The Morning Report – November 17 – Cubs Position Players, Castro/Wheeler Trade, Niese-Mejia/Ramirez Trade, LJ Mazzilli
Posted by Mack Ade at 6:24 AM
Cubs Position Prospects[i] -
No team has as many well-regarded position prospects as Chicago. Because a few already have climbed into the majors, there is a perception the Cubs will now make an impact in free agency, particularly for starting pitching and catcher Russell Martin, or in the trade market by using the prospects. The rumor of the Cubs trading a shortstop — Starlin Castro, Addison Russell or Javier Baez — for a Mets starter such as Zack Wheeler or Jake deGrom just won’t die.
Cubs president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer tried to tamp some of the runaway expectations. The reality is they were building for 2016 and could wait for a free-agent class next winter that might include Zimmermann and Fister before acting boldly. But the mere presence of the Cubs operating now with prospects to burn and money to spend has their contemporaries viewing Chicago as a market force.
Sports On Earth[ii] -
Five Blockbuster Trades That Make Sense -
1. Starlin Castro to the Mets, Zack Wheeler to the Cubs - The Mets are on the verge of a starting pitching surplus, just as the Cubs are on the verge of a shortstop surplus. We know how quickly a surplus can become a deficit, but this at least has the makings of a proper trade pairing. Those of us who thought the Mets should just go ahead and sign Stephen Drew last winter look and feel pretty stupid now, but I'm used to that. And hey, maybe they'd be stupid to part with Wheeler, too. But the free-agent shortstop market is once again starved for talent, and this could be the Mets' best available option if they do decide to deal from their position of strength.
Just as it would be bold of the Mets to deal one of their high-upside arms, it would be bold of the Cubs, heading into a season in which they expect to contend, to count on their middle-infield kids (Addison Russell, Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara, who can also play the outfield).
Then again, perhaps the Cubs would be selling high before the priceier portion of Castro's contract kicks in, and perhaps, knowing what we know about how power arms blow out, the Mets would be selling high on Wheeler. Looks to me like the risk/reward equation is about equal here. Castro and Wheeler are both 24 and both under contractual control through at least 2019. One key difference, however, is that Castro's contract is a fixed cost -- roughly $43 million during that time frame with a team option of $16 million for 2020 -- while Wheeler will make close to the league minimum for the next two seasons before hitting arbitration before the 2017 season, assuming he doesn't sign an extension.
While it would be tough for the Mets to give up a power arm just about to cross over the 200-inning threshold, the fact of the matter is that Wheeler's first 49 starts have netted a league-average result, in terms of adjusted ERA+. Castro has similar appeal as a potentially standard-setting shortstop bat, but his career efforts, to date, have netted an adjusted OPS+ also right around league average.
Mack – Worth any discussion?
I’m not breaking up the ‘Fab Five’, especially for someone I have to pay at least $20mil more between now and 2019.
I have nothing against Castro and I consider him an upgrade to Wilmer Flores, but the best you could get from me is Rafael Montero.
Past that, it simply wouldn’t happen.
Kevin Shelly asked -
I'm reading today's Morning Report and I'm intrigued by a Niese for Ramirez swap. I don't think this would be enough for Chicago so I could see Niese & Mejia for Ramirez. I have no idea who the replacement SS would be for Chicago so that might be important. I think Niese would fit nicely in a rotation featuring Sale, Quintana, Niese & Rondon. Just my take. Kevin
Mack – Hey Kevin, thanks for the email.
First of all, I think we all have too much time on our hands and are making much too much out of this shortstop situation. The more I compare the stats of the shortstops out their vs. what Wilmer Flores punched out after the all-star break, the more I realize that a two player for Ramirez trade would be way past overkill. Ramirez’s 2014 stat line was .273, 713-OPS, 15-HR, 74-RBI, .978-fPCT, 15-E… it seems to me that this line mirrors what Flores will do in 2015… for nine and a half million dollars less.Jon Niese is expendable and yes, I would still trade him one-for-one for Ramirez, but nothing
Ken Davidoff on LJ Mazzilli[i] -
He’s on the right track. The Mets’ fourth-round pick in last year’s amateur draft, out of the University of Connecticut, Mazzilli put together a .301/.361/.440 slash line in his first full professional season, splitting his time between Class A Savannah and Class A St. Lucie with a one-game cameo at Triple-A Las Vegas. And in the AFL, with the Scottsdale Scorpions, the second baseman tallied a .306/.433/.469 line in 15 games.
The Braves have traded 2B Tommy La Stella, plus their #4 international signing slot, to the Cubs for RHP Arodys Vizcaino and the Cubs 2nd, 3rd, and 4th international slot.This net the Braves $830,000 in international bonus money.
2014 stats –
La Stella – 319-AB, .251/.328/.317/644, 1-HR, 31-RBI
Vizcaino – 5-G, 0-ST, 5.40, 5.0-IP, 5-K, 4-BB