With all of the names the Cubs were involving in trade talks over the course of this winter, I became curious about who is still going be with the team past the next couple of seasons. The Cubs are envied by many other MLB teams because of the vast number of young position players they currently have. Eventually, all of these players are going to need everyday at-bats. Those AB’s may not become available with the Cubs though. If there isn’t room for everyone, who should the Cubs deem to be “untouchable” and make sure to keep around? I’ll go through all of the Cubs youngsters and assign them as untouchable or not. Based off of that, I’ll look at a possible 2020 Cubs team.
Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Willson Contreras (Untouchable)
I’ll start with the most obvious ones. These three players won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. That’s all there is to it.
Javier Baez (Untouchable)
I know Javy was rumored to have been offered in talks with the Padres this winter. However, it was also rumored that the Padres balked at the Cubs’ asking price for Baez. Although the Cubs front office was willing to include him in a deal, I wouldn’t be. Javy is a very special player. Even if he strikes out too often, he is arguably the best defensive middle-infielder in the MLB and has some impressive pop for a second baseman. In addition, Baez represents the Cubs only legitimate shortstop option behind Addison Russell, who has a history of injuries.
Ian Happ (Untouchable)
Happ is someone that I am probably higher on than others, but his defensive versatility and power are so valuable to any team that wants to compete year-in and year-out for a World Series. He’s someone who will probably suffer from the Cubs deep roster this year, as it doesn’t look like he’ll be in line for an everyday role in 2018. I hope the Cubs find time for him by moving him all over the field, getting him reps in all three outfield spots, second base, and maybe even a little first base to spell Anthony Rizzo several games. He could force the Cubs hand if he continues to excel.
Kyle Schwarber (Not Untouchable)
“Schwarbs” might be the most intriguing piece the Cubs have. In the first half of 2017, he couldn’t hit anything. In the second half, he turned things around and closely resembled the guy we saw in 2015 and the 2016 World Series. I definitely would not think about trading him anytime soon, but if he regains some of his value by starting off hot in 2018, he could become tradable due to his lack of defensive skills. I could see the Cubs dealing him for either a closer or a young starter, but Theo has stated his confidence in Schwarber multiple times and won’t trade him unless he’s blown away by a trade offer.
Albert Almora Jr. (Not Untouchable)
Almora, like Happ, would benefit from everyday at-bats in 2018. He’s yet to be able to really establish himself as a big leaguer. He was stuck behind Jon Jay last year, and the emergence of Happ also took some playing time away from him. Fortunately for him, Almora is scheduled to be the Opening Day center fielder in 2018. I’m excited to see what he’s capable of. Albert is one of the few position players on the roster that rely more on contact than power. Someone capable of putting the ball in play consistently would greatly help the Cubs, as players like Bryant, Baez, Schwarber, Russell, and Happ have shown a tendency to rack up K’s. Even with that being said, I could see Almora becoming expendable unless he shows he still has true untapped potential.
Addison Russell (Not Untouchable)
If Russell played any other position than shortstop, he would very expendable. He has shown to be somewhat injury prone throughout his short minor league and MLB career, and severely regressed in 2017 after driving in over 90 runs in 2016. He stills plays shortstop at a gold glove level, but his hitting is a question mark. With Baez able to play shortstop and Happ able to step in and play second base, Russell may not be around too much longer. That could change with a better offensive season in 2018.
Now, let’s go back to the 2020 Cubs.
- Willson Contreras C
- Kyle Schwarber LF
- Kris Bryant 3B
- Anthony Rizzo 1B
- Ian Happ 2B
- Javier Baez SS
- Jason Heyward RF
- Albert Almora Jr. CF
- Jose Quintana
- Kyle Hendricks
- Yu Darvish
- Jon Lester
- Jen-Ho Tseng
As you can see, Addison Russell isn’t in this lineup. Unless he rebounds nicely in 2018, he could be out the door. Happ looks to be a very good player and Baez is more than capable of taking over everyday shortstop duties. The Cubs should consider dealing Russell if they can get a young starter or proven closer in return.