pitching is less impressive, and you shouldn’t count on all or even most of your pitching prospects panning out. The only guy in the current rotation that looks like a long term piece is Arrieta and I’m not ready to call him a top of the rotation guy based on 10 really good starts. If they had inked Shark to an extension, then they’d only have to find one more top end pitcher and a back end guy or two. But if they trade him, they’re basically starting over from scratch in the pitching department and I don’t see them competing anytime soon.

            • Mike HC says:

              True. But like you said they have money to spend on some established starters when they are ready to compete, and will probably add some high end pitching prospects in their deadline deals this year. Nothing is certain, but there is an end in sight to the rebuilding.

          • The Great Gonzo says:

            The Cubs have had good teams before. They’ve still sucked. I’m not buying yet.

            I admire the effort to rebuild, and it has felt like Theo has been over there for a decade trying to make shit happen, but that’s because they’ve been incredibly mediocre for a long long time.

            When I see 2-3 great arms and a super solid young core all at once in that club, then I’ll buy it.

        • ALZ says:

          Cubs aren’t as bad as many think anymore. They are still trying to lose and their Run differential is better than NYY.

      • The Great Gonzo says:

        HOLY SHIT that has been a long 3 years

    • FIPster Doofus says:

      Everyone knew it was going to be a long process. If they’re still terrible in 2-3 years, then call Epstein out.

      • The Great Gonzo says:

        DOUBT IT. The Yankees miss the playoffs twice in 15 years and the assholes in the last thread want his head on a platter. You think they’ll have sympathy for Theo all of the sudden?

    • mitch says:

      Yeah I wouldn’t give up anything decent for Valbuena. I don’t think he’s an upgrade over the Roberts/Johnson/Solarte group. I’d give Pirela or Refsnyder a shot before giving up something for Valbuena. (and i don’t think they’d be an upgrade this season either). I’d aim higher on the infield trade market.

    • nycsportzfan says:

      None of the position players for Chicago are intriguing to me either. Starlin Castro would be a fine addition if he plays 3rd for rest of this yr , knowing he’ll move to SS down the line.

  2. Bavarian Yankee says:

    yeah, seems like it’s almost impossible to get Castro. I’d not want any of the others unless they can get Olt really, really cheap. There have to be better options out there, at least I hope so.

  3. W.B. Mason Williams says:

    I’m all for Valbuena. The Solarte honeymoon seems to be over, though I think he could still be a valuable piece (starting to get a creeping “bench piece” feeling).

    It’s amazing to see how far Olt has tumbled. I remember people clamoring to get him included in a trade. I wonder if the vision problems have just ruined his approach?

    It sure would be nice to have Castro. He’s not the next Jeter, but could legitimately lock down SS for us for the long term future. Assuming Refsnyder comes up next season and with Ellsbury (and hopefully a regression to “good McCann”) we look very strong up the middle. I agree with Mike that building up the middle is a strong path to success. But of course Theo is going to ask the moon (as he should).

    I’m not saying it’s fair or a good idea, but Theo would probably want Sanchez, Severino and Banuelos and Judge as givens, with Refsnyder and Jagielo as potentials inclusions as well.

    • Chip says:

      You’re probably looking at a package of Murphy, Judge, Betances, Banuelos and Severino just to get in the door. And still, you don’t have a guy who is likely to be as good as Castro is right now so I’m not sure its enough. We don’t have that huge Wil Myers type prospect to headline a package

      • nycsportzfan says:

        I think Jon Ryan Murphy, Aaron Judge, and Refsnyder are headliners. Shoot, Severino isn’t far behind.

        I would never give up those guys for Castro, and I really like him. You could be looking at a new core 4 with those guys.

        I’d offer Severino, Warren, Murphy, and Lail for Castro. If they balk, then move on.

  4. Ruggiano is garbage. He was horrid for the Marlins and I’m not a fan. He’s great at being a defensive blunder.

    • FIPster Doofus says:

      Yeah, he sucks. The only one there who interests me at all is Valbuena. Forget Castro – that’s totally unrealistic.

  5. Martin L says:

    The danger in evaluating any Cubs player is the fact that NONE of them play under any sort of pressure to win. I suspect that any number of them will fold like a house of cards in New York.

  6. fred robbins says:

    I just curious Great Gonzo… did you ever think that people might want Cashman’s head for the wonderful gift of the Beltrans of the world- not for missing the playoffs.

    I would bet there are plenty of people who could digest missing the playoffs a few years, but are rather fed up with the constant over the hill aging and lifeless players he adds to this team at the expense of seeing what younger players in the system can do.
    Look at the Angels outfield. I would love to see a GM in Yankeeland be able to call up a Calhoun or Cron instead of trading for Ichiro Soriano and Beltran.

    I mean, if my marriage was going to fail, I would at least rather give it a shot with a young, beautiful woman than a fat old hag.

    • mitch says:

      I don’t understand why so many people act like you have to bottom out for a few years to develop players. Signing Beltran and Ichiro has nothing to do with Tyler Austin and Mason Williams sucking in AA. If the Yankees had a good, young outfielder ready to contribute he’d be starting every game. The problem is that their system has done a terrible job turning prospects into big league position players.

    • The Great Gonzo says:

      OK, Mr Fred Robbins… I’ll bite:

      No, I don’t think that people want Cashman’s head for one particular move or another. People think Cashman Failed (round these parts, at least) because he didn’t sign JD Drew/Kendrys Morales/Nate Scheirholtz/Matt Holliday/Pooholez/Hamilton/Fielder, trade for Justin Upton/Doc Halladay/Cliff Lee Twice/Felix Hernandez/Justin Verlander/John Carlos Stanton and didn’t draft Mike Trout/Manny Machado/Bryce Harper/Jose Fernandez. And all the while, he didn’t simultaneously ‘LET TEH KIDZ PLAY’ and ‘TRADE FOR ALL DEH PLAYERZ’.

      In other words, Cashman failed because he didn’t make the moves that YOU (yeah, you assholes on your iPads sitting at home on the couch) wanted him to make. Being an Armchair GM is super simple. Getting the job, keeping it, and being successful is a completely different thing. You get the benefit of doing the first, unfortunately you cannot do the second.

      And, if your marriage was about to fail, it may not have to do with the fat old hag vs the young beautiful woman. It might be because you, as a spouse, have this notion that you believe what YOU want is what EVERYONE wants. Which means you are probably too selfish to be married in the first place and you should look within before blaming others around you.

      • BigDavey88 says:

        Co-sign the first two paragraphs.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

        Look at the players Mike listed in this post alone. There are at least two “Cashman failed for not getting this guy” past winners up there who haven’t done shit since.

        It won’t matter, though. They’ll just keep moving the goalpost.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

        Also, you win the internet tonight.

  7. Derek Jeter says:

    None of these “available” players will help the Yankees, so why even bother talking about? While your at you might as well add me to list of players who also won’t help the Yankees.

    • BigDavey88 says:

      You’re right. Why are we even paying attention to the Yankees anymore? HEY EVERYONE! This guy called it, it’s a wrap. We can all go home now…

  8. Cuso says:

    Being a seller’s market such as it is, it just seems the Yanks would get fleeced for any potential upgrade which wouldn’t amount anything more than a marginal upgrade anyways.

    Castro isn’t coming here, plain and simple. The Yanks aren’t trading for any SS in the #Season2Remember – so it’s not even viable to discuss it much less analyze it.

  9. PoopChute says:

    Simple

    Castro + Samardzija + Hammel

    For

    Sanchez + Severino + Judge + O’Brien + Banuelos + DePaula + Clarkin + 500 Derek Jeter Bobble heads + 2 Susyn Waldman game warn thongs (warn in 85+ degree weather) + Randy Newman’s hair peice

    • Chip says:

      I think any deal involving so much coming back to the Yankees would have to be centered around Melvin Croussett. I’m not sure if I’d be willing to give him up in that sort of a deal either unless they somehow figure out a three team trade to get Trout included as well. As we all know, three team trades are very difficult to pull off so it’s probably time to stop being so unrealistic

      • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

        It’s so fucking sad that his name doesn’t even get a reaction anymore outside of a few of us.

        I blame Fred Robbins.

    • New Guy says:

      Threw up in my mouth a little from the Suzyn comment.

  10. JGYank says:

    Olt is a project that can’t help the team right now and would be stashed in the minors. No thanks unless we get him as a throw in somehow to gain a prospect. The outfielders don’t look like they’re much an upgrade if they are at all, and Castro isn’t going anywhere. Bonifacio is a utility guy/pinch runner basically.

    That leaves Valbuena. Plays 2 positions where we need help. Nothing special, but he’s having a good year, can take a walk, average defensively (which is great compared to the rest of our infield), and even if he’s somewhere between 2013 and 2014 that’s still a decent player since it’s still above 95 wRC+. In his prime and under team control, too. Could get a power boost from YS being a LHB as well. We can replace Roberts with him or use him at 3rd if Solarte continues to fall. He’s similar to Johnson though, so it would be like having two KJs. Still I’ll take those 2 over the old and not very useful Roberts and the large unknown we have in Solarte. He won’t cost much and we need whatever we can get at this point. Roberts has little to no upside so I think it’s time that experiment ends. An infield mix of Valbuena, Jeter, Solarte, Tex, Ryan and Johnson is a slight improvement and just needs someone to back up 1st.

    • JGYank says:

      So like Mike said, Hammel and Valbuena seem like the most realistic options. Would love Samardzija but he would cost a fortune. The more I think about it, the more Valbuena and Johnson seem like the exact same player except that Johnson is more versatile.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

        Thanks to Steve Adams over at MLBTR, by dividing his name into two separate “Samard” and “Zija” pieces, I’ll never get it wrong again.

  11. LarryM Fl says:

    I read the article. I doubt the Yankees will have the pieces for Castro who appears will be overpriced. I have no answer for shortstop but second base should be Rysynder after a half season in AAA. As far as Olt at third base if a HR per 18 AB’s and his .146 batting average is the value points. I would fire everyone in the FO who signed off on this trade. We have Siezemore who could match Olt in many respects. OF might as well give Almonte a shot. He can surly hit .205 and .220 respectfully. These players have not made the Cubs a winner. Why do we believe they will be better in NY.

    If CC, Nova and Pineda can not return from their injuries or get a reoccurrence of these injuries which is quite possible or should be planned that 2 of three may not come back as expected. I’d go with pitching. Tanaka, CC, Trade, Phelps and Whittley. As you see the pitching is the priority IMHO. CC as the second on the list is not very comforting.

    2015 is going to be a “Bitch of a Season,” not in a good way! We should not trade the whatever future that we have to attempt to fulfill the Mission statement. It does not work. The Yankees had one of their finest runs when cooler heads prevailed in the FO and players were brought up from the minors. We know their names and I understand not much growth has prevailed in the system but its not healthy when the Mission Statement is written in stone and no review is ordered when no success is achieved.

  12. Preston says:

    The teams major holes at 3b, 2b and RF can’t be filled with marginal players. Roberts/Johnson/Ichiro are all better than replacement level. Getting a league average player for half a season is only going to improve the record by about a win. This isn’t a Vernon Wells situation where there was such a negative contribution that getting an adequate Soriano was going to be a huge upgrade. We need to try to find a major improvement or hope that we get some positive regression, because giving up prospects for Luis Vallbuena or Nate Schierholtz isn’t going to do anything but deplete the farm for no reason.

  13. Jean says:

    Why not go after Jose Tabata?

    • Preston says:

      If all he costs is money than he’s an offensive upgrade over Soriano and could be used successfully against LHP in a RF platoon. Then we’d just have to fine the larger side of that platoon…

  14. Austinmac says:

    Preston,

    While I’m not sure I agree those three are above league average, I completely agree it is foolish to trade youth for a player who is slightly better. That gets the team nowhere this year and potentially harms year’s ahead. I do note that Corey Black who we gave up for Soriano would be our best starter in AA.

    • Preston says:

      Above replacement level, not league average. They are all well below league average.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

      And Alfonso Soriano practically carried the offense on his back for two months last season. The team knew the risks.

      • Preston says:

        I didn’t like the trade day of. But what Soriano did last season completely justified the risk. And Corey Black still has big time walk issues at AA, he’s probably a future reliever.

    • The Great Gonzo says:

      When Corey Black wins 20 games in the Bigs or saves 50 games, I will completely co-sign on this. Otherwise, thems the way the dice roll when you are trading minor leaguers for major leaguers.

      It is INCREDIBLY easy to say this trade sucked for the Yankees because Corey Black isnt a bust yet and Soriano has been bad this season. However, when the trade was made and All of last season when Soriano was carrying the team it was a different story.

  15. nycsportzfan says:

    How about this.(I have no idea if this would work).

    3 team deal including Yankees, D-Backs, and Cubs..

    Yankees get Aaron Hill and Jason Hammel

    D-Backs get Peter O’Brien, Corey Black, Brady Lail

    Cubs get Adam Warren, Jon Ryan Murphy, Daneil Palka, Gosuke Katoh

    • nycsportzfan says:

      I think the Cubs would be happy. Not sure if its quite enough for the D’Backs though?

    • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

      That is way, way too much for the Yanks to give up, and that’s not even counting the plethora of low-level guys you’re throwing in.

      • Preston says:

        If we gave the Cubs Murphy and took on Hill’s salary I would expect the other two to work out the deal. Otherwise no dice.

      • nycsportzfan says:

        Really?

        Hammel and Hill and you get to keep Judge, Refs, Severino, Betances, Sanchez, Clarkin, and Williams(I know struggling but I got faith)

        I would be able to live with it, because were close now to the postseason and a solid starter and power hitter could put us over the top, with CC on the horizon.

        • Preston says:

          You’re taking on about 33 million dollars in salary for 2.5 years of Aaron Hill and .5 year of Jason Hammel. You’re giving away six years of John Ryan Murphy, and five years of Adam Warren. With those two and the money alone the trade looks lopsided. I’m not a Peter O’Brien fan but he’s not nothing. Then you’re throwing in Katoh and Lail too.

    • Preston says:

      Aaron Hill 32 yo 2014 .251/.289/.383 career .272/.326/.431

      Roberts 36 yo 2014 .244/.324/.359 career .277/.348/.410

      Johnson 32 yo 2014 .223/.293/.392 career .252/.333/.426

      Solarte 26 yo 2014 .266/.346/.403

      Why does Aaron Hill look like an upgrade to you. He’s having a worse 2014 than any of the three we have. His career numbers don’t suggest he’d improve much more than we could expect from Roberts or Johnson and Solarte has more upside than all of them. So let’s scrap the three team deal, save some prospects and just trade for Hammel.

      • Old Man Time says:

        For the life of me, I cannot understand all the “let’s trade for Hill” comments. It’s as if no one has bothered to look at his stats.

        • Preston says:

          If Hill played for the Yankees, he would be making this team “unwatchable” and Cashman would need to be fired for poor decision making. But since he plays for somebody else he has upside and Cashman needs to trade for him or else he’s incompetent and needs to be fired.

      • nycsportzfan says:

        Because we need to add power more then anything and Hills the type of player whos been up and down but can break out at any point. Teams know something as simple as a change of Scenery could bring out a power surge from A.Hill..

        I was thinking as a guy you play at 3rd/2nd/DH/PH role and emergency SS. I like BROB and think hes been doing well lately, and Refsnyder is also a option. But a 3rd base platoon of Hill/KJ would be nice, with Hills power off the bench late, another aspect to our team we don’t really have. Its not like the Yanks gave up Judge, REfs, Clarkin or one of there top guys in my proposed trade.

        But either way, I said above, not sure if it would work, so I respect your opinion.

        • Preston says:

          Hill has a lower ISO than either Johnson or Solarte (as well as a lower career ISO than Johnson) so he’s not “adding power”. Hill hasn’t played 3b or SS since 2006. So we wouldn’t be acquiring him for his versatility. And seeing as KJ has a reverse platoon split, platooning him with Hill seems like a waste. Lets just play Johnson everyday at 3b, and let Solarte and Roberts fight it out until Refsnyder is ready.

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