With the league championship series now underway, we are inching closer and closer to the true beginning of the offseason. Shortly after the World Series ends, player movement begins. The Cubs are likely to use every possible avenue to find players they think can help them a championship over the two remaining seasons of Theo Epstein’s leadership, which of course includes trades.
What’s different about this year is that the Cubs could actually trade major league talent for more major league talent. Then again, they could also use their minor league system to acquire both short- and long-term assets. Yes, you heard that correctly. Despite what you may have been told, the Cubs do actually have enough depth in the system to make deals.
That doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be looking to part with guys like Brailyn Marquez, Brennen Davis, or Miguel Amaya, but there are plenty more who could be moved in the right deal. In fact, if we break it down by position, the Cubs have three very strong position groups in the minors from which they could move players without affecting the system that much.
Right-handed starting pitching
From Triple-A all the way down to Eugene, the Cubs have plenty of depth with righty starters. While they technically do not have what might be seen as a top-of-the-rotation guy just yet, there are several big arms they’ve taken in the past two years that other teams might see as an asset to their organization.
A few weeks ago, I tried to figure out which starting pitchers were going to each affiliate for 2020. It was a cluster[bleep] of a thought process. There were so many guys that I just gave up after like 10 minutes. When you draft 27 arms in the 2019 draft class, that will happen.
Pardon my French, but the Cubs have catchers coming out their ass. They could deal two or three and still have enough backstops throughout the system. When the Cubs protect a few top prospects for the 40-man roster next month, expect to see Miguel Amaya and PJ Higgins on that list.
The Cubs are just loaded with defensive backstops beyond those two, including Luis Sojo, Jhohnny Pereda, and Erick Gonzalez. Then there are two very young and highly touted catchers they acquired last summer in Ethan Hearn (draft) and Ronnier Quintero (international free agency). Both will be in the lower levels of the system next year.
The system is brimming with middle infielders who can put the bat on the ball, especially at the lower levels. Zack Short and Aramis Ademan will be at Iowa and Tennessee next year, but there are several others who moved off of shortstop and second base to play other positions because there’s just not enough room up the middle for all of them to play.
Just this week, three of them — Fabian Pertuz, Luis Verdugo, and Pedro Martinez — made the Arizona Rookie League’s Top 100 prospects at Prospects Live. I could see the Cubs parting with one or two of the 19-year-old shortstops because it seems like that’s half of what they have in Arizona and the Dominican.
Unless they move somebody like Mark Zagunis, who is pretty much blocked at the major league level, I don’t see the Cubs making significant moves with other position groups. But if they’re able to deal from their strengths, they may be able to address weakness both in Chicago and throughout the system.
Now, the other key here is that the top prospects they hold onto absolutely need to start paying dividends at the big league level over the next two seasons. With their contractual control over many of their core players — not to mention the members of the front office — expiring by 2021, the Cubs have to replace that production via something other than free agency.
One way or the other, it’s going to be a really interesting winter.