Ed. note: My predictions on Cease and Jimenez were way off, though I did throw in that nugget at the end. More info on today’s big trade here.
Though his annual list of players with the highest trade value has not been fully revealed, Dave Cameron’s rankings offer a little insight and reinforce some of what we know about the Cubs’ plans. And before you go freaking out and calling BS after seeing Clayton Kershaw named in the honorable mention section, first understand that this whole thing is theoretical and based on a number of factors.
What you have to know about Kershaw is that his contract allows him to opt out if he’s traded, which makes him a rental. Several other players are ranked lower than you might think as a result of their age, their deal, or their position. Most of these guys aren’t being traded and it’s not as simple a matter as matching up their hypothetical values, but Cameron’s rankings do offer foot- and handholds for conversation.
Before we get much further into that, though, a brief reminder:
Since it keeps coming up, I'll share what I wrote last week. It still hasn't changed. pic.twitter.com/JdUInHxAKQ
— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) July 12, 2017
Schwarber finds himself among a group labeled “Some Consistency Would Be Nice” that includes Sonny Gray, Aaron Sanchez, and Dansby Swanson. The first of those names is a guy the Cubs have scouted and he’s long been linked as a potential target. His lack of consistent health and production is a concern, but it also makes him less costly than other options.
Addison Russell comes in at No. 40 on the list, which is actually pretty good when you take everything into consideration. Then again, it’s also a little lower than where he’d find himself were it not for his disappointing performance. I’d include the domestic violence business too, but that probably isn’t hurting his value all that much. Here’s how Cameron justified the ranking:
As one friend put it, he’s already pretty close to being Brandon Crawford, and there is still upside for more. And the 30-year-old Brandon Crawford almost made this list despite being making $15 million per year for his decline phase. So a younger, cheaper version with remaining potential is something teams would still love to have, despite his early-season struggles. And it’s why the Cubs, to this point, aren’t making him available, even with an internal replacement in Javier Baez and a glaring need for another starting pitcher.
As for the domestic-violence accusations, which are certainly disturbing, the Aroldis Chapman trade last summer showed there isn’t a lot of evidence that teams are backing away from acquiring talented players because of these problems. While I can wish that weren’t the case, the reality in MLB right now is that acquiring talent still wins out in nearly every decision, and Russell is still a very talented young shortstop. Because this project attempts to measure what MLB is valuing, and not what I’m valuing, Russell still ranks fairly highly here, despite his current on- and off-field issues.
So why did I just include two Cubs’ trade values while making sure to also include information saying that neither would be traded? Well, like Cameron’s list, I really just wanted to present a realistic picture of what the team could possibly do if they chose to. And one thing they won’t do is trade big-time players when their value is down.
“The answer’s not going to be from some crazy trades and the bottom line is that when you have guys who aren’t performing well, you start trading core guys when their value’s down because they’re not performing well,” Theo Epstein said the other day. “You compound a bad first half of the season and make dramatic long-term organizational decisions, and that’s not what we want to do.”
You also put yourself in a position to have to throw in additional pieces, particularly when you’re talking about going after a guy like Michael Fulmer who’s ranked No. 22, just between Paul Goldschmidt and Chris Sale. Yeah, that’s pretty solid. It’s also why I do not believe the Cubs called the Tigers with an offer of Schwarber for Fulmer. They know damn well those players don’t match up in the least, and that’s even if Schwarber was hitting more on par with his capability.
Cease and Jimenez scratched, rumors swirl
Epstein has said time and again that the Cubs will win with the players already on the roster and that they will deal (at least mainly) from depth if they deal at all. That of course means moving some of the highly-touted prospects from a system that has seen much of its impact talent matriculate to the majors already.
Whether it’s all the trade buzz or the talk about imminent promotions, there was a fair bit of speculation and liberal use of #HugWatch when it was reported that Dylan Cease had been scratched from his Wednesday start. Then came word that Eloy Jimenez was not in the starting lineup for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, which fanned the flames that had died out a little by that point.
Had this been a legit trade situation, we’d have heard something pretty quickly. Remember when the Aroldis Chapman deal went down? There were all kinds of reports flying around on that one.
The lack of information smacks of Schwarber’s recall, when he left the I-Cubs game early with nary a word of explanation. But I think it’s simply a matter of precaution for Cease, who was facing a forecast of heavy rain in the Michiana region, and additional rest for Jimenez, who recently returned to Myrtle Beach after playing in the Futures Game. I don’t really know when that game was, since MLB does a garbage job of marketing it, but I think it was a few days ago.
So why’s it a big enough deal to write about? Maybe it isn’t. But you have to admit that the intrigue of this time of the baseball season is pretty intoxicating. When else do totally innocuous decisions set hearts and tongues aflutter like this?
And this won’t be the last we get a little smoke from these names one way or the other. Since I don’t see the Cubs pulling off the kind of deal that requires either or both of them, with Jimenez being the more unlikely of the pair to be moved, I’d imagine the next round of heavy chatter comes from promotions. And as of press time, South Bend’s Thursday starter was still TBD.
Cubs are two different teams
Given the way the first half ended, it’s easy to look at the Cubs and say they kinda sucked. But the truth of the matter is that we saw glimpses of the greatness they achieved last season, albeit in short spurts. It’s no surprise, then, that media coverage of the team could take different tones, which we saw all too clearly in two columns published yesterday.
In his look ahead to the second half, the Tribune’s Paul Sullivan talked to several All-Stars — including some Cleveland Indians — who all agreed that the Cubs still have what it takes to do well this season. While his presentation was heavily skewed toward positive projection, he included some honest assessments about the team as well.
No matter how fatigued they were during the first three months, every Cub but Davis, Maddon and the coaches got a nice, four-day rest this All-Star week. Perhaps it was a blessing in disguise Cubs fans failed to vote anyone onto the NL roster, knowing no one really deserved the honor.
Starting Friday in Baltimore the Cubs will get a chance to turn the odometer back to zero and pretend they just gave the Brewers a nice head start in the NL Central race.
Then you had Gordon Wittenmyer of the Sun-Times, who used very similar quotes from Andrew Miller and Corey Kluber and couched them in such a way as to make the Cubs sound a little whiny. For what it’s worth, his column did include a brief glimpse of hope and it closed with a snippet from Francisco Lindor saying he thought the Cubs would still win the division.
Here’s a brief look at that piece:
Case in point: Miller. He was leaned on as hard as almost any pitcher in the postseason last fall, averaging two innings in 10 games.
But his statistics are almost identical during this All-Star season as last year’s. In fact, they’re slightly better.
The Indians arguably suffered a bigger injury loss this year than Cubs when Kluber missed a month with a back strain. He’s been one of the best pitchers in baseball in his eight starts since (4-1 with a 1.29 ERA).
Maybe the Cubs will get that kind of boost when ERA champ Kyle Hendricks returns from the DL possibly this weekend. Maybe after having only one All-Star this year, the collective rest during the break will make a difference.
One way to look at these two pieces would be to say that you’ve got different people telling the same story in their own unique voice, which is true. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions as to any personal bias or larger editorial direction, and perhaps you don’t see much variation at all in these two examples. My general distaste for the brand and voice of the Cubs coverage the CST has offered these last few years is no secret, but I’m not climbing up on a soapbox this time around.
Rather, I found this to be an interesting study in contrasts and one that will continue for the next few months depending on how the Cubs come out for the second half.
More news and notes
- In what could be a playing-hard-to-get move, it’s reported that the Tigers are not actively shopping Justin Verlander but could be “talked into moving him”
- This is a far cry from earlier reports that they wanted a big return and for the acquiring team to assume all $70M remaining on his deal
- Maybe they think Verlander will bounce back, but there’s no way he comes close to the value of that deal
- Derrick Goold has said that the Cards are looking for a big bat, but that they’re not really wanting to swing a deal for a rental
- Tommy Stokke of FanRag Sports asks 10 questions about the second half, among which is whether the Cubs can turn it around
- Following his employer’s pivot to video, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports is in search of a home for his writing
- Rosenthal clarified that he is still employed by Fox and MLB Network for TV
- For now, you can find his writing on his Facebook page
- CI reached out with an employment offer, but Rosenthal has yet to respond