So there has been a lot of discussion about the Cubs core players, of which, the two most seemingly untouchable players are Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro. However, being untouchable also means they are the two players that the Cubs would insist upon getting the best return. I don't want to see either of these guys go, but with a huge need for front line starting pitching I can't help but think that trading one, or both, of these guys would be the best way to get it.
Castro is already a two-time All-Star shortstop signed to a team friendly deal through 2020 ($70 mil). He has a slash line in his Major league career of .283/.322/.404 so far, and he is already worth 7.1 WAR (Baseball-Reference).
Rizzo is a left-handed power hitting first baseman with long term 30HR/100RBI potential. He is also signed to an equally team friendly contract of $70 mil through 2021 (assuming both options are exercised). He has a MLB career slash line of .237/.323/.416, and he is currently worth 4.4 WAR in his time with the Cubs.
Both have the ability to play a full 162 game season, both are still very young for the Majors, and both have a replacement waiting in the minors already (Baez and Vogelbach).
There isn’t much history for trading a young positional player with face of the franchise potential, but the 2007 Miguel Cabrera trade seems like a good blue print. The Tigers gave up six players including their #1, 2, 6, and 8 prospects (Baseball America), including first round draft picks Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller, for Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis.
So with that in mind, my criteria for a good suitor would be a team with need at the position, without a prospect of their own readily available, and preferably a top tier pitching AND catching prospect (The Cubs areas of need) available in return. While neither Rizzo nor Castro is Miguel Cabrera, I think the return for either should be 3 top 10 organizational and a high risk/ceiling pitcher.
My top suitors for Rizzo:
The Mets have organizational top 10 C Kevin Pawlecki blocked by Travis d'Arnaud, and 2 top tier starting pitchers in Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero, either of which would slot in as the top pitching prospect in our system. I know the Mets are rebuilding as well, so they are least likely to give up the goods.
The Red Sox (seriously) could be the best partner. Rizzo was originally traded because the Red Sox thought they were getting their franchise first baseman in Adrian Gonzalez. So trading him back would make sense. Then Mike Napoli could come right over to the Cubs as a stop gap until Vogelbach is ready. And giving up one (or maybe two) of Allen Webster, Henry Owens, Matt Barnes or Anthony Renaudo would not even be considered “mortgaging the future.” Adding in either Blake Swihart or Jon Denney (January trade PTBNL) would fulfill our organizational catcher need.
The Pirates need a first baseman, but are maybe the worst match on prospects based on my criteria. There is little chance of seeing Gerrit Cole or Jameson Taillon, but getting three guys from the top 20 out of Pittsburgh would be like getting 3 out of the top 10 in most other organizations, so whoever comes over in a trade with them would stand a good chance of future goodness.
Top for Castro:
The Yankees are aging. Derek Jeter is looking to move to DH in a more full time roll. They may not re-sign Cano, so Castro would could play short or second for them. Top level prospects are thin for the requirement I set forth, but C Gary Sanchez, along with reclamation project Manny Banuelos, and this year’s 1st rounder Ian Clarkin (PTBNL) seems like a good start.
The Padres have less need for a short stop, but they have the prospects I think best fit the need. Everth Cabrera could be facing some serious regression coming off the roids, forcing a need. If so, Max Fried and Austin Hedges would be an amazing return. We already know that the Padres front office is willing to trade with the Cubs pretty freely, so there is a likelihood it could happen.
The Mariners have a glut of top level pitching prospects, and so far have not been able to make a middle infielder stick at the bigs, so Castro could be perfect. They may not have the catching prospect the Cubs need, but we do have Welington Castillo who will fill the need for the foreseeable future.
If you think I'm overvaluing our guys, keep in mind, in that same Cabrera trade, Maybin & Miller weren’t just the two best prospects in Detroit’s system, they were #s 6 & 10 overall (Baseball America), so it isn’t unreasonable to expect a couple of top 50 overall prospects as part of the package for either of these guys.
So, I think it would be possible to trade one or both of these guys before the start of 2014 and get the kind of return that would make the Cubs even more competitive in 2015.
2015 Line Up And Rotation (assuming Rizzo back to Red Sox and Castro to Mariners)
1. RF Choo (btw I think we should sign Choo)
2. LF Soler
3. SS Baez
4. 3B Bryant
5. 1B Vogelbach
6. CF Junior Lake unitl Almora Gets His Call Up
7. 2B Alcantara
8. C Blake Swihart & Welington Castillo splitting
SP Travis Wood
SP Shark (signed Extension)
SP James Paxton or Taijuan Walker
SP Allen Webster or Henry Owens
SP Pierce Johnson or CJ Edwards
CL Aroldys Vizcaino
And there will be plenty of pitchers to slot into the the back end of the roation/bullpen. And Szczur, Olt, Vitters, Bjax, Villanueva, Ha, and Watkins (amoung others) are all still part of the organization to plug in as fill-ins, stop-gaps, and utility positions.