The Morning Report – November 17 – Cubs Position Players, Castro/Wheeler Trade, Niese-Mejia/Ramirez Trade, LJ Mazzilli


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


Thomas Brennan said...

Cubs are being bold and crowding the IF further with LaStella, something has to give. So a trade of Montero and Leathersich for Castro OK with me. I advocated for Wilmer since last year and would still welcome him as our opening day SS. I think that his bat will surprise people in similar fashion to how Duda's did this year. He won't hit 30 HRs, but I could see 35-40 doubles and 15-20 homers.

Mack Ade said...

Good morning, Thomas.

I agree with you.

I'm happy starting the season off with Flores, buy would welcome a Montero/Leathersich deal for Castro, especially since I am not as high on Leathersich as you are.

More importantly, it would put the long term speculation on SS to bed.

greg b said...

There is no way I trade Wheeler for Castro. Our no. 2 starter no way. Im sure the Mets can trade Niese or Gee , Montero and some of our excess pitching prospects for some minor league SS that we haven't heard of but could be ready for the MLB mid season

Thomas Brennan said...

With the trade I propose, Montero and Jack, Cubs would get two talented pitchers. Enuf for Castro? Maybe not....EXCEPT M & J would be a huge bottom line salaries savings for Cubs. So if were them, I'd do it. If we get Castro and his salary, trade Murph, put Flores at 2nd, and see how things shake out as Herrera develops in AAA. It won't take Herrera long...he is a man on a mission.

Christopher Soto said...


If the Cubs are going to deal from their stash of Middle IF talent they are going to want MLB proven talent in exchange. Neither Montero and Leathersich fit the bill.

Any trade for Castro is going to have to start with a current rotation arm. I wouldn't give them Wheeler for Castro straight up....I would actually want a second piece in return.

I'm still in the camp that says Jonathan Niese + Jhenry Mejia gets it done.

Kevin S said...

Let me ask. If we don't make a move and Flores is the SS come Opening Day. What happens when he hits .200 with 5 errors in the first month?

What is our alternative? Tejada? Reynolds?

We can't count so much on these young guys to produce (it bit Boston in the ass this year). If Lagares regresses, we have MDD. If d'Arnaud regresses, we have Plawecki. But what if Wilmer opens the year like Granderson or d'Arnaud did this year? You need another option and it can't be Tejada.

If I can't clearly upgrade SS over Wilmer, I'm signing Stephen Drew on a 1-year deal for Tejada $ to be my backup. I blame his poor season on waiting so long to sign more than anything. You can't tell me that didn't effect him.

Michael S. said...

No to dealing Wheeler or deGrom.

Thomas Brennan said...

O ye of little faith in Wilmer Flores. The dude crushed the rock in AAA (you can look it up), adjusted to major league pitching, and showed signs he may be one of the lowest strikeout pitchers in the game (you can look that up too).

I am not a Wilmer naysayer. I am confident he will hit. He works very hard on D and has enough big league time in to be reliable and adequate. And Reynolds is coming fast and likely could step in early in the season in a pinch and do well.

Thomas Brennan said...

Chris - Niese and Mejia for Castro works for me.

Michi L. said...

I really dont think the Mets and Cubs will make a deal. In my opinion the Cubs are overvalueing their infielders while the Mets may overvalueing Gee, Montero.
But has anyone ever thought about the Rangers!? Thy have IF sureplus too and luckily need some pitching help.
They cant trade Andrus and his monster contract and Odor has had a really nice year ( hes 20 or so) . With Luis Sardinas waiting in the wings maybe just maybe is there a deal for Jrricksin Profar possible!?!?

Anonymous said...

To answer this, you need to look at it from a logical perspective.

1. How much better will say Castro numbers be vs Flores.
Is it feasible that Flores can give you 10/15 hrs and at least 65 rbi's while batting at least 270? I say yes.

2. If you had a choice, would you take Wheeler (a potential ace) or Castro who I consider average to slightly above average shortstop.
Or more to the point, would you rather have an ace in the making or 15 hrs and 65 rbi bat?

3. Finally, what is more appealing to you. Castro in the lineup or Harvey, Wheeler, deGrom, Matz, Syndergaard for the next 4 or 5 years?

I made my choice and for marginal improvement with the glove over Flores, I rather keep the potential of an elite rotation that has not been seem in a long time. The Mets would be throwing an ace or a #2 type pitcher every single day.

That boys and girls is also special and very valuable.

John Zozo said...

I prefer a bigger deal with cubbies, I would trade Granderson, Synndergarrd, Gee and Mejia for russel, Soler and Edwin Jackson. We swap 2 contracts that both teams would love to get rid of and Grandy is from chicago. I believe Jackson will pitch better in a bigger park and he always had the potential to be dominating. We will also save some money because Grandy is owed more. What do u guys think?

Christopher Soto said...


No thanks....Honestly...While I have no statistical information to back it....I have a gut Granderson will bounce back quite well in 2015.

.247 AVG
24 HR
81 RBI
12 SB

John Zozo said...

I think Soler can have a good a season as grandy would have in Citifield next year, we get younger and save $$$ at the same time. I just checked out his minor league numbers and they where very good.

Christopher Soto said...


Oh i think Soler is going to have a monster season....but the Cubs are not going to have any desire to trade him.

The only way they would part with both Russell and Soler is to get Harvey in return.

Anonymous said...

Theo may overplay his hand with his MI and his statement last week that they are not in on the big pitchers for big contracts only diminish his leverage. Interesting statement from his saying that 2015 is not the year they are looking to push, but rather 2016. I think the Mets will be better than the Cubs next year and could compete for WC, but truth is that 2016 is when the window really starts to open for the Mets. I am equally hesitant to put the chip on Flores, but I think it is best to go short term on the position rather than overpay. One more year opens up a whole set of options for that position, such as Reynolds and other Farm player improving their trade value. If no one is willing to pay Theo a frontline starter for a MI, he will start running into a surplus that really has to be moved. I hope that Flores can be serviceable defensively and start to reach his offensive potential; I agree with the above that if Flores gets 600 ABs, he will come close to matching Castro's offensive numbers and the difference wont be a frontline starter
Anon Joe F

John Zozo said...

Russel for Thor is even.
Mejia and gee for Soler is pretty fair, but when you get them to get rid of their enigma in Jackson and throw in a home town guy in grandersen. I believe it becomes a pretty even deal. Grandy would have a monster year in that ball park and provide their plethora of youngsters the veteran leadership (to go with their future Russell martin signing) they need. I would even substitute Niese for gee if that makes a difference.

S. Finch said...

The madness! First, Meijia and Gee for Soler isn't even close. Gee has no value. He might be able to return a decent bullpen piece. In four years he has gotten close to 200 innings once, and has not cracked 1.3 WAR in a single season. Simply put, he has been half-way decent for two seasons and awful for two. Soler is projected to be Puig.

Granderson arguably has negative value and would be a contract dump at this point. The cubs are looking to get young, not trade their up and coming superstar for a 34 y/o who is coming off his two worst seasons ever, and is also owed 45 mil.

Russel for Thor I believe is close, but still Cubs would be getting lower value. Position prospects are simply more valuable than pitching at this point in time.

Lastly, this blog in general tends to severely undervalue Castro. I don't know that i would trade for him, but he is far better than an average SS. Take in to account he is 25, likely to improve, and under a long-term, team-friendly contract and he has lots of value. Top 5 offensive SS in the league and slightly below average defensively.

Christopher Soto said...

@S. Finch

100% agreed.

Soler is a Top 50 MLB prospect...quite frankly Syndergaard for Soler + a low level wild card would be fair value.

I wouldn't say that Granderson has negative value. The guy did hit 20 HRs, which is Top 50 in baseball, and was healthy for all 162 games which is an accomplishment in itself.

If you take out his atrocious April, Grandy was actually pretty good.

s. Finch said...

@Soto.. I think what you say is fair. Granderson is probably worth his contract, but little more. Take into account age, salary, and production, i think few teams have any interest. However, i am more than fine trotting him out as a Met for 2015.

To add to this conversation, I really like Flores and wouldn't be opposed to him playing SS, but i cringe thinking about him and Murphy for an entire year. I think one or the other has to go. We are too pitching dependent to have below average defense at RF, 2b, & SS. Having your 3b and CF as the only solid defensive players is kind of scary.

Hobie said...

OK, since we're on the precipice dangling Granderson...

How about Granderson & Flores/Murphy for Jose Reyes (If it's Murph, I'd like a prospect too. eg.e 20 yr o;d LHP Jairo Labourt)

OF: Cuddyer-Legares-den Dekker (Kirk & Puello)

Lew Rhodes said...

No way Sandy trades Wheeler for Castro

Simply put:

Wheeler + Flores > Castro

Castro is not enough better than Flores to cover the gap between Wheeler and whoever replaces him.

S Finch said...

@Rhodes..If Flores can play a solid defense, I agree Flores + Wheeler is better than Castro. If Flores comes undone at SS and it ends up being Tejada again....well.... I am hopeful Flores can play a decent major league SS, but i think that's far from determined.

This is where not playing him for the entire 2014 just makes me crazy. We could be going into this offseason knowing if Flores is the answer (at least short-term).

I think it's a mistake to dismiss wheeler or thor for castro completely. Castro is proven, young, and a solid SS. We hope Wheeler continues to improve, we hope thor is the real deal, and we hope Flores is a major league SS. Really, it's a gamble either way.

John Zozo said...

I really don't think it is to off. They are looking for veteran leadership (since they didn't get Russell martin) like grandersen, and looking to shed Edwin Jacksons contract. I would throw in Niese instead an/or with Gee and that would be enough. You are shoring up there whole pitching staff, all they would then need is john Lester.
So Niese, Granderson, mejia, Synndergarrd and lets throw in Gee for Soler, Addison and Jackson.
They will then have 3/5ths of a rotation a viable closer and in that park a 30-35 homer threat.

TP said...

Great column and comments. I'm a little late to the dance here, but I will give my 2 pennies nonetheless -

The Mets need to upgrade SS and add a quality lefty to the pen. I am not against Wilmer, nor am I against Murphy, but I think the Mets can only deal with one of them, and if I had to guess I would be Alderson prefers Wilmer at 2B.

The Mets are set to go with very good pitching, and can have both an above average rotation and pen. But, right now, the defense may be more of a burden than the lack of offense. Yes they have a plus plus CF, but go around the horn -
1B - slightly negative
2B - significantly negative
SS - (Wilmer) solid negative
3B - push to maybe slightly positive
C - worst in baseball
LF - slightly negative (Grandy)
CF - best in baseball
RF - solid negative

They have to hope TDA will improve, but the only other places they can upgrade are at SS and 2B. I think Wilmer is an upgrade to Murph at 2B, so SS is the focus. They need a plus glove there.

S. Finch said...

I agree TP. If you are going to run out a bunch of young pitchers (even if they are heavy K guys), you gotta support them with at least average defense. I could take a mulligan at 2b or SS, but not both. Let's hope Terry can manage some strategic late inning substitutions and field the best defensive team when GB guys like Thor & Wheeler are starting.

I think you are a bit pessimistic on D'arnaud though. I think he mostly makes up his passed ball tendencies with superior pitch framing. This should also improve over time. Hopefully the offseason surgery and some additional work will improve his throwing. He wasn't always this bad.

eraff said...

The C-2b-SS is a rotten core for those of us who like our team built through the middle of the diamond.

A Castro Trade has been pegged in value by the Hyyward-Shelby Miller Deal---- that equals a guy like Wheeler. BTW---I'll believe that they trade a 25 YO Allstar SS when they actually do it....and they're not doing for the HOMER Trade suggestions of Niese and Gee.

Thomas Brennan said...

@ eraff

If you do trade for Castro by giving up Thor, and move Flores to 2B, to save Murphy $$ and until Herrera is more ready to take over 2B, what do you propose to get for Murphy in a trade?

What would you like to see done then with Niese and Gee?

Kevin S said...

Gee for Allen Craig. Niese stays put.

I don't care what I'm hearing about Murphy having no value. He isn't going to bring you back the shortstop of the future but he'd bring you back something useful.

A consistent hitting machine, who will play anywhere on the diamond, or OF, you ask him to, is valuable. He can really be used as a 2B or 3B. Toronto may be looking to add a lefty bat since they are a little right heavy after trading Lind.

You should probably be able to trade him for a lefty reliever or a high upside pitcher in A ball.

With offense down across baseball, if you can hit, you'll have a job.

A team like the Braves with a solid defensive shortstop seem like the kind of team that could afford his glove at 2B

Thomas Brennan said...

Good points on Gee, Niese and Murphy, Kevin. I think Craig would be worth a flyer for Gee. Maybe he reverts to his pre-2014 form.

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