Dramatic Trades Help Replenish The Chicago Cubs’ Farm System

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Dramatic Trades Help Replenish The Chicago Cubs’ Farm System

Chicago Cubs fans will never forget July 30, 2021.

A more iconic franchise than many in Major League Baseball, the Chicago Cubs front office conducted a bonfire on the last day of the MLB trading period. The trading frenzy helped dismantle their 2016 World Championship roster. But the Cubs front office may have had little choice.

In the waning hours before the 4:00 ET trade deadline, the Cubs traded shortstop Javier Baez to the New York Mets and first baseman Anthony Rizzo to the New York Yankees. In the last hour before time expired in the trading period, third baseman/outfielder Kris Bryant was traded to the San Francisco Giants. 

Unless they reach a contract extension with their new team, each of those All Star players could become a free agent at the conclusion of this season. Pending free agency was the motivation behind dealing those three star players.

There were reports the Cubs had offered Bryant a lucrative contract extension that he declined. In fact, Bryant filed a grievance with Major League Baseball because he felt the Cubs delayed his arrival in the big leagues, keeping him from reaching free agency sooner. He felt he was ready for a major league promotion, only to be kept in the minor leagues so the Cubs could gain an extra year of control over his contract. Bryant lost the grievance. 

Reports had indicated the Cubs made extension offers to each of their pending free agents. Without being in the room for those discussions, the validity of the reports can’t be confirmed.

It is quite possible Cubs brass felt the players returned in trade to the Cubs were of greater value than compensation picks they would receive if the players refused qualifying offers.

In addition to trading Baez, Rizzo, and Bryant, the Cubs also traded highly regarded relievers Ryan Tepera and Craig Kimbrel to the cross-town Chicago White Sox. Left-handed pitcher Andrew Chafin was sent to the Oakland Athletics, and outfielder Jake Marisnick was traded to San Diego.

Important Prospects:

Here’s a snapshot look at some of the highest regarded players the Cubs received in return for some very consequential players traded from the Cubs big league roster:

Outfielder Pete Crow-Armstrong-acquired from the Mets-Bats Left-Age 19

A former 1st round draft pick, Cole-Armstrong received a signing bonus of $3.359M to keep him from going to Vanderbilt. Scouts ranked him the best high school athlete in the draft.

Crow-Armstrong has the potential to be a Gold Glove outfielder with a very strong arm.

Crow-Armstrong doesn’t have much power, but he has a solid hit tool and he has enough speed to steal bases. He projects to become a very solid center fielder on an every day basis. Grade: 55

Outfielder Alexander Canario-acquired from the Giants-Bats Right-Age 21

Signed from the Dominican Republic for $60,000, Canario has outstanding bat speed and emerging power in his 6-1, 165 pound frame. He has had shoulder issues in his career.

A raw player right now, Canario has plenty of speed and good baseball instincts. But he has to become more patient and let his tools and skills develop naturally.

Canario has to cut down on his strikeouts and learn more patience at the plate, but he has sufficient upside to become a regular in the outfield. Grade: 55

Right-handed pitcher Alexander Vizcaino-traded from the Yankees-Age 24

When he was 19, Vizcaino was signed by the New York Yankees out of the Dominican Republic for $14,000.

Vizcaino is an outstanding athlete, and is an extremely fast runner.

Shoulder injuries have slowed his career, and he still hasn’t advanced very far in his development. However, the key to the Cubs interest in Vizcaino was the increase in his fastball velocity and an outstanding changeup. Those two pitches are well above big league average in quality. His slider needs improvement, but he has time to refine that pitch. Grade: 50

Outfielder Kevin Alcantara-acquired from the Yankees-Bats Right-Age 19

Kevin Alcantara signed with the Yankees out of the Dominican Republic for $1M. He was a highly prized international player at the time of his signing, and he has plenty of upside with outstanding speed and some potential power in his lanky, 6-6, 188 pound frame.

Aggressive at the plate, Alcantara should be able to hit for average. He projects to be a very credible defensive outfielder, with center field being his most probable destination. Grade: 50

Outfielder/first baseman Greg Deichmann-traded from the Athletics-Bats Left-Age 26

The clock is ticking on Deichmann, as he has reached his prime baseball age without yet making his major league debut.

Deichmann was the 2019 Arizona Fall League home run champ, having hit nine homers.

With strength in his 6-2, 205 pound frame, Deichmann has power to spare. But he has to be able to make more consistent contact. However, his bat speed is outstanding.

Deichmann has suffered hamate bone and shoulder injuries that have cost him development time.

While he is listed primarily as an outfielder, this scout has seen him play first base. That position could be an option with the Cubs. He has to show more patience, seek out quality pitches and make more contact to improve his career. Grade: 45

Right-handed pitcher Codi Heuer-acquired from the Chicago White Sox-Age 25

Heuer was a 6th round pick of the White Sox in 2018.

Used in middle-relief, Heuer has a big, 6-5, 200 pound frame. He throws a very solid 97 miles per hour fastball, a slider and changeup, both in the mid-80 MHP range.

Heuer gets plenty of swings and misses on his changeup, but he isn’t a high strikeout pitcher. For the Cubs, he has upside remaining. With experience, he can develop into a more important, high-leverage pitcher in the later innings. Grade: 50

Second baseman Nick Madrigal-acquired from the White Sox-Bats Right-Age 24

A 2018 first round draft pick of the White Sox, when healthy, Nick Madrigal is a quality baseball player. He will offer the Cubs a productive veteran presence.

Now in the second year of his big league career, Madrigal should be the Cubs second baseman for years to come. Currently on the injured list after having hamstring issues, Madrigal has skills on both sides of the ball. 

While he won’t hit for much power, Madrigal is a fine situational hitter, responding well under pressure with men on base. Using the entire field, Madrigal can hit the gaps and get his share of extra base hits. 

Still only 24, the Cubs should be able to have Madrigal on their club through his prime baseball years. Grade: 55

Scouting Grades Defined:

45- A utility player capable of coming off the bench or starting upon occasion

50- An every day, major league average quality player who at times is subject to platoon

55- A player with above average ability, and every day player with multiple skills and tools

The Importance Of Prospects:

When attending Major League Baseball’s Scout School, this writer learned over and over that prospects are very valuable for three distinct purposes. They include:

To hopefully become a major league quality player and help stock the big league club

To trade for players to improve the major league club

To fill the rosters of the minor league affiliates

Conclusions:

To this scout, the final week of this year’s trading period was the most frenetic, consequential, dramatic and exciting week in any trade deadline period in memory. The Cubs were right in the middle of some of the most compelling action.

Watching storied baseball teams like the Chicago Cubs lose impactful players like Bryant, Baez and Rizzo may have been tough for Cubs fans. However, most Cubs fans are aware it was time for the franchise to turn the page and stock the farm system with solid prospects.

Prospects are valued. Prospects are important in building a club’s roster. However, prospects are untested. Prospects are unproven. And prospects are inexperienced. The All Star players traded to the New York Yankees and Mets, the Chicago White Sox, and the San Francisco Giants were not only experienced and proven, they were highly regarded by the industry and by their team’s fans.

Cubs fans knew that at some point, Cubs management would “break up the band”. And that’s what happened.

Today’s MLB front offices covets prospects. They believe prospects under team control can be taught the club’s unique ways and methods of playing the game. The front office can monitor the progress of prospects and make the decision on when service time for a player begins. And of course, the front office can also decide when that service to their team must end.

The Cubs ownership and front office made the determination that service time with the Cubs for many high impact players had ended.

This year’s trading deadline proved to be a crucial means for the Chicago Cubs to significantly reduce their payroll and give their team an injection of youth in the form of unproven prospects from other organizations.

Fans cannot be happy to see their favorite players and the core of their Championship team in different uniforms now playing in other cities.

It was time for the Cubs to replenish their depleted farm system.

Now Cubs fans can root for the newly acquired prospects and hope the next Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo or Kris Bryant emerges from the group.

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