Much of the news this week has been about a flurry of activity following the Lester deal of last week. The big addition is Jason Motte. The former St. Louis Cardinal is coming off Tommy John Surgery and it is hoped he can regain his form. I envision Joe Maddon using him at the most crucial point in the game, regardless of inning. Motte doesn’t have to be the closer. He has to be one guy who can shut down the other team’s top players in the 7th, 8th, or 9th inning.
In addition, Catcher David Ross was signed as a free agent for 2 years and 5 million dollars. For the last two years, Ross caught Jon Lester on a regular basis. The move is striking as it puts Wellington Castillo on the trading block and moves up Miguel Montero to play 80% of the time.
The Cubs also signed some depth guys in OF/1B Shane Peterson from Oakland, C/OF Ryan Lavarnway from the Dodgers via the Red Sox. To make room, the Cubs DFA’d Logan Watkins and the recently acquired pitcher Donn Roach. Maybe they will clear waivers and be assigned to Triple A Iowa. I think the same of Lavarnway and Peterson. I don’t see them as bench players. In fact, I don’t think much of them at all. They are just organizational guys to be stashed, in my opinion, at Iowa.
There has been a plethora of discussion on some blogs about adding this guy or that guy. I think the Cubs are still looking for a center fielder, preferably a left-handed hitting one. To acquire that part, the Cubs basically have five options to get one.
- Travis Wood
- Edwin Jackson
- Wellington Castillo
- Luis Valbuena
- A combination of the above players
I am one who truly believes that any of the young players and prospects aren’t going anywhere. There is no way Theo is going to trade a player in December who hasn’t seen the light of day in the majors. And there is no way he is going to trade Alcantara, Baez, Soler, Bryant, or anyone who is close (read as Addison Russell).
I am one who truly believes that the trade for such a player does not have to happen before Christmas. Sure, it would be nice, but there are over three months before the season starts. That’s a lot of time to find just the right player. And that is what it will be; Theo and Jed aren’t trading for just anybody to put out in CF.
If there is one thing I have learned the past three full years of Theo’s regime is this: He trades away short term assets. He hangs on to long term assets.
When I look at the 4 names above, Valbuena and Castillo hold the most value. And the time to trade them is when you can get the most value for them. I don’t think the time is right now. I think the closer to spring training the more their value will increase. The market for the two positional players is currently not that strong. Valbuena has more value as left handed hitter that can play multiple positions well. It would not surprise me to see the Cubs hang on to him if they can’t get what they want. The same cannot be said of Castillo. The market for catchers is slim. Texas is looking for one. Tampa Bay, too. Castillo has good blocking skills but his framing ability is lacking, hence Montero and Ross.
If I had to say who would go first of the four, it would be Castillo followed by Travis Wood. Valbuena has the most value but is the least be to be traded because he does have value. The next four days should be interesting, but I will not be surprised if nothing happens.
The only player out there I would try to acquire if I was Theo would be Ben Zobrist. However, I think his price is beyond what Theo can offer. If I know Tampa, they would require more than just Castillo, Valbuena, or Wood. They would require someone that they can control for five-six years. I just think Theo is not willing to give up the type of prospect Tampa wants.
The same can be said of other possible center fielders like Dexter Fowler (not a fan), Denard Span (not available), CoCo Crisp (too expensive and too old for me). The only other team out there that might, just might, have a center fielder the Cubs could get would be Boston. Brock Holt and Jackie Bradley could be had, but in my opinion, the price is just too steep. The only package I could think of the Cubs making involves Castillo and a prospect.
The problem no matter who the center fielder is comes from the fact that Albert Almora could be a year to a year and a half away. Defensively, Almora is ready now. His pitch selection still needs a lot of work. He tries to do too much with every hittable pitch. Last year, he did very well at Daytona and struggled at Tennessee. He will start out at Tennessee this year. Hopefully, he can get off to a good start, stay healthy, and advance quickly to Iowa. Do the Cubs really need to go out and get someone?
Internally, Junior Lake and Arismendy Alcantara are two converted outfielders who have their ups and downs. Lake is having a great season in winter with a walk rate over 15% and Arismendy is also getting some work in this winter. The problem for both is they struggle to make big league adjustments to big league pitchers. Theo may just decide to platoon the two in center and to have Lake get some extra time in left occasionally.
No matter what Theo does or does not do, the key is this: The Cubs have options and lots of them. They have the flexibility to do whatever they feel they want to do or need to do to fill the position. Not many teams can say that. And, Theo can do it whenever he wants. There is no urgency.
Anyway, it should be a fun few days and weeks as spring gets a little bit closer.