As the season winds down to an end and the new regime enters their third year with the Cubs they look to continue to build them up to a championship caliber team. Many fans know that next year may not be the year, but this year is extremely important if not the MOST important year for the Cubs moving forward. I say that because in the first two years the front office turned short term assets into long-term ones and in the 2014 season that will not be as easy and I’ll tell you why looking at positions.
Starting pitching: With Samardzjia, Jackson, Wood, and Arrieta virtual locks for the 2014 rotation, that leaves 1 spot open. We have heard the Cubs will be big players in the bidding for Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, and if he chooses the Cubs (assuming the posting process has been overhauled) there will be zero rotation spots open. If they fail on Tanaka there are few sexy options in the free agent pool, but luckily the Cubs have a couple of AAA starters possibly ready to take the hill in Chicago in Minor League Pitcher of the Year in Kyle Hendricks and the out-of-options Alberto Cabrera Depending on where his arm strength is Arodys Vizcaino will also be an option. [T1] Carlos Villanueva has been effective both as a starter and reliever he will definitely get a look. Also, unlikeprevious years, there is not much room in Iowa to sign a veteran to a minor league contract and store him there with Rusin, Raley, Vizcaino, Hendricks and Grimm all looking like they will be in Iowa.
Flippable assets: Carlos Villanueva.
Bullpen[T2] : Not going to touch on the bullpen as many internal options could be used in the 2014 bullpen, which may include some of the starters above, and will most likely include Villanueva who I mentioned, may be the only flippable asset. I wont take a guess on the bullpen because so many players seem to go in an out but surely needs to be sured up so the Cubs don’t experience the same things in 2014. Guys like Russell, Rosscup, Cabrera and Strop will give the Cubs a nice young bullpen.
Flippable assets: ?
Infield: The Cubs infield is pretty well set withRizzo, Barney, Castro, Valbuena/Murphy, and Castillo (and we all know Mike Olt will get all the chances in the world to win the job at third out of spring training). Then there is second base and Darwin Barney, who plays elite defense but may as well not bother taking a bat with him to the plate. [T3] Watkins will look to steal that job out of spring training and relegate Barney to the bench or another team (which wouldn’t net anything great). Even with the down years by Castro and Rizzo (Rizzo not as down as people think), they and Castillo are not going anywhere. With an infield in Iowa that includes guys like Alcantara, Baez, and Villanueva there will not be many spots for veterans. I am sure not many teams will be breaking down the door for the services of Brad Nelson, Greg Rohan and Tim Torres. Not to mention Kris Bryant should find himself in Iowa at some point but we’ll touch more on him below.
Flippable assets: Barney, Murphy, and Valbuena. (So: eh, eh and eh)
Outfield: This is the one part of the 2014 Cubs that will have players of value to be able to flip. Right now it is a combination of Bogusevic, Schierholtz, Sweeney (who I am sure they will bring back) and Junior Lake. I believe the Cubs will give Junior Lake every opportunity to play everyday, but the other three do not look to be part of the future. On top of that, all those guys besides Lake are left handed. There is Borbon, Sappelt and Ha in Iowa but we have seen what Borbon and Sappelt have shown at the big league level so I am sure Ha will get first shot. We also can’t forget Brett Jackson, but Matt Szczur should start in Iowa also with Ha and maybe even Rubi Silva will get time in Iowa. If Kris Bryant wont stick at third, which the Cubs will give him every opportunity to do, he will get some time in the OF. Bryant will most likely start in AA and we will see if he can stick at third in the upper levels or if he will be in the OF. So the value in the outfield is at the MLB level, and though there are a couple of veterans in Iowa they carry almost no value at this point.
Flippable assets: Bogusevic, Schierholtz and Sweeney (if brought back).
The difference in the third year with the new regime is finally many of the Cubs prospects with ability to stick in the majors have reached the higher levels of the minors. This makes it tough for the Cubs to stash veterans in Iowa (outside of the bullpen) because of the progression of the prospects. With the big time prospects moving up in the minors it also makes the June draft even more important to pour talent back into those lower levels. Outside of the OF (that may only be Schierholtz) the 2014 Cubs will not have guys like Garza and Feldman to make these type of big trades. For me it is Villanueva, Schierholtz and Sweeney(again if he comes back) who will be able to net the Cubs the most value. The good news is that this year the Cubs traded for guys that could play in the MLB now (Arrieta, Strop, Olt) and with guys like Alcantara, Bryant, Szczur, Baez, Ha, Vizcaino, Hendricks and Cabrera all ready to make impacts next year the front office can make more high upside deals to inject more talent into the lower levels.