What an exciting week of baseball. The Cubs went 5-2 against the two best teams in baseball, and also the two teams that lead them in the tough Central Division. It is still a long shot that the Cubs will make a serious run at winning the division, however, now they have the confidence that they can beat anyone. In the midst of this run two players stepped up in big ways, and one came back from injury. Starlin Castro has impressed especially with his bat, hitting just about everything including two monstrous home runs. While Javier Baez has been walking more, striking out less, and dazzling us with his gold glove type defense. Playing both of them at the same time was an option until Jorge Soler came off the DL and gave the lineup an instant spark. Having three young talented players step up in crunch time is never a bad thing for a team trying to make a post-season run. It does raise the question, with this much depth what will be the Cubs plan for next year?
Cubs are likely to focus on adding pitching this off-season as it has clearly been an Achilles heel late in the season. So what does that mean for the Cubs young core? With a lot of money likely going towards a top of the line rotation starter, along with some bullpen help. The Cubs also need to spend to fill the void Dexter Fowler will be leaving. This leaves a few options for the Cubs young position players going forward.
First option and most likely is to trade Starlin Castro. The fact that Starlin has been hitting everything lately makes this a possibility. Before his hot stretch Starlin’s trade value was too low to net a top MLB ready pitcher or pitching prospect. However, since the All-Star break Starlin has regained most of his trade value back. Not only could the Cubs net some quality pieces, trading Castro would take some much needed money off the books. That could allow a Joe Maddon, David Price reunion at Wrigley. This scenario also gives the Cubs better defense in the middle of the diamond. There is a down side to this scenario, as Castro likely has not gained all of his value back and the Cubs are likely going to have to sell low. If Starlin goes back to being a shortstop that bats .300 then some other team will be getting a steal. With that being said, we have likely seen Starlin’s full potential.
Second option would be to trade Jorge Soler. Most fans would not be too thrilled with this, but it is a possibility. Throughout his career Soler has been very injury prone, including this year with two DL stints. Also besides his cannon of an arm Soler has subpar defense in right field. Fielding would not be a huge concern for a power hitting corner outfielder, but the power has been lacking in a major way. While the average has been decent, Soler’s value really comes with his power. If the Cubs make this move their defense would improve dramatically. Kris Bryant would move to Right Field while Javier Baez would fill in at third, keeping Russell and Castro up the middle. A very big downside to this scenario is the potential that Soler has. You don’t find a .280 hitter with 30 homerun potential corner outfielder very easily and that is Soler’s potential. Also he is very cost controllable for the near future. That allows the Cubs to fill needs via free agency.
The third option is to trade Javier Baez, this is probably the most unlikely scenario. While Baez is the most unproven of the bunch, he also has the least amount of trade value. Also he probably has the highest potential of the three. A middle infielder with plus defense has continued to show strides at the plate. Cutting down on strikeouts while taking more walks, with plus power. Baez could turn into an all-star very quickly. This scenario would keep everyone the same and Starlin would take over everyday duties at second base.
People might be thinking the way the Cubs are playing now they should keep everyone. This scenario does not make much sense considering it would stall the strides Javier Baez would be making as a player. Also it would leave the Cubs with one of the most expensive platoon players in all of baseball in Starlin Castro. Regardless of what the Cubs do, they should be among the favorites to take home the World Series next season. Theo and Jed have my full support with what they do, as they have pushed all the right buttons the past couple years. Lets remember to have fun with this team as the Cubs are back!