National writers, when pontificating, tend to focus on the biggest names out there. The reason should be obvious, given that the idea is to draw interest from the furthest corners, and the knowledge base is usually focused on the biggest names (since national guys, by definition, have to know all 30 teams well). You’re not going to see Ken Rosenthal dedicating an article to a possible Cubs minor league signing, and you probably won’t even see Jayson Stark tweet about a prospect deal.
So when Jon Heyman writes that the Cubs and Marlins could discuss a prospect swap, you listen. It’s just not the kind of thing you usually see written, and, given his presence at this week’s GM Meetings, you’ve gotta figure he’s not just pontificating.
Heyman discusses the possibility that the Cubs and Marlins could get together on a rare prospect-for-prospect swap involving one of the Cubs’ top four positional prospects – Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Albert Almora, and Jorge Soler – and a topline pitching prospect from the Marlins. Heyman says that “officials” from both teams agree that there could be something here.
It’s a very interesting report, and surprisingly specific. There’s obviously something to this, even if it’s just extremely exploratory.
That said, I see some significant hurdles. First of all, each of the Cubs’ Big Four is considered a top 20/30 prospect in baseball, and, generally speaking, elite positional prospects are guarded more jealously than pitching prospects, due to the additional risk associated with the latter. Second, I’m not so sure the Marlins’ ample stable of young arms – setting aside Jose Fernandez, who isn’t going anywhere – matches up very well with the Cubs’ big bats, especially on a one-to-one basis.
And then there are the specific problems with each of The Big Four. Bryant, a 2013 draftee, is not eligible to be traded until midseason. Soler is the holder of a $30 million contract, which would make him one of the better paid Marlins. Almora is reputed to be a front office darling, and one whom it’s very hard to see them trading for anything. And then there’s Baez, who has emerged as a top 10 prospect in the game.
Unless the Cubs were going to try and pick up multiple arms for one of these guys, I don’t see an equal value situation. And, even then, the Cubs have plenty of mid-rotation prospect depth. What they’re missing is an elite, high-level pitching prospect who is ready to step in within a year or two. You can read Heyman’s piece for some of the young pitching names, but I’d need a little more information on exactly what is being discussed – if anything – to make heads or tails of this.
Best guess? Someone mentioned the possibility to Heyman (on a hunch), and Heyman started asking hypotheticals. Each of the Cubs and Marlins said, sure, we’d consider discussing something (because you always consider things). And that’s about all there is. Prospect trades are extremely rare for a number of reasons, not the least of which is simple: you know your guys a whole lot better than the other team. And vice versa. It’s tough to find common ground.
Still, it’s interesting. This time of year always is.