Tag: Chicago Cubs

Predicting the Landing Spots for Sonny Gray and Yu Darvish

Predicting the Landing Spots for Sonny Gray and Yu Darvish

With the annual non-waiver trade deadline just days away, there are two top-tier players who seem destined to be on the move.  Oakland Athletics starter Sonny Gray has been rumored to be a main target of several contenders, as has Yu Darvish of the Texas Rangers.  The two A.L. West righthanders are the top pitchers on the active trade market, and it would be a major shock to see them stay put on their current clubs.  Here are the two landing spots that make the most sense for Gray and Darvish.

Sonny Gray to the Los Angeles Dodgers

Although there has reportedly been major discussions regarding Darvish being traded to Los Angeles, Sonny Gray is much more likely to wind up in Chavez Ravine.  Gray would give the Dodgers another top arm to pair with Clayton Kershaw over the next several years, whereas Darvish would merely be a rental unless Andrew Friedman is willing to pay a pretty penny to resign the Japanese-born starter.  Speaking of Friedman, the Dodgers President was able to reach a deal last summer with Oakland for Rich Hill and Josh Reddick.  The Athletics are surely familiar with the deep Dodgers’ farm system and likely have their eyes set on a few names in particular.  Alex Verdugo is probably at the top of the A’s wishlist but don’t expect Friedman to move his prized outfield prospect.  Verdugo’s advanced approach and impressive .328/.401/.446 slash line at Triple-A Oklahoma City this season should make him nearly untouchable in trade talks.

With that being said, the Athletics would have to expect a major return for Gray given how much Jose Quintana cost the Chicago Cubs.  The package would likely have to be headlined by pitcher Walker Buehler, who MLB.com ranked the 13th overall prospect in baseball.  Buheler, who attended Vanderbilt like Sonny Gray, features a mid-to-high 90’s fastball along with an above-average slider and curveball.  Buehler has demonstrated great command in the minor leagues and could become the future ace of the A’s.

Also joining Buehler would be former fourth round pick Willie Calhoun.  Calhoun has torn up the Pacific Coast League in 2017, hitting 23 home runs while posting a .942 OPS.  The 22 year-old is best suited for the American League, however, due to his lack of proficiency in any one defensive position.  He could play in left field, but he may fare better as a designated hitter.  If the Dodgers were to include another prospect such as Edwin Rios, Billy Beane and the A’s would likely pull the trigger on moving Sonny Gray.

Yu Darvish to the Chicago Cubs for Kyle Schwarber

If you thought the Chicago Cubs were finished making trades, think again.

As they demonstrated last season, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer won’t hesitate to surrender valuable pieces of the future for an immediate return that gives them a chance to win a World Series.  Like in the A’s-Dodgers deal, the history between Epstein and Rangers’ General Manager John Daniels will help this deal come to fruition.

Jose Quintana was a great pickup, but the Cubs’ pitching staff could still use an extra punch to carry them into October.  Yu Darvish’s track record of dominance makes him a top option despite his 4.01 ERA in 2017.  Darvish is only under contract through the remainder of the season, which will make him less costly than Sonny Gray.  Imagine if the Cubs entered the postseason with a pitching staff of Lester, Darvish, Quintana, Arrieta and Hendricks; what team would want to face that Rotation of Death?

Alas, Darvish may not carry the price-tag that Gray does, but it would still require the Cubs to part with a former top prospect.  Theo Epstein likely would prefer to retain Ian Happ for his versatility, but the Cubs would be willing to give up Kyle Schwarber.  In what has been a nightmarish season, Schwarber is hitting just .191 with a .308 on-base percentage.  He does have seventeen home runs, though, and he has been more productive since his brief demotion to Triple-A.  Schwarber still holds the potential to be a fearsome middle-of-the-order hitter and becoming a full-time DH could remedy any future struggles.  Schwarber is likely pressing at the plate as a result of his defensive failures.  Making him a designated hitter would allow the 24 year-old to focus solely on hitting, which is a scary thought.

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The Quintana Trade Makes Both Sides of Chicago Winners

The Quintana Trade Makes Both Sides of Chicago Winners

On Wednesday evening, both Dylan Cease and Eloy Jimenez, the Chicago Cubs’ top two prospects, were scratched from their minor league games.  Trade speculation arose quickly, with many wondering if the Cubs would really part ways with two key pieces of their future for a front-line starting pitcher.  On Thursday, news broke that the Chicago White Sox had dealt southpaw Jose Quintana across town to the Cubs in exchange Jimenez, Cease, Matt Rose, and Bryant Flete.  This was the first deal between the two Chicago teams in the past eleven years, and it certainly is one of the biggest in recent memory.

After parting ways with Chris Sale and Adam Eaton this offseason, the White Sox finally traded Quintana after plenty of rumors dating back to last year.  The returns on Sale, Eaton, and now Quintana have been stupendous, netting the club a plethora of top prospects.  In Eloy Jimenez, they added yet another young stud.  A 20 year-old outfielder from the Dominican Republic, Jimenez has displayed plus-tools across the board, specifically his bat.  He projects as a 25-30 homer guy with a chance to hit around .300.  He has an advanced approach for his age, hitting with power to all fields.  His bat speed is pretty incredible, and he’s been able to translate that into games.  Last year in the Arizona Fall League, Jimenez hit a ball with an exit velocity of 119 MPH, a feat only Jimenez, Aaron Judge, and Giancarlo Stanton have accomplished in a game.

The White Sox also added another high-ceiling arm in Dylan Cease.  Cease was drafted in the sixth round in 2014, but likely would have been a first-round selection had he not injured his throwing arm in the spring.  His fastball has touched triple digits, and his curveball is a nasty put-away pitch when Cease can command it.  His changeup needs refinement if he wants to remain a starter.  Cease has serious upside as a starter or as a back-end reliever down the line, giving the White Sox farm system even more pitching to fall back on.

Despite relinquishing Jimenez and Cease, the Chicago Cubs still come out of this trade as winners.  Quintana carried a high cost, but his team-friendly contract he signed prior to the 2014 season makes him so valuable to a contender like the Cubs.  Quintana is signed through the end of next season for just $8,850,000, but he also has two club options for the 2020 and 2021 seasons.  Each option would cost just $10,500,000 to pick up, meaning Quintana will almost certainly be a Cub until he hits free agency after the 2021 season.  His inexpensive contract allows the Cubs to sign more impact players in free agency, and also to work more diligently on an extension for Kris Bryant.

Another element of the deal that may have influenced Theo Epstein to pay a higher price for Jose Quintana could be pricing the Brewers out of the market.  Many baseball analysts expected Milwaukee to strike first and take initiative on the trade market.  The Cubs instead made the first major move and set a big precedent in the process.  After seeing what White Sox General Manager Rick Hahn was able to trade Quintana for, other teams will be expecting top-flight prospects for pitchers such as Sonny Gray, Michael Fulmer, Justin Verlander, and Yu Darvish.  If the Brewers were to make a move for Gray, for instance, top prospect Lewis Brinson would have to be involved, and he would just be the centerpiece.  Josh Hader may also have to go in any major trade, and the Brewers may be more hesitant to act now that the price on pitching will be higher.

The Cubs still sit 5.5 games back of the Brewers in the National League Central, so they probably need to make another move before the non-waiver trade deadline on July 31.  Only time will tell which Chicago team wins this trade.  Quintana could be terrible on the North Side, and the White Sox prospects may never pan out.  For now, though, both the Cubs and White Sox are winners in the first major trade of the 2017 season.

The Most Untouchable Prospects This Summer

The Most Untouchable Prospects This Summer

With the trade deadline just six weeks away, deals are sure to be made soon, seeing established stars head to contenders in return for coveted prospects.  Some of the biggest prospects in baseball, like Gleyber Torres, Clint Frazier, Yoan Moncada, and Dansby Swanson, have all been moved around in trades over the past few years.  These high-upside minor leaguers typically carry a high price, but there are an elite few who have an exorbitantly large value to their teams.  These blue-chippers have no shot of being moved this summer, save for a deal for one of the best players in the game.

Prospects within organizations whose big league clubs are not in playoff contention will not be considered eligible for this list.  Obviously, the Mets won’t trade Amed Rosario when they’re virtually out of the National League East race.

Brendan Rodgers, Colorado Rockies

The Rockies have stunned the National League in 2017, putting together a 44-win season thus far.  They currently lead the N.L. West, and look like potential postseason contenders with their elite offense and shutdown bullpen.  However, their starting rotation raises questions.  While the youthful staff has produced thus far, their lack of late-season experience could lead to future struggles.  Colorado would be wise to add a solid, veteran starter to guide the young Rockies pitchers into October.  The Rockies hold multiple trade chips, but one stands tall above the rest.

Brendan Rodgers is the premier prospect in the Rockies’ farm system and for good reason.  The 20 year-old is hitting .400 at High-A Lancaster with twelve home runs and a .419 OBP in 48 games.  He had 23-game hitting streak going as well, and is surely positioned to receive a call-up to Double-A in the near future.  Rodgers could easily bring back the pitcher Colorado needs.  But the Rockies will not move their future shortstop, who has the look of an absolute superstar.

Eloy Jimenez, Chicago Cubs

Eloy Jimenez put himself on the map with his remarkable performance in the 2016 Futures Game where he blasted a ball into the seats at Petco Park and also flashed some leather in the outfield.  Jimenez is still just 20 years old, and he probably won’t play at Wrigley Field until the end of 2018 at the earliest.  That being said, the Cubs won’t trade the slugging outfielder, even if they find themselves behind in the National League Central.  The Cubs have plenty of other expendable prospects and players like Jeimer Candelario, Dylan Cease, Ian Happ, Javier Baez, and Albert Almora that can bring back an impact player.

Lewis Brinson, Milwaukee Brewers

When the Brewers dished out former all-star catcher Jonathan Lucroy last summer, general manager David Stearns saw a franchise cornerstone in outfielder Lewis Brinson.  The 2012 first-round draftee just made his big league debut last week after tearing up the Pacific Coast League for two months.  Brinson hit .312 with a .900 OPS over 45 games in Triple-A this year.  The 23 year-old has serious five-tool potential, giving Stearns no reason to trade him at the deadline this summer.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays

His father may be on the cusp of a well-deserved Hall of Fame induction, but young Vladdy could be knocking on the door in Toronto as soon as next year.  At just eighteen years of age, Guerrero is obliterating A-ball pitching, hitting .321 with a .469 slugging percentage.  His approach is well beyond his years; Guerrero Jr. has walked three more times than he has struck out through 59 games.  He has even been promoted as a better hitter than his father, which is a testament to Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s potential.  Toronto has made up considerable ground in the Wild Card standings, but there’s no way they will trade their top prospect for an aging star.

Tuesday Takes: Joe’s Gone Maddon

Tuesday Takes: Joe’s Gone Maddon

First off, I apologize to my few readers that this didn’t go up yesterday; I had a busy day that was capped off by watching the Chicago Cubs slaughter the New York Mets live from Citi Field.  Although the game was a complete blowout, it brought a hot take regarding the Cubs to my mind.  Aaron Judge hasn’t slowed down a bit, and after his mammoth home run Sunday at Yankee Stadium, where does he rank among the best hitters in baseball today?  The MLB Draft took place Monday evening, and the Twins surprised everyone by selecting Royce Lewis with the first overall pick.  Did they find a future all-star or make a big mistake?

The Cubs Should Fire Joe Maddon If They Fail to Make the Playoffs

Would this ever happen?  Probably not.  Maddon is a three-time Manager of the Year with two World Series appearances, the most recent one snapping a 108-year championship drought for the Cubs.  But with the team struggling this late into the season, Maddon shouldn’t be as safe as you’d expect.  The Cubs are still the popular choice to win the National League Central due to the underwhelming competition, but the Brewers, Cardinals, and Pirates could all pose as major threats to steal the division if the Cubs don’t pull away soon.  Joe Maddon’s lineup creativity is interesting, but flawed.  His use of Kyle Schwarber in the leadoff spot failed miserably, and while Anthony Rizzo was great as the leadoff man on Tuesday against the Mets, why would anyone put one of their best two power-hitters at the top of the lineup?  Rizzo’s on-base percentage gives the move some potential to succeed, but the offense as a whole will suffer without his bat in the cleanup spot.

Judging the Best

Aaron Judge is no fluke.  The man can seriously hit, which he has proven by leading the American League in basically every offensive category through June now that Mike Trout does not qualify due to his thumb injury.  If Judge didn’t have the world’s attention yet, he certainly grabbed it Sunday when he blasted a baseball over the left field bleachers in Yankee Stadium.  The surefire American League Rookie of the Year may be second to only Mike Trout now as a hitter, possibly better than the likes of Bryce Harper, Nolan Arenado, and Kris Bryant despite his extremely short track record.

Lewis a Twin Bust

Royce Lewis was projected to be a top-five selection in this year’s draft, which was perfectly reasonable.  Lewis has undeniable upside for his elite speed and defensive prowess.  He also has a bat that could produce at the big league level with some improvement.  But the Twins taking Lewis at number one was a mistake.  With Hunter Greene and Brendan McKay available, the Twins could have easily grabbed one of the best two-way players in recent history.  Greene has the most upside out of anyone in this year’s draft, while McKay may be the biggest sure thing as a pitcher or a hitter.  Instead, the Twins gambled on Lewis because he was willing to cut a deal and sign for less money.  Lewis resembles former Twins’ first-rounder Byron Buxton, and while the former 2nd overall pick has time to right the ship, Buxton has been a huge bust to this point.  Lewis profiles similarly to Buxton, which should’ve prompted Minnesota to make a different selection.  That being said, Lewis’ character and incredible maturity could help him be successful.  The high school star is an extemely humble young man who already talks and acts like a professional.

Most Impactful Draft Moves in the Past 5 Years

Most Impactful Draft Moves in the Past 5 Years

When you go back throughout history and look over the first round of each MLB Draft, there are some players that immediately stand out for their greatness.  There are others that are total head-scratchers, making you wonder what could’ve been if an organization had made a different selection.  The first round of the MLB Draft is where the future of the sport is shaped, determining eventual champions and perennial losers.  I look back at the most impactful moves in the past five drafts, showing how just one pick can change a franchise.

2012  

Houston Takes Carlos Correa, Not Byron Buxton

In the days before the draft, Byron Buxton looked like a near-lock to go first overall to the Houston Astros.  Buxton was one of the top prep-stars in the past decade, displaying legendary speed and defense while providing evidence that he could develop into a plus-hitter as well.  On draft day, though, Houston settled on Puerto Rice Baseball Academy shortstop Carlos Correa because he was willing to sign for less money.  Correa has become a star and is in the midst of a tremendous year, leading the Astros to the best record in baseball.  Signing Correa at a discount also allowed Houston to spend more money on Lance McCullers Jr., who has developed into their number two starter.  The Twins have also had success in 2017, but not because of Buxton.  The 23 year-old holds a career .216 average with 227 strikeouts in just 194 games.

Pirates Take Mark Appel at 8

Mark Appel had a chance to go in the top five leading up to the 2012 MLB Draft, and was even considered the likely number one pick at one point, but he ultimately slid down due to signability concerns.  Pittsburgh would draft Appel eighth overall, but the Stanford ace didn’t sign.  So how did this benefit the Pirates?  By not signing Appel, the Pirates received the ninth overall pick in 2013 as compensation, where they selected Austin Meadows.  Meadows, a top prep-star at the time, has become one of the top five prospects in the game.  Appel was the first overall pick in 2013, but his struggles led to him being traded to Philadelphia, where he has yet to live up to his high draft status.

2013

Cubs Surprise Everyone, End Up With a Future MVP

Based on their lack of pitching depth in their farm system, many mock drafts predicted that the Cubs would select either Mark Appel or Jon Gray with the second overall selection.  Appel went first overall, making Gray seem like the obvious choice.  However, the Cubs instead selected San Diego standout Kris Bryant.  The Cubs’ superstar was the best power bat in the draft class and has carried that power over to Wrigley Field.  Bryant would go on to win the 2016 National League MVP Award and lead the Cubs to their first World Series since 1908.

Great Judgement

Despite his toolsy makeup, Aaron Judge was very raw coming out of Fresno State.  He had crazy power, but he couldn’t consistently put it to use.  The Yankees decided to gamble on Judge with the 32nd overall pick, and they’ve won big so far.  Judge currently leads the American League in all three Triple Crown categories, and has led the Yankees to first place in a loaded A.L. East division.

2014

Chicago Reaches at Four

The Cubs made another shocking choice in 2014, selecting Indiana catcher Kyle Schwarber with the fourth overall selection.  Schwarber was projected to be a first-round pick, but he was expected to go in the middle of the round.  Many teams had concerns over his ability to stick defensively as a catcher.  Chicago saw through his flaws and recognized an impact bat.  Schwarber certainly made a huge impact last fall after returning from season-ending surgery.  Schwarber went 7 for 20 with a .971 OPS in five World Series games, helping the Cubs break their 108 year drought.

Trading Places

2014 featured some highly-talented prospects going in the first round, but nobody could’ve guessed how many would eventually be traded before reaching the big leagues.  Alex Jackson, Jeff Hoffman, Trea Turner, Sean Newcomb, Touki Toussaint, Brandon Finnegan, Grant Holmes, Justus Sheffield, and Michael Kopech have all been traded in the past three years.  Some of the players involved in those deals- Wil Myers, Troy Tulowitzki, Johnny Cueto, Rich Hill, Andrew Miller, and Chris Sale- made major impacts for their new clubs at the time.

2015

Shelby Miller?!

Dansby Swanson was the first overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft, but just one year later, he wouldn’t be on the team who drafted him.  Swanson was traded by the Diamondbacks in a multi-player deal for Shelby Miller of the Atlanta Braves.  The trade was immediately scrutinized, and for good reason.  Miller had put together one solid season, whereas Swanson had serious potential to be a franchise cornerstone.  Miller has become irrelevant since joining Arizona.  Swanson has struggled in his rookie year, but he has shown flashes of his amazing potential and still has plenty of time to make this trade a big win for Atlanta.

2016

No Bo in the First

Players from the 2016 draft class haven’t had the time to make a difference for their respective big league clubs yet, but one second round choice is making a ton of noise in the minors.  Bo Bichette, son of Dante Bichette, has torn up A-ball in 2017.  At just 19 years of age, Bichette is batting .388 with a 1.088 OPS.  Looking back, it’s shocking that Bichette fell out of the first round considering his offensive prowess.

 

Tuesday Takes: All Rise for the MVP Front-Runner

Tuesday Takes: All Rise for the MVP Front-Runner

A new institution on this blog will be Tuesday Takes, dedicated to my hot takes on the current news and events in the world of baseball.  After Memorial Day Weekend, there are so many hot topics around the league, and here’s how I feel about them.

Aaron Judge Will Win the American League Most Valuable Player Award

Mike Trout’s unfortunate thumb injury has put him on the shelf for 6-8 weeks.  Is it possible that he can return after the All-Star Game and put up monster numbers and still win the MVP award?  Absolutely.  But in the next 6-8 weeks, Aaron Judge will pull away from Trout and secure the hardware.

Judge currently leads the American League in runs and home runs.  He ranks in the top ten in RBI’s and batting average, and is second to only Trout in OBP, slugging, and OPS.  He has the second highest WAR among position players to- you guessed it- Mike Trout.  Judge has his flaws and can be pitched to, but opposing pitchers can’t seem to consistently attack his weaknesses.  For the time being, Judge has showed no signs of slowing down and is on track to become the youngest MVP winner since Mike Trout (Who Else?).

The Harper-Strickland Brawl is the Best in Years, and the Punishments will be Historic

When Hunter Strickland inexplicably plunked Bryce Harper with a 98 MPH fastball in the 8th inning on Memorial Day, Bryce Harper didn’t take exception.  Harper’s charge to the mound, including his helmet throw, which was either pathetic or strategic depending on whether or not he meant to hit Strickland, was pure insanity.  This is the best baseball brawl since the benches cleared in a Diamondbacks and Dodgers battle back in 2013.

While I have no problem with pitchers exacting revenge on hitters for pimping home runs, Strickland was completely in the wrong here.  The home runs he surrendered to Harper occurred three years ago, and the Giants got the last laugh in 2014 when they captured their 3rd World Series trophy since 2010.  To hit Harper where and when he did made it all the more obvious that this was completely intentional.

Harper likely will face a three game suspension for attacking Strickland.  The Giants reliever should receive more than that; as little as five games but as many as 10.

The Cubs Might Not Be As Great As We Thought

If you had the Cubs going into June with a 25-25 record, hats off to you.

The defending champs have struggled much more than expected in 2017.  Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo haven’t been awful, but they were certainly expected to be better offensively.  Bryant’s batting average has dipped to .276, while Rizzo’s is set to be his lowest since 2013 when he hit at a .233 clip.  Fellow slugger Kyle Schwarber has been pitiful, hitting .173 with an OPS of .634 in 45 games.  Addison Russell hasn’t taken the next step offensively, as he also has a sub-.700 OPS and a lowly .220 batting average.

The rotation has been horrendous relative to last season when they had the lowest team ERA in baseball.  This year, they currently rank 10th, which is mainly due to their outstanding bullpen featuring Wade Davis, Carl Edwards Jr., and Mike Montgomery.  The four aces of 2016 have all struggled this year.  Jake Arrieta has a 4.92 ERA and has allowed ten home runs in ten starts.  Arrieta’s command has been non-existent at times; the 2015 Cy Young Award recipient leads baseball with nine wild pitches.  John Lackey has been the worst of the quartet, pitching to the tune of a 5.18 ERA.  Lester and Hendricks have both regressed as well.  Last season, the pitching staff had two of the top ten leaders in Fielding Independent Pitching, which essentially measures how well a pitcher performs without factoring in the defensive performance behind him.  This season, none of the four aforementioned starters rank inside the top ten.

The Boston Red Sox Will Trade for Mike Moustakas in the Next Two Weeks

The Boston Red Sox offense is starting to click, but there is still one glaring spot in the lineup.  Third base seems to offer no production for a loaded Red Sox team, and it doesn’t seem as though the solution will come from inside the organization.  Deven Marrero is not a Major League hitter, and while calling up Sam Travis could lead to offensive improvement, the former Indiana star can’t defensively play at the hot corner.  Boston could call up top prospect Rafael Devers from Double A Portland, but they seem hesitant to rush the 20 year-old stud.

Enter Mike Moustakas.

The Kansas City Royals will be sellers this summer, so why not start now?  Mike Moustakas has been putting together a solid season in his walk year as he is set to hit free agency for the first time this winter.  Moustakas presents a viable option at third for Boston, and he also can be the perfect bridge to Devers, who should receive the call to the Sox sometime in 2018.  The Royals could expect a prospect like 2016 fourth-round draft pick Bobby Dalbec in return for their third baseman.  Dalbec played third for the University of Arizona last year.  The 21 year-old has a high offensive ceiling and should offer above-average defense at the hot corner.  Boston has a deep farm system where they could afford to deal a different top-eight farmhand as well.  The trade is a match made in heaven with Boston needing immediate production and the Royals looking to build for the future.