When you look at a ball club like the Chicago Cubs, at first glance it can be difficult to find the weak link. They are a young, hard-hitting squad with a knack for timely base running and pitching. But the truth is, there are always down sides.
Hitters have off days, just like the pitching staff can. There have been more than a few contests this season where the batters just aren’t getting the job done or are simply getting beat by a solid opposing pitching performance. Not to mention it took nearly two months for the entire starting rotation to find a groove.
But when it’s all said and done, the position players have enough training and versatility to step in when (and where) needed to overcome slumps and injuries alike. What this club really needs is some quality relief pitching. Yes, the Cubs have had some good outings thus far from the likes of Justin Grimm and Hector Rondon, but matchup-wise, the bullpen is what can hurt the Cubs the most in the coming months.
It has been suggested from Baseball Essential’s own Robert Murray that the Yankees’ Andrew Miller could be that missing bullpen component, and he’s right. Miller is still young enough to have a good couple of seasons in front of him. Adding an arm like this could help Chicago’s north-siders not only this postseason but for at least two to three postseasons to come. But the New York Yankees won’t be giving up Miller easily.
The Yankees, like many clubs on a yearly basis, need to rebuild. Taking on older veterans to make a postseason push this season doesn’t seem to be a likely option. There are plenty of good players out there for the Yankees, but the Cubs still have a fairly deep farm system and a few pieces that New York’s American League club could utilize, if the price is right.
The Yankees need help in multiple areas, but as I’ve discussed and conferred with Gershon Rabinowitz who covers the Yankees and their minor-league clubs, a few areas stand out more than others. First up is starting pitching. They could do worse than taking a good, long look at Kyle Hendricks. The 26-year-old righty is having a good season now that he has settled down a bit since April, tossing a 2.90 ERA in 11 starts thus far, striking out 57 and walking 15.
Another young, interesting arm is Duane Underwood. This svelte, 21-year-old righty is having a rough start to his 2016 campaign in Double-A Tennessee, but he’ll over come it soon enough. Youth is a factor. He’s a few years younger than the average Double-A ball player. His talent got him up to the Smokies, and his inevitable maturity will bring it all together. He’s still on the raw side developmentally but the Yanks could do worse than adding him to their farm system and watching him grow.
The corner infield spots are also a worrisome area. Chase Headley is only 32 years old but already seems to be on the downswing of his career, posting sub-average numbers during four of his past five seasons. Mark Teixeira is not only in the same boat as Headley but already four years older, and having a worse season overall (aside from the fact that he’s on the DL). Rob Refsnyder is an average second baseman, at best, filling in at first. Starlin Castro, who’s currently playing second base, has had a few shots at the hot corner when he was playing for the Cubs, but he has fallen flat in 2016, currently posting a WAR of 0.0.
As you can see, the Yankees need some fresh blood, and that can all start with multi-tool infielder Javier Baez. The Cubs would have a hard time parting ways with Baez, who can fill in very nicely in just about any position except pitcher. Yes, that means the backstop, too. He is, in fact, their emergency cacher now that Kyle Schwarber‘s season is over. Baez is an athletic defender and average hitter, but he has shown flares of power that aren’t overwhelming but occur far too often to ignore. His bat speed is second to none.
Dan Vogelbach, a lefty-hitting first baseman from Fort Meyers, Florida, should intrigue any American League ball club. He has cut down his weight over the past year or two, going from lineman to linebacker. Not that you need to be super speedy for first base but agility is essential, and it can never hurt to drop some excess when having to run bases. Defensively he’s sporting a .991 fielding percentage in four and a half seasons of minor league play. He’d also make a solid designated hitter. He’s in his first season of Triple-A ball, slashing a respectable .303/.419/.519 with nine home runs and 40 RBIs in 54 games.
One outside-the-box sort of prospect, yet still interesting to a team who’s looking for talented youth, is third baseman Jeimer Candelario. He has clubbed 47 home runs and 307 RBIs in four and a half minor-league seasons and impressed many (including myself) during spring training in Arizona this past March. Candelario is only in Double-A now but should find himself in Triple-A no later than the beginning of 2017. He has great reaction time defensively, not to mention owning a howitzer for an arm. He needs more seasoning but could already be considered a poor man’s Ken Caminiti.
There are a lot of options for a team looking to make a move with the Cubs. You can’t fleece them for every prospect, but for the right bat (or in this case, arm), a smart buyer could make off with some really decent youth that has some very high potential. Someone on this list, or a combination of more than one, could be worth (Yankees general manager) Brian Cashman’s while.
One thing is for sure: An arm like Miller’s is worth it.