The Cubs have had a busy offseason, adding Joe Maddon and Jon Lester to mix with their young talent. If you are familiar with the Cubs team, you know they have more hitting prospects than positions to fill on the diamond. I’m here to tell you who they should trade next to get the pitching they desperately need.
A popular guy name is the rumor mill is shortstop Starlin Castro. Despite the fact Baez and Russell can play short, Castro can, and should be a leader for the team as it’s prospects grow into everyday players. That being said, a scenario where the Cubs deal Castro is not out of the picture.
The guy I’d trade is Javier Baez, the monster power middle infielder. He’s going to have 6 years of team control left going into this season but prospects are always a risk. His value may never be higher, and it could help the Cubs snag exactly what they need.
The fact of the matter is that Baez has monster power. He homered every 23.67 at-bats this past year despite his .169/.227/.324 slash line. While I don’t doubt that Baez will become better and more mature next year, I’m still a bit skeptical about his overall hitting ability. With guys like Bryant, Castro, Russell, and Rizzo around, it makes the most sense to deal the weakest link, and at this point, it’s Baez.
Now, to refer to Baez as a weak link sounds kind of silly because we are talking about a guy who was rated the number 5 prospect in all of baseball just before the season last year by Baseball America. The thing is, Kris Bryant is a once-in a lifetime type of talent that the Cubs need to keep, and Russell can slide over to second and take Baez’s spot later on this year. Until then, Alcantara can play second base. Now, the Cubs could just trade Alcantara, who also wasn’t very impressive in his 70 games last year, but he has nowhere near the value of Baez.
Baez has some major red flags. Despite his amazing value, his strikeout rate has always been rough and his swing looks like an all or nothing swing. Baez has his pros too, which makes him an attractive trade target. He has a high wOBA and walks a good amount.
In the end, projecting Baez is difficult because he has numbers that go for him and those that go against him, and if you watched him in the majors last year, he looked overmatched, but if you just go watch a few minutes of him hitting in the minors you can see the immense potential. The bottom line for Baez is that he has a solid chance to be a top five second baseman in the league. Those don’t come around often, and the craziest thing is that the Cubs have another guy who could become a top 5 middle infielder.
Baez could get the Cubs that last good starter they wanted. You package him up with Dan Voglebach and Gleybar Torres and possibly make a run for Cole Hamels. Another name I like is Ian Kennedy, but the Padres would even have to give up more to get Baez. There’s quite a few decent starters available and I’ll let Theo Epstein make his decision on that, but if I were Theo I’d be shopping Baez for that number 2 starter to follow Lester.