Spring Training trades are relatively rare, as teams tend to want to see what they have internally by the time March rolls around. Plans have been laid, and there’s no sense in blowing things up based on a handful of relatively meaningless games.

There are, of course, a couple of prominent exceptions. First, where a serious injury occurs, a team may look to make a move in Spring. Second, there are always a number of smaller moves at the end of Spring Training as teams realize they won’t have room for a player whom another team might want.

And then there’s the very rare good-player-traded-because-he-just-is kind of trade (ok, sometimes that kind of trade is paired with an injury trade). Given the Cubs’ wealth of starting pitchers (relatively speaking), they could be in a position to make this kind of trade.

Chicago Cubs GM Jed Hoyer isn’t ready to concede that the Cubs will move one of their starting pitchers (they’ve got six (or seven, if you include Rodrigo Lopez) guys who could easily slide into a number of rotations around baseball, and obviously they’ve got room in the rotation for only five) at the end of Spring Training, but he’s not ruling it out, either. From the Sun-Times:

“In theory, on paper, you’re right,’’ Hoyer said of the trade opportunity the perceived luxury of depth [in the rotation] creates, “but things usually have a way of working out that way. I think we do feel good about starting pitching depth.’’

Still, Hoyer said, a trade in these final two weeks before the season opens is possible. The Cubs could use another proven reliever, and they have just enough depth in a few position areas to use in trades.

“I think every team probably looks at [possible late-spring upgrades]. Those conversations will really heat up among teams the last 10 days or so,’’ Hoyer said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we made a move. But I also think we have the pieces that we wouldn’t need to.

“We’ll certainly be active in those conversations. I don’t think we’d be doing our job if we weren’t.’’

I’m sure the Cubs will be happy to listen to offers on, for example, a guy like Randy Wells. At the same time, as excited as folks might be about Jeff Samardzija’s switch to the rotation, it’s not hard to imagine it not working out. And, then, if you’ve dealt Wells, you’re just one injury away from having both Lopez and someone like Casey Coleman in the rotation. Those were two of the back-end guys last year whom we rued so vocally.

But, if a team gets desperate enough … for example, the Boston Red Sox, after moving Daniel Bard back to the bullpen, could be left opening the season with two huge question marks in the four and five spots in their rotation (picking two from a group including Alfredo Aceves, Aaron Cook, and Felix Doubront). (H/t to Craig on Twitter for the link.)

That is, of course, just an example. And it’s just a sell-side example – the Cubs could just as likely make a move of their own to pick up a player, though, as constructed, it’s hard to see where they’d be looking to add, except maybe the bullpen.

The rumor mill might be kicking up for a bit.

  • http://www.fightoutsider.com Ryan

    Wells appears to be the odd man out, but I would hold onto him just in case. Considering his penchant for sucking in the first inning of games, I don’t think I would want to put him in the bullpen though. But, like you said, if something happens it would be nice to have him there waiting just in case. At this point it looks like the rotation is Garza, Dempster, Maholm, Samardzija, and Volstad.

  • PoopyPants McGee

    If Randy has any options left then he should be sent down to AAA along with T.Wood. I think its more beneficial to a team to have its starters starting, no matter at what level. then convert them from starters to relievers to starters mid season.

    I have heard the arguement that the Cubs wouldn’t want to pay Wells 2.6 million to pitch in AAA. My only response to that is the Cubs are currently paying Zambrano 15 million to pitch against them so im sure Hoyer and Epstein are will not lose any sleep over paying Wells.

    There is no reason to trade Wells unless a team offers a solid 7th/8th inning arm.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      To get Wells down to AAA, because of his service time, apparently, the Cubs would have to put him on optional waivers (if he gets claimed, the Cubs can pull him back), which he would have to clear. It’s kind of weird, because he does have an option left. But that’s the deal, according to Arizona Phil, who’s usually spot on with these things.

  • http://bleachernation.com Tarheel Cub

    If we trade our pitching depth, we want have any … pitching depth. Last years problems started because two starters were injured the first week of the season. I would hope we would hang on to Wells, Lopez, others to at least see what happens the first month or two of the season. Someone in the rotation could also fall flat on there face, although I am pulling for each and every player. We need to be prepared for any scenario.

  • MightyBear

    Put Wells and Lopez in the bullpen. I think the whole he has to start and can’t move back and fourth from the bullpen is as over rated as pitch counts. If a guy is doing his side work and his arm is ok, he can go from bullpen to starter w/o much problem. You need these guys for injuries, etc. The Cubs don’t have starting pitching depth at Iowa. They thought they did last year and it killed them.

  • T Wags

    Hang onto all our starting pitching depth until July. At that point if were in a good position with guys like McNutt/Rusin/Coleman or even Jackson pitching well in the minors and we have an abundance of depth, then we can trade some guys like Wells and Maholm to desperate teams to get some nice pieces for the future. In the mean time, let’s pray everyone stays healthy and pitches to their potential so we can get maximum value.

    The thing is though, if they pitch to their potential (or even close to it) this team could very well surprise a lot of folks. I actually really like the way this team is shaping up. This season (at least the first half) really hinges on two guys IMO: LaHair and Stewart. If those guys prove they belong this team could be dangerous.

    Can’t wait for some real baseball to start! Go Cubs!

  • ShannyCub

    Would it be applicable to possibly trade for another 3rd baseman? It sounds like Ian Stewart’s wrist is still at least a minor burden and I can’t see Vitters being ready to take on full-time duties if Stewart goes down. There is always Jeff Baker I suppose…

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Baker should be able to hold the position down until Vitters is ready.  Offensively, I have no problem with Vitters reaching Chicago as soon as possible.  I think the bulk of his hitting issues can be fixed with coaching (if they can be fixed), and the best coaches in the system are in Chicago.  His defense could be another story.

      • DocWimsey

        The “if they can be fixed” is the big issue! History is not replete with lots of examples of his problem being fixed.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

          Depends on what the problem is.  The numbers suggest he has terrible pitch recognition; that’s pretty much unfix-able.  The scouts say he has incredible pitch recognition, but he lacks patience.  That is potentially very fixable with coaching.

          Now that the Cubs are going to be preaching patience and plate discipline from top to bottom, I’m hoping we start to see some improvement from Vitters at the plate.

          • DocWimsey

            The test will be simple enough: if Vitters starts taking lots of drivable strikes, then we’ll know that scouts have confused Vitters’ ability to get his bat on anything near the plate with pitch recognition, and that Vitters actually is a guess hitter with uncommonly good contact skills.

            If Vitters starts laying off of pitches that he cannot drive, then he really will be a fairly unique example. (The closest example of which I can think is Sosa: but he basically just pulled his opposite field swing in a couple of inches without changing the top, bottom or inside portion of his trigger zones.)

          • Drew

            I understand once players get to the Majors that pitch-recognition is pretty much unfixable, but is it really a cut-and-dry case of “either you have it or you dont” when players are fresh out of high school? Some of these kids may not have even known what a slider was 3-4 years ago, let alone how to see it out of a pitchers hand.
            Even if that holds true, I agree with Luke that patience at the plate and taking control of an AB when the count is in your favor is something that can, and hopefully will be improved upon.

            • DocWimsey

              I’ve never seen extensive research, but in all the cases at which I have looked, miLB walk rates fit into the distribution of MLB walk rates for individual players. (This came up a couple of weeks ago when people tried naming guys who went from being bad at taking walks to good: however, all of them had miLB walk rates in line with MLB ones; however, the list of names was hardly exhaustive.)

              At Boston, Epstein & Co. operated under the assumption that pitch ID was a basic trait. They stressed “selective aggression”: but the also didn’t draft guys who didn’t show signs of good pitch recognition. They never would have drafted Vitters in the first place.

            • http://www.casualcubsfan.com hansman1982

              Much of pitch recognition is in the eyesight and the process in the brain that makes decisions. If a hitter can see where the ball is at 10 feet from the pitchers hand as opposed to picking up where it is heading at 20 feet, that puts them at a MAJOR advantage in deciding to hit the ball. You could even say that the ability to recoginize and select pitches is developed well before high school.

              FYI – the AVERAGE ballplayer has 20/12 sight (meaning that they see something at 20 feet what the average person sees at 12 feet)

    • Edwin

      Vitters is at least 1 season away from being ready, if he ever will be. Last year in AA he ranked 14th in wOBA among 3B with at least 250 plate appearances. He ranked 9th in slugging, and 15th in OBP.

      His problem right now seems to be that he’s not good enough at defense to stick at third, but he’s not a good enough hitter to be valuable at first base or as a corner outfielder. He is young for his league, so he still has some time left to try and put things together, but it’s an uphill battle.

      • Kyle

        He was young for AA at the time, though, which helps quite a bit.

  • The Dude Abides

    Keep every starter we have either on MLB or AAA roster very hard to believe all of these pitchers will work out let alone not come up with a sore arm here or there throughout the year. Remember, one we are the Cubs and two whoever is awarded the number four and five spot on the roster has a preseason body of work on which he is being rewarded his spot nothing else.

  • BD

    I’m not sure I understand why we have a perceived “depth” at SP. We started ST with a handful of guys who “could” be starters- if any of them were considered a lock, we wouldn’t still be trying to determine if Samardzija has in fact earned the No. 4 spot (or if he should go back to the pen, which lowers our SP depth by one). I still think it should look something like this:

    Cubs: Garza, Dempster, Maholm, Samardzija, Volstad, Wells (long relief/spot starter)
    Iowa: Lopez, T. Wood, Sonnanstine, Coleman, J. Jackson(?, or other) starting so that they are ready to come up as needed

    I understand that having 4 guys who could fill-in might seem like a luxury, but as an example Coleman should not be our #7/8 starter. #10 is about as high as he should be- and hopefully the Cubs don’t have to dig that deep for subs. But depth like that (even if the overall quality might be a little lower than we would like) is never a bad thing.

    • 1908Blues

      I think the key word is “perceive”. You have to create perception (Blake Dewitt is a great bench player, Jeff S. has done amazing things this offseason, Ian Stewarts wrist is just a flesh wound, there’s nothing up my sleeve) then you can make magic.

    • gratefulled

      Cubs: Garza, Dempster, Maholm, Samardzija, Volstad, Wells (long relief/spot starter)
      Iowa: Lopez, T. Wood, Sonnanstine, Coleman, J. Jackson(?, or other) starting so that they are ready to come up as needed

      I agree with this with one exception; I believe we should give Wells a chance at starting the season in the rotation at #5 and letting Volstad be the long relief similar to the Shark of last season. In 2009, Wells threw 165 innings with an ERA of 3.05. That is much better than Volstad has done in his short career.

      Just got my I-Cub season tickets yesterday…WOOWOO!!!

  • Cubbies4Life

    April 5 – be there or be square! I hope our good weather holds out.

    • jt

      I will also be there opening day with my dad, cheers!

  • Dick

    I think Samardzija starting is a mistake, only because the bullpen looks to be incredibly weak. Samardzija should have been the Cubs 5th starter last year, but Quade was too inept to figure that out, and went with Davis, et.al. With their only consistent reliever (Marshall) gone and Marmol a question mark, I have no confidence in the pen this year. I wouldn’t be shocked with a bullpen ERA of about 6, at least early in season.

  • die hard

    Phillies are hurtin’ and unless they are writing off season already should be willing to deal

  • Ryan

    Id be shocked if Dewitt or baker isn’t delt before the season starts. I also think that if any starter gets delt its going to be Wells but they only make a deal if they get something valueable not just trading him for a very minor player/ salary dump

  • scorecardpaul

    just a thought, shouldn’t we keep our depth. We might trade one or two of our top starters around July.

  • Keep Dreaming

    Whoever said the Cubs Have depth at pitching , is a complete ________ . The Cubs have bodies that other teams consider garbage. The Cubs sign 36 year Camp to minor league contract …. i guess rebuilding just “got” older.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I say the Cubs have starting pitching depth. They are weak at the front, strong at the back.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

        I agree.

      • Keep Dreaming

        Your fluff pieces reflects your enthusiasm. The Cubs will finished last in the central division with the combination of key hitting flaws , a troubled bullpen and a starting rotation that any ambulance chasing lawyer would be proud to represent.

        • DocWimsey

          Did the Astros departure from the division get moved up a year, then?

        • GreyFury

          Why, exactly, are you here??

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          If you think I’m optimistic about this season, you haven’t been paying attention. Also: I’m not a lawyer. Also: when I was a lawyer, I was a damn good one. Also: when I was a lawyer, I worked in corporate litigation.

          • DocWimsey

            And then your Horcrux broke? :-)

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              Something like that.

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