As we slide into the offseason now, I sort of wondered how to go about a season review/offseason primer. Player-by-player reviews get rote and boring, and there’s really no point in reviewing Jon Lester or Kris Bryant. You know what they are, and that they’re going to be here next year. There’s not much mystery there.
As we move into it, and we’ll go more in depth with all of them, it feels like this is the time that the Cubs front office is going to have to make a big decision, and it seems like it’s going to come between Ian Happ, Javy Baez, and Kyle Schwarber. And Addison Russell might be a long shot closing on the outside.
The problem is when you start doing the connotations in your head, you get dizzy. A trade of either Baez or Russell erodes the depth you’ve had there. And both Baez and Russell have had their injury histories, though most of it was in the minors. You get nightmares in your head about the Cubs moving one of them, watching the other get hurt, and then we get the Ben Zobrist-Shortstop experience, and no one wants that. And a strength of the Cubs the past three years is the depth. That there really wasn’t anywhere they could suffer an injury that they couldn’t find at least a representative fill-in. Sure. long-term injuries to Bryant or Rizzo would be crippling, but Baez filling in there would at least keep it from being total disaster.
So if the Cubs think that depth is worth keeping, that reduces you to a choice between Happ and Scwharber. Happ can play second, but if he’s not around you still have Baez and Zobrist, who isn’t going anywhere, that can play there. Left field is covered by whichever of Schwarber or Happ is still here, and whatever fourth outfielder the Cubs decide to bring in. Bryant might see more time in the outfield as well.
The other things is, the Cubs don’t “have” to trade any of them, at least financially. The pressure is that to fill one or two of the holes in the rotation, they’ll have to give up talent, and possibly holes in the bullpen. But the Cubs aren’t paying any of these guys anything, and aren’t due to at any time soon. Russell is going into his first year of arbitration, Baez isn’t even there yet, Schwarber isn’t there yet either, and Happ is way farther than that. Sure, Addison will get a raise from the basically pennies he’s been getting, and so will Bryant and Hendricks who will also enter Arbitration Year 1 this year. But that shouldn’t completely hamstring the Cubs financially.
So there’s a lot to consider. One also has to consider that any trade of Russell (the long shot) and Schwarber would come with their value depleted from where it was a year ago. Schwarbs did hit in the last half of the year, and his numbers at that level over a full season would still make him a pretty damn valuable hitter. A 129 wRC+ and .373 wOBA over a full season put you in a category with names like Rizzo, Encarnacion, Smoak, Morrison, Gary Sanches, and Arenado for this season. Those are some good names. But teams are going to still see that first half. Russell still hasn’t hit consistently in the majors, and now has foot and hamstring problems he’s going to have to prove aren’t a regular thing.
I don’t envy the decisions to be made, depending on what’s out there (and I’m sorry, you’re going to have to a fuck of a lot better than Alex Cobb, in my mind). So for the rest of this week, maybe longer, we’ll at least get those three and try and figure out what the Cubs have, and what they might lose if they decide it’s time to cash in.