In July of 2016, the Chicago Cubs traded top prospect Gleyber Torres as part of a package for closer Aroldis Chapman. After winning the World Series in November, the Cubs lost Chapman to free agency, and needed another closer for the 2017 season. So they traded another talented youngster, outfielder Jorge Soler, to the Royals for Wade Davis.
During the All-Star break in 2017, the Cubs sent two more top prospects, outfielder Eloy Jimenez and pitcher Dylan Cease, to the South Side of Chicago, in a deal for starter Jose Quintana. And a couple weeks later, they sent two more quality prospects, infielders Jeimer Candelario and Isaac Paredes, to the Tigers for catcher Alex Avila and some more relief help in Justin Wilson.
All together, from July 2016 to July 2017, the Cubs traded away five of their top prospects plus a 24-year-old Jorge Soler, aiming to to hit their competitive window as hard as possible. By and large, and taken together, I’d say it was a successful stretch of decisions, yes? You could certainly point to the Candelario/Paredes/Avila/Wilson deal as one that did not pan out for the Cubs, but (1) that happens, (2) Avila wound up being very useful and Wilson could still be good again this year, and (3) the decision to make that trade, at the time, seemed very sound. So, again, all in all, these were good trades for the Cubs.
But now, some of those former Cubs players/prospects are starting to sniff the Major Leagues in significant ways. Here’s a little update on where each of them are …
- At MLB.com, Bryan Hoch writes that the Yankees are planning on giving Gleyber Torres a “legitimate crack” at making the Opening Day roster. He’s still just barely 21 years old and is coming off a season-ending elbow injury, but his star is as bright as ever. And, perhaps more importantly, he’s feeling very good about his upcoming season: “I’m super excited,” Torres said via MLB.com. “Right now I feel pretty good; 100 percent and I’m working hard. Last year I missed a lot of months, I lost almost my season. Now it’s time to work and make sure my arm and everything feel right.” Last season, Torres slashed .309/.406/.457 (145 wRC+) in his first try at Triple-A, while playing shortstop. If he’s really ready to go – most likely playing at second base – he might join a Yankees power-house team that looks ready for another deep postseason run.
- At NBC Sports Chicago, Vinnie Duber writes about White Sox star prospect, Eloy Jimenez, and how he could force the Sox into calling him up this season. “Now, the good ones have a way of sort of changing your timeline on that,” said Sox GM Rick Hahn, “and it’s not going to shock me if at some point over the course of the summer Eloy forces our hand a little bit, we’re going to have to wind up being a little more aggressive than, again, what would be a very fine developmental plan for a 21-year old who is hardly above A-Ball.” Hahn goes on to reiterate that reaching the Majors this year isn’t a priority for Jimenez (from the team’s perspective), because of how little time he’s had at the upper levels of the Minors, but it’s clearly on the table.
- And, of course, Eloy has all the confidence in the world, “I talked with Zack (Collins) one day in Double-A. I told him, ‘When we figure it out and get together in the big leagues, I know we’re going to be awesome. We’re going to win a lot of World Series.'” I wish him the best, but boy is it gonna be tough to watch him and Torres raking for the next decade-plus.
- Also out of the South side is news that Dylan Cease has been invited to the White Sox Major League camp. Cease spent the first half of 2017 in A-ball with the Cubs, working a 2.79 ERA (2.76 FIP) thanks to a killer 34.7% strikeout rate. He struggled with his command a bit (12.2 BB%), but improved on that upon moving over to the White Sox (10.3 BB%). According to CBS Sports, Cease is not likely to break camp with the team, though, given that he hasn’t yet reached Double-A, but after his success last season you might expect him to arrive on the scene as soon as 2019.
- Although it’s easy to laugh off the “best shape of his life” routine, Jorge Soler has reportedly gone through some significant conditioning changes this offseason in an attempt to stay healthy for an entire year and work on some of the holes in his swing: “This is not the Jorge Soler the Royals last saw in September. This is a version of Soler cultivated through a longer-than-normal offseason training schedule, one who put a halt to months worth of sulking so he could try to become the power bat the Royals thought they acquired ….” According to the Kansas City Star, Soler is 20 pounds lighter and seems to have taken his very disappointing 2017 campaign very seriously. Out of all these players, I don’t think there’s a guy I rather see succeed more than Soler. His promise and upside was so ridiculously high … it’d be such a waste if it never all came together, especially because of injuries.
- Cubs fans might not be as familiar with Isaac Paredes as they are with some of the other names above, but that’s because the team cashed in on his value so quickly after his stock rose. But in the Mexican Winter League, this offseason, Paredes showed the Cubs what they traded away, by slashing .370/.426/.556 while playing shortstop for the Yaquis de Obregon. You can’t use Winter League stats as a perfect proxy for the Minor Leagues, but that’s a clearly impressive performance for any hitter, let alone a 19-year-old middle infielder. And in any case, Tigers VP of Player Development, Dave Littlefield, is very excited about his future, even if he thinks he might ultimately wind up at second base: “He’s an outstanding-looking player, with a good bat at a young age.” Expect Paredes to start the year out at A-Ball.
- From that same trade, you’ll probably be more familiar with Jeimer Candelario who is, according to Lynn Henning (Detroit News), the Tigers’ everyday third baseman in 2018 as of today. And why not? After he was traded to the Tigers last season, Candelario, a switch-hitter, slashed .330/.406/.468 (137 wRC+) with an 11.3 BB% and a 17.0 K% in 27 games (106 plate appearances). In terms of players who could make it sting the most quickly, Candelario might be at the top of the list.
In the end, don’t feel too bad if these guys start haunting us this season. The Cubs may have traded away Candelario, Paredes, Soler, Cease, Jimenez, and Torres, but they have a World Series Championship, three-straight NLCS appearances, three more seasons of Jose Quintana, and one more season of Justin Wilson left to show for it. It’s not as if you’d take back this group of trades together even if you could.