“Go West, Young Man”: Examining the Kris Bryant Trade

Kris Bryant by Rich Biesterfeld (@Biest22)

This is going to be a tough play… Bryant… The Cubs win the World Series!

Joe Buck

It seemed almost unimaginable that Chicago Cubs legend, Kris Bryant, will be wearing another uniform, but that day has finally arrived. Kris Bryant has been traded to the San Francisco Giants. The return to the trade will be covered below and while the players brought in have significant upside and projection, a historic figure in Cubs lore has left the organization.

From #2 overall pick in the 2013 draft to 2014 minor league player of the year to 2015 rookie of the year to 2016 NL MVP and World Champion, Kris Bryant has cemented his legacy in Chicago. Though a #17 flag bearing Bryant’s name will likely not be hanging from the foul poles at Wrigley in the future, Kris’s seven plus seasons in the organization have left an indelible impact on the Chicago Cubs.

Advertisements

Examining the return

Alexander Canario

Canario is a huge upside prospect with a very high variance. He has impressive power that is generated from incredible bat speed. Canario represents a player that is a good test for the Cubs hitting infrastructure. He did take some time to adjust in the early going of the season (hardly an uncommon sentiment in a post COVID season) and since June 2nd, Canario has put up a .265/.340/.482 line with a 112 wRC+ and 26.6 K%/10.2 BB%. He is a good athlete with average speed. Canario has split time between center and right field in his pro career, but profiles better in right field. I believe he is a Top 20 prospect for the Cubs. Several publications rank Canario as a Top 10 prospect in the Cubs system. If you believe in his adjustments and breakout, then the Cubs landed an impact prospect.

Despite sitting in the international spending penalty box in 2016 after signing Bahamian shortstop Lucius Fox for $6 million the year before, the Giants still found a bargain by signing Canario for $60,000 out of the Dominican Republic. He won MVP honors at the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League’s all-star game during his 2017 pro debut and really broke out two years later by batting .318/.377/.623 with 16 homers in 59 games between Rookie and short-season ball.

With the best bat speed among San Francisco prospects outside of Marco Luciano, as well as his growing strength and the loft and leverage in his right-handed swing, Canario has well above-average raw power. Though he hit .291 in his first three years as a pro, he’s overly aggressive and gets too pull-happy and long with his stroke. After he posted a 30 percent strikeout rate in 2019, the Giants had him focus on strike-zone discipline and the consistency of his at-bats at their alternate site and in instructional league. 

MLB Pipeline
Advertisements

Caleb Kilian

I can’t tell you how impressed I am with Caleb Kilian. After watching several games of footage, I can say that I firmly believe prognosticators are sleeping on Kilian. The righthander is a “command+” pitcher who had a 1.14 BB/9 in AA (0.42 in Hi-A!) with a 26.2 K%. Kilian’s command is primarily derived from his focus on the fastball. Kilian throws three fastballs with a four-seam, two-seam, and cut fastball (cutter) all being used often in at-bats. The four-seam operates 94-96 mph and has solid ride up in the zone. It is helped by his excellent command. Both his cutter and two-seam are solid pitches that can generate whiffs (cutter) or weak contact (two-seam). His cutter replaced a former slider that wasn’t a very successful pitch.

Mechanically, Kilian excels with smooth, repeatable delivery, which aids his command+ profile. Kilian has a long arm stroke, which is a mechanical feature that some teams have moved away from in recent years. The Cubs are not one of those clubs as multimedia producer for Marquee Sports Network, Lance Brozdowski, illustrated perfectly with Cubs prospects Ryan Jensen, Kilian, and Alexander Vizcaino.

One inconsistent note that I’ve read about Kilian is the reports on his curveball. Some evaluators note that he doesn’t have much of a breaking ball and others feel it above-average. Count me amongst the latter category. This is an above-average curveball that generates weak contact and whiffs (especially when he buries it). Kilian is having real success at the upper levels of the minors. This is an advanced arm that can still get better with an improved changeup. The Cubs have also succeeded in developing sliders amongst the pitching prospects so look for them to reincorporate a slider into his repertoire. Bold claims: I feel like this is a mid-rotation arm, the most advanced starter in the Cubs system (until Jordan Wicks debuts), and a top 10 Cubs prospect.

Caleb Kilian across multiple 2021 starts

Kilian added strength during his layoff and showed increased velocity in short stints at instructs, topping out at 98 mph after usually ranging from 90-95 with his four-seam fastball in college. After battling inconsistency with his breaking balls at Texas Tech, he has added some power to his curveball and scrapped his slider in favor of a shorter, harder cutter. He also exhibits feel for an average changeup. 

MLB Pipeline
Advertisements

Wrap up

It’s impossible to match the impact Kris Bryant has brought to the Chicago Cubs organization with the players in this trade, but it was apparent that the Cubs were open to moving on from Kris for the past several seasons. No, it has nothing to do with him turning down a $200 million dollar extension offer (that was categorically denied) and no, it was not because Kris wanted to play for some other team. It all is a result of finances from a major league club that is turning the page. Kris Bryant is a part of some of the best memories in my fandom of watching the Cubs. I’ll wish him well as I watch the Cubs the rest of the season and dream of a better and brighter future. This trade brings both a high floor in Kilian and high upside (Canario). Cubs fans are hoping that the end result is two solid or better major league players.

Charting a New Course Without Their Captain: Examining the Anthony Rizzo Trade

Anthony Rizzo by Rich Biesterfeld (@Biest22)

It seemed almost unimaginable that Chicago Cubs legend, Anthony Rizzo, would wear another uniform, but that day has finally arrived. The de facto Cubs captain will continue to don pinstripes, albeit in Yankee blue rather than Cubbie blue. After arriving during the 2011 offseason, Rizzo immediately stepped into the role of the face of Theo Epstein’s Chicago Cubs. He embodied “The Cubs Way” on and off the field. Anthony Rizzo’s departure conjures up intense emotion from Cubs fans and deserves its own post to reflect on the impact that Rizzo had on the team, the fans, and the entire community.

The social media farewell is one that the Cubs’ team has, unfortunately, perfected over the last year. This one is flawless. If you can stomach it please do give it a watch.

Advertisements

A Cubs Legend

Anthony Rizzo was far more important to the Cubs franchise than his on-field accomplishments, but they are certainly impressive:

Advertisements

Examining the return

Kevin Alcantara

Perhaps the most exciting player brought over in the Rizzo trade is Alcantara. The outfielder exudes tools and athleticism though he has significant swing and miss to his game. As a 19-year-old will immediately add to a stellar group in the Arizona Complex League and is off to a blistering .360/.488/.520 pace through 8 games. It’s a small sample size, but it’s always better to be on a great pace than not. Alcantara was a big prospect in the 2018 international free agency class and appears as if he’s realizing his high potential. He is a likely corner outfielder long-term, but one who looks like he has the bat to succeed there. The 7 strikeouts in 25 at-bats (again, small sample-size alert) points to a real area of focus. Alcantara’s swing will evoke some Alfonso Soriano comparisons. Fangraphs is the publication overwhelmingly high on Alcantara (ranks 2nd in the Cubs system), but most publications (MLB Pipeline and Baseball America) rank the young outfielder in the Cubs top 15 prospects

Built like a younger Dexter Fowler, Alcantara now approaches 200 pounds and could have plus tools across the board once he fills out and gains more experience. His bat speed, projectable strength and leverage give him well above-average power from the right side of the plate and produce some of the highest exit velocities in the system. He made a reasonable amount of contact in his 2019 pro debut but will need to improve his discipline when he faces more advanced pitchers.

A plus runner, Alcantara covers plenty of ground in center field with long, fluid strides. If he slows down as he adds strength and needs to move to a corner, his solid arm strength would fit nicely in right field. Besides his tools, his baseball IQ and work ethic also earn praise.

MLB Pipeline
Advertisements

I’ve made no change to Alcantara’s FV from last year since I can’t find anyone from outside the Yankees org who has seen him, though his ranking among the 50 FV prospects in the system has changed based on continued conversations about him with front office personnel from other clubs. For context, Alcantara was fourth on my international list in 2018, and was one of the players the Yankees promoted from the DSL to the GCL in the middle of the summer of 2019. He was part of New York’s DR instructs in the Fall. Athletic 6-foot-6 outfielders who can rotate like Alcantara can are rare, and this young man might grow into elite power at maturity. He is loose and fluid in the box but does have some swing-and-miss issues, though it’s not because lever length is causing him to be late — it’s more of a barrel accuracy issue right now. This is one of the higher ceiling teenagers in the minors, but of course Alcantara might either take forever to develop or never develop at all. (DR Instructional League)

Fangraphs
Advertisements

Alexander Vizcaino

Though more highly rated than Alcantara, Vizcaino brings an even higher amount of risk with his profile. The 24-year-old right handed began the season with an a shoulder injury, but had been starting with mixed success in high-A. Vizcaino’s fastball sits in the mid-to-upper 90s with good ride up in the zone and solid sinking action towards the bottom of the zone. This suggests he throws two distinct fastballs. The change-up (also referred in some places as a split-change) really falls off the table according to multiple reports. Video is incredibly hard to come by, but for a glimpse of Vizcaino, see the video below.

Alexander Vizcaino in a July 21, 2021 outing

A velo bump and uptick in changeup quality (he now has one of the nastier cambios in the minors) were the cornerstones of a 2019 breakout for Vizcaino, who was promoted to Hi-A Tampa for his final five starts of the year. While he now has 70-grade fastball velocity, his long arm action and three quarters slot create sinking action on the pitch that ends up generating groundballs more than swings and misses. The whiffs are going to come from the changeup, which bottoms out as if a trap door has opened beneath it just as it approaches the plate. At this age, I think the breaking ball refinement necessary to make Vizcaino a starter is unlikely, but I would have said the same thing about his fastball and changeup last year. (Alternate site)

Fangraphs

Wrap up

None of the players will be able to replicate what Anthony Rizzo has brought to the Chicago Cubs organization, but after 10 seasons, Jed Hoyer and company made the decision to target prospects who could represent the next generation of Chicago Cubs. Neither prospect has what you would consider a high floor, but rather each of Alcantara and Vizcaino represent high upside that one can dream on. As the prospects from each of these franchise-altering trades filter into the system, separating the minor league players from the Cubs legends is almost impossible. However, I am encouraged by what I’ve seen from both Alcantara and Vizcaino and dream of celebrating more Cubs wins in the future.

Advertisements

Examining the Andrew Chafin Trade

Andrew Chafin by Rich Biesterfeld (@Biest22)

As the Chicago Cubs sell-off continues, the organization has begun to trade from their surplus of extremely talented relievers. Teams are always in need of late-inning relievers and there is an added value if one has closing experience or is left handed. Andrew Chafin fits all of the above and now will bolster Oakland’s reliever corps. The big lefty with an 80-grade mustache was everything you could have wanted in a free agent signing for the Cubs. He was a steady presence in the pen with a 2.06 ERA (2.67 FIP), 24.7 K%, and a 50% ground ball rate.

Advertisements

Any team could use the services of Andrew Chafin, but it was ultimately Oakland who put out a package that made the Cubs bite. It’s hard to imagine a better trading partner for the Cubs to identify undervalued assets than the organization that Chicago Cubs VP of Scouting, Dan Kantrovitz, spent several seasons as an Assistant GM. We have already seen the Cubs prioritze players from Oakland in recent moves. Both Alfonso Rivas and Dakota Chalmers are proving to be great pickups out of the Athletics’ system. Cubs fans are hoping the two players picked up in the Chafin deal prove to be even better.

Examining the return

Greg Deichmann

Deichmann is 26, but also slashing .300/.432/.449 in 207 at bats in a hitter-friendly environment in Las Vegas. The ball really flies in Sin City, though the most surprising part of Greg Deichmann is the discrepancy between his raw power and his in-game power. Fangraphs rates him as having 45/50 in-game power (approximately average power), but with a 70 grade raw power (plus-plus). If the Cubs believe that working with the hitting infrastructure led by Justin Stone, could help Deichmann tap into even some of that raw power they could have an above-average major league rightfielder. Despite not hitting for much power this season, the former second-round pick out of LSU has put up a 127 wRC+, which suggests his performance has been 27% better than an average hitter after accounting for the league and hitting environments.

Advertisements

Daniel Palencia

Palencia is a breakout prospect and represents high upside in this deal. This is not a Dan Kantrovitz selection in all likelihood as he signed with the Athletics several months after Kantrovitz joined the Cubs. This spring he’s featuring big time velocity. According to Fangraphs, Palencia throws 97-99 mph this year and feature a bat-missing breaking ball. He may be a future reliever with a Juan Cruz physique, but he has high leverage potential. The Athletics have been developing him as a starter. This is a classic lottery ticket selection, but one that has caught the attention of publications like Fangraphs and the Athletic. In a recent piece by Melissa Lockard, Palencia is creating quite a buzz.

Right-hander Daniel Palencia doesn’t have Juan’s size (listed at 5-11, 160), but his fastball has hit 100. The 21-year-old has been kept to two- or three-inning outings as he adjusts to full-season ball. His ERA is 6.91 in 14 1/3 innings, but he’s struck out 14 and has been overpowering at times.

Melissa Lockard

Wrap up

This will hardly be the last move in the next few days for the Chicago Cubs and it bodes well for future deals that they were able to secure two players that offer good future projections. Deichmann will likely see big-league time later this season and Palencia offers a high risk/high reward proposition. In many ways this deal provides both safety and ceiling if all things go as planned. I’ll have a more in-depth look at the trade pickups after the deadline.

Advertisements

Brailyn Marquez: A 2020 Retrospective and 2021 Preview

Find latest Prospect Report on Brailyn Marquez here

2020

Expectations for Brailyn Marquez reached a fever pitch prior to the 2020 season. After dominating South Bend and Myrtle Beach (Low A and High A, respectively) to a tune of a 3.13 ERA in 22 starts with a 128/50 K/BB in 103 2/3 innings, there was significant chatter that Marquez might start the 2020 season in AA Tennessee and be only a phone call away from making his debut. As every fan knows, the 2020 season would be like none ever experienced. Brailyn Marquez spent his entire 2020 season, save for one outing, in South Bend, IN.

Brailyn Marquez in South Bend by Clinton Cole (@cdcole55)

Without the benefit of a minor leagues, Four Winds Field (home of the South Bend Cubs) served as the Alternate Site for players on the 60-man roster who were eligible to play for the Chicago Cubs during the 2020 season. Still, with expanded rosters and a bullpen crying for velocity from the left side, fans clamored for news on when they’d see the fireballing lefthander make his debut. The Cubs front office consistently reinforced the message that he wasn’t ready and it wasn’t guaranteed he’d be promoted this year.

Advertisements

While the debut was long awaited, the results quickly showed that 2020 would not be the year Marquez pulls a K-rod. All the statements by the Front Office made sense. The “stuff” was there, but the mechanics were just out of whack at the time. With every fastball that drifted off the plate and into the left-handed batters box, statements by former Cubs pitching guru Brendan Segara sounded more familiar. In a wonderful piece by The Athletic, Sahadev Sharma detailed Segara’s impact on Marquez’s attempts to link his upper and lower halves to operate in sync. Sahadev writes, “Around the middle of the season, he started struggling with some timing issues with his delivery,” Sagara said. “There was a lot of arm-side miss.”. As Brailyn attempted to compensate, his fastball drifted back over the middle of the plate. Despite the pure “stuff”, a powerful offense in the Chicago White Sox can turn on a belt high pitches in the middle of the plate.

Despite the relative disappointment that Marquez was not destined to save the 2020 season for the Chicago Cubs, this outing featured a moment so tantalizing that it should serve as the one take-away from his debut. Years of hard work by Brailyn and the pitching development staff culminated in a moment Marquez will never forget. Marquez against future MVP, Jose Abreu, slider outside edge (framed beautifully), good morning, changeup outside edge (foul), good evening, and then goodnight.

2021

Brailyn Marquez represents the type of high ceiling arm the Cubs system has lacked since the era of Juan Cruz, Carlos Zambrano, Mark Prior, and Angel Guzman. While those names will conjure mixed feelings, each of those pitchers made it to the major leagues and three out of four had runs of major league success. Zambrano, in particular, represented a dream scenario. He was a durable pitcher with significant impact seasons leading a major league staff. There are several development steps needed before Brailyn is ready for full time major league innings, but the foundation is there for an impact pitcher. The ultimate question will be where those innings come from, out of the rotation or the bullpen? Perhaps in 2021 that’s not as such a strict dichotomy as it was prior to the pandemic. A shortened 2020 leading into a full season 2021 means pitchers will need to be used differently. Gone will be the days (at least for one year) of the 200-inning workhorse. Teams will need to be creative in innings management and deployment of arms. 

According to Matt Dorey, the Cubs VP of Player Development, the initial plan is for Brailyn Marquez to start in AA. Not only is Marquez only one call away from Chicago, but it provides the Cubs an opportunity to be strategic about calling him up when his mechanics are clicking. There’s no reason to think he can’t finish the season strong at Wrigley.

Keys for the 2021 Season

  • Connecting upper and lower halves
  • Fastball command
  • Progress of his changeup and sinker

The Cubs are very optimistic that Brailyn will come close to reaching that perceived ceiling in short order. We dream on at Ivy Futures. If Brailyn were to land anywhere near that potential, the entire organization’s outlook would be dramatically shifted. Try not to get too excited, but the status of Marquez through the early months of 2021 will be must-watch.

Insights into How the Cubs Plan to Handle 2021 Player Development: A Discussion with Bobby Basham

A special thanks to Bobby Basham, Chicago Cubs Director of Player Development for graciously answering questions about Cubs prospects and Player Development operations.

The opportunity to gain any insight into the inner workings of a major league organization has always been a fascination of mine. Ever since I was able to attend the occasional Cubs Convention and get a chance to ask questions of the Player Development staff or ask former Cubs Scouting Director Tim Wilken for a few moments of his time, the ability to peek behind the curtain was one that I cherished. Even when I wasn’t the one directing the questions, I would never miss a podcast or interview with scouting or player development Cubs executives. Writing has opened up additional communication avenues, allowing for more open conversation about prospects and the player development or scouting infrastructure. I hope to bring that to the audience who shares that same drive to lean more about the inner workings of the Cubs organization.

“We’re not really competing against what could have been. We’re competing against the other 30 teams and we’re all in the same situation. And we hope we’ve given our guys the best chance to succeed.”

Bobby Basham, Chicago Cubs Director of Player Development

As the weather turns from winter to spring and the familiar sounds of mitts popping and bat cracking begins at spring training facilities, a behind-the-scenes storyline will begin to emerge: how will each club operationalize the major and minor league player development in the organization throughout 2021? I had the chance to discuss these and other questions with Chicago Cubs Director of Player Development, Bobby Basham. Our discussion took place the morning after the 2021 health and safety protocols were officially implemented and many decisions are still being debated across organizations. Bobby was able to provide a bit of insight into how the Cubs viewed the challenges of the 2020 season for players at Site B (the Alternate Site in South Bend) and strategies to ensure a successful 2021 season for the minor league players.

Basham was quick to note that the Cubs don’t pretend to know how 2021 will play out, but are optimistic in the Cubs’ player development ramp-up plan. “I think the one thing that we’ve all had to deal with during this pandemic is uncertainty. And everyone kind of expects that to continue at least in the short term. So the most realistic course of action right now is (and this is this public) that the major leaguers go to spring trainings and minor leaguers follow. We’ve been building them up in a more normal spring training fashion, maybe delayed a couple weeks just anticipating that happening for a while.” Basham said. “With the work of Bres’ [Craig Breslow-Cubs Assistant GM and VP of Pitching] and [pitching coordinators] Casey Jacobson and James Ogden running our pitching infrastructure we were really proactive last year so our guys stimulated real innings through a lot during the pandemic.” Basham said, “So you feel pretty comfortable trying to replicate roughly a full seasons workload. But, obviously, I think everyone is cautious about going from a canceled minor league season to a full minor league season and will be really careful to monitor our guys, build them up slowly, and make sure their workloads are realistic within the scope of this year.”


The Chicago Cubs are believers in performance science and high performance. Fans have heard mention from multiple front office executives and with articles by The Athletic (subscription required). It begged the question of whether the Cubs feel they are uniquely positioned to make big development gains with some other younger/high level prospects that they’ve brought into the system. According to Basham, “It’s hard to say ‘uniquely positioned’. I do feel we’re better positioned than we’ve ever been to be really adaptable to the situation. That’s just our outstanding R&D (research and development) and [player] development team building out tools where we can reach our guys virtually. I feel like we’ve been early adopters of a lot of the technology that now can be used to monitor guys remotely. We really invested in ‘training up’. What we feel is [that we have] the best coaches in the minor leagues, so we can spread out that work amongst a lot of really, really good coaches and it’s not two or three guys trying to keep track of 200. It’s leveraging our entire coaching staff to really have personal relationships with our guys, as much as possible given our circumstances in this time.” Basham said.

Advertisements

“[Concerning high performance] we’re really trying to not be reactive to the baseball calendar but make the calendar work for us and we review this time, whether it’s on the field or off the field as the chance to make gains. And then some guys like having this extended offseason, if you will. It’s going to be a real positive for their career because they’re going to be able to make changes that they otherwise maybe wouldn’t have the time to have that offseason rest and then ramp back up.” Basham said. “They have this extended window where they can gain strength, power, speed, quickness. They can add a pitch, they can work on building strength. They can make some swing adjustments. There are a lot of positives that can come out of this.”

One of the positives that did come out of the pandemic is that multiple players had successes working at the South Bend Alternate Site. Bobby was asked if this type of low-stakes controlled environment might serve as a model for player development in the future.

Basham did push back on the notion that it was low stakes. Point very well made, as each of the players were competing for a significant shot on the major league roster, while also being away from family and friends during a deadly pandemic. However, Bobby noted the Cubs are willing to explore every avenue in player development and are monitoring the effect training in South Bend had on the players that participated. “I don’t know if Site B is a model but, we’re obviously looking at every sort of lever we can pull to make our players better. And there’s probably an order in skill acquisition where you want to practice things in a cage and BP on the field verses live pitching in a controlled environment. [Which] sort of [creates] those different stages along the way. I do think they’re some inherent benefits of the South Bend structure, but that’s just such a tough environment for those guys to develop. I mean you could point to Jason Adam and Chris Morel and Brennen Davis and [Miguel] Amaya and a lot of the minor league [free agents] we signed that were that were coming in took some real steps forward. Just kudos for those guys for having the mental toughness to use that opportunity is a way to really dig in.” Basham said.

Advertisements

Basham further provided insight into whether the Cubs would replicate the South Bend structure, which allowed a few of their top prospects to face major league caliber pitching in a controlled environment as a developmental step. “I think in anything, you need to be challenged to grow. And so that was certainly a challenge for our younger hitters there in South Bend because they were facing MLB quality pitching every night, right? So, I think we’re going to learn a lot coming out of this into this year and next year about some creative things that can make our guys better. And certainly we will examine all those situations. And if all of a sudden, Chris Morel and Brennen Davis and [Miguel] Amaya, if those guys have taken this huge step forward, certainly we’re going to look at why, right? That could be a reason.”

As we enter a whirlwind of a 2021 season throughout baseball, the way players are supplemented with additional resources and positioned within an organizational structure will help to determine many future outlooks. The Cubs are optimistic their plans will lead to significant success throughout the minor leagues and by the big league club.

I hope you enjoyed part 1 of the interview with Bobby Basham. Part 2 is coming soon.
Special thanks to Brad (@ballskwok) for helping to formulate questions.

Would a Cubs Trade of Kyle Hendricks Slam the Contention Window Shut?

Kyle Hendricks in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series by Arturo Pardavila III. CC BY 2.0

“In this job, you always have one eye on the present and one eye on the future. ‘And the truth is that, given the service-time realities that I mentioned, I think that eye might be a little bit more focused toward the future than usual. But that doesn’t take away from the goal. And, like I said, the goal is always to make the playoffs and give the organization a chance.’’

Jed Hoyer via Russell Dorsey of the Chicago Sun Times (emphasis mine)

Theo Epstein left an indelible mark on the Chicago Cubs organization. Since his first press conference in 2011 when he deftly laid out his vision for ultimate success, to his final moments handing over the reigns to his protégé, Jed Hoyer, this era will always be “Theo’s Cubs”. To many fans this winter already feels like a momentous shift in organizational philosophy. In many ways, that’s correct. Fan favorites like Yu Darvish, Jon Lester, and Kyle Schwarber are already set to wear other uniforms. Other core players such as Kris Bryant and Willson Contreras are frequently named in trade talks. Simply put, the contention window that Theo spoke so often about is closing. Jed Hoyer now speaks about keeping an “eye on the present and one eye on the future”. The Cubs are at a crossroads. In a weak NL Central, this team (while significantly flawed) may still be in the running for the best in the division. However, despite the wholesale changes this offseason and the near future, there is one move that would be so impactful to the organizational trajectory that it would render Cubs President Jed Hoyer’s statement that “the goal is always to make the playoffs” completely moot.

Concerning 2021: If the Chicago Cubs trade Kyle Hendricks, it creates a situation where the contention window isn’t just shut, the house has fallen down, and you’re selling your lawnmower in the middle of the winter to anyone with cash in their pocket.

Advertisements

I’ll admit that the previous statement is dramatic. There is always a pathway that any one player in an organization could be traded for other talented players, but in a realistic environment where front office executives often experience “groupthink” and all utilize player valuation models, it is unlikely that a Kyle Hendricks trade returns several premium MLB ready players. The 2021 Chicago Cubs sans Kyle Hendricks is one with a significant deficit in quality starting pitching. It can’t be overstated how bad the National League Central is, but a Professor-less Chicago Cubs team is not a competitive one in 2021. Any Kyle Hendricks trade likely requires the Cubs to seriously consider trading any non-Happ/Alzolay player on the roster. In this article I’ll examine the effects three different trade scenarios could have on the Cubs organization. Each scenario includes general types of players in return for Hendricks.

Disclaimers: I will not be creating “mock trades” with various teams. I operate on the assumption that all mock trades are bad, including mine. They are. And even though I’ve historically spent a lot of time on them as a fan, I’ll avoid them here. This post will examine three unnamed team/player scenarios and how each may affect the Chicago Cubs organization going forward. If you want to spend way too much time on this you can probably figure out the players or teams that formed the genesis of the ideas, but it is not meant to act as trade rumors or mock trades.

Scenario 1: MLB-Ready Talent

  • Unestablished righthanded starting pitcher who rates as a Top 50 overall prospect. Brief success at the major league level. A very strong bet to be a successful #4 starter.
  • CF/COF prospect who has small sample in big leagues. Appears ready to be an average regular starting player. A power over hit profile who should be able to stick in CF. He’s a Top 125 talent.
  • Bounce-back candidate corner outfielder. Strong year in 2019, but poor 2020. No options remaining, but a weak-side of the platoon candidate at minimum.

Scenario 1: MLB-Ready Talent

If Jed Hoyer is completely serious and the Cubs play to compete for a division title next year, it’s impossible to simply replace Kyle Hendricks. Even setting aside his production, the intangibles that Kyle brings through setting the tone for the other starters and implementing the run prevention game-planning is incalculable. However this first scenario at least attempts to replicate the production with a SP ready to step into the rotation and two outfielders who should be able to get at-bats in 2021.

The ceiling is the lowest of the three scenarios, but the near-term production is the highest. It is at least plausible for the Cubs to compete if everything breaks right in 2021. While it is unlikely, there is the possibility the Cubs switch out a starter, add to the outfield, and could repurpose Kyle Hendricks’s very reasonable $14 million in this scenario.

Scenario 2: Supplementing the 2022-2023 Wave

  • Right handed starter with a three pitch mix, but carries some reliever questions. This is a top 75 prospect who could be ready to make an appearance by the end of the 2021 season, but impact on a major league club is likely to be in 2022.
  • Young C prospect who has had success in full-season ball and is likely to start 2021 in high A. He’s displayed an above-average ability to make contact while also providing signs he may add more pop. Could be up in 2023 and a strong candidate to be on Top 100 lists next year.
  • Recent college RHP drafted in the 2nd round, but mocked in late first round. Another starter with reliever question marks. He’ll flash several plus pitches. Timeline for arrival is 2023.

Scenario 2: Supplementing the 2022-2023 Wave

With a core group of Davis, Amaya, Marquez Strumpf, Morel, Weber, Jensen, (R.) Thompson, and possibly Franklin, the Cubs boast a wave of talent that isn’t far from Wrigley. The majority of these players will get time in AA or beyond next year. This scenario effectively resets the team in 2021. There is minimal production expected from this group of prospects coming in next year, but the Cubs would acquire two likely Top 100 prospects to go along with a college SP that should get High A innings in 2021. The catcher prospect probably feels redundant with Amaya in this wave, but it appears the Cubs are building out the position in the minor leagues to go along with the cadre of shortstop prospects. This catcher is a year or so behind Miguel Amaya and a complement, not his replacement.

More deals of players with expiring contracts in 2021 and 2022 would be expected with this scenario. The money saved off Kyle’s salary could be reallocated, but, if it was, it would be for flippable assets rather than multi-year deals.

Scenario 3: The Yu Darvish Redux

  • A top 100 prospect and a RHP who could be up in 2022
  • CF who received a top signing bonus in 2019 international free agency period. He had a very successful instructional league and has a very high ceiling. Likely a 2024 timeline.
  • Prep righthander from the second round of the 2020 draft. He’s years away but boasts strong offspeed pitches.

Scenario 3: The Yu Darvish Deal Redux

I firmly believe the talk that the Cubs were very interested in Luis Campusano of the Padres (in the Yu Darvish deal), but backed off later in the negotiations and settled on two more teenage prospects from the Padres. Campusano represented a talented player would could impact the team within the next two years. The other two players in the Darvish deal were clearly added to build out a 2024-2025 core in the lower minors.

This deal would be a similar model to what (I’m piecing together) formed the basis for the negotiations for Yu Darvish. The goal would be to add one player who could impact the team soon and then multiple players who would continue to build out the deep wave in the low minors. The two players would add another OF and a pitcher. While You Can’t Have Too Many Shortstops, it felt redundant to add another to this group.

The effect of this deal is simple: 2021 is not competitive and there isn’t substantial talent added to the 2022-2023 core. Of all the scenarios, this one is the most reliant on further deals.

What deal would you pick?

I’ll repeat that none of these scenarios is ultimately fulfilling, but each could be similar to a pathway the Cubs take. I would like to believe trading Kyle Hendricks would only happen if a team offered a king’s ransom, but the more you hear Kyle’s name in reports, the more likely the Cubs are seriously listening to offers on the Professor. Teams are in search of impact talent in the rotation on reasonable deals and it’s hard to do better than a playoff tested Top 20 overall pitcher in Hendricks. As for the Cubs, perhaps no other player in the organization dictates future decision making like what Chicago does with Kyle Hendricks.