Lukewarm Stove: Villanueva, Garza, Nelson, Yankees, Missed Targets

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Lukewarm Stove: Villanueva, Garza, Nelson, Yankees, Missed Targets

Chicago Cubs

stoveIt’s possible that the narrative changes by the time this Padres series is over, but it’s looking like May is going to be another rumor-heavy month for the Cubs, even with the Trade Deadline still three long, frustration-filled months away …

  • Tim Dierkes last week took at Carlos Villanueva as a trade candidate for the Cubs. Dierkes compares the signing to that of Paul Maholm last year, insofar as the Cubs can offer the pitcher in trade with a second year of inexpensive control. The question, though, is whether Villanueva’s value as a pitcher can match that of Maholm. Before this season, Villanueva was a successful swing guy with peripherals that suggested he could be a decent 3/4 starter. Before 2012, Paul Maholm was already an established, decent 3/4 starter. Thus, when he dominated in the first half of 2012, there were probably fewer questions than there would be about a dominant first half of 2013 for Villanueva. So would their midseason trade value be comparable? It’ll depend on how the market shakes out and how Villanueva keeps pitching. And if his value doesn’t elevate sufficiently, the Cubs might just be content to hang onto Villanueva for 2014. They’re going to need starters, too.
  • What you may end up seeing is the Cubs trying to package Villanueva (or Scott Feldman or Travis Wood or even Matt Garza – these are just examples) with a positional player like David DeJesus or Nate Schierholtz to try and concentrate their return. In other words, instead of trading a pitcher and a positional player each for a decent prospect, they’d likely prefer to bundle them together for a top prospect. Depends on the market, obviously.
  • Speaking of tradable starting pitchers, Buster Olney discusses some of the trade candidates to look out for this year, and, no surprise, Matt Garza’s name comes up. Olney goes so far to say that, *if* the Rays don’t end up shopping David Price this Summer, and *if* Matt Garza comes back healthy in May, the Cubs might have the best pitching trade chip on the market. For my part, it still seems too early to say that, even if you make those two assumptions. If the Phillies fall out of it, but Roy Halladay starts pitching well again, isn’t he the top rental on the market? That’s just one example. (More on the Cubs and Price here, for those who missed it yesterday.)
  • It’s barely meaningful, and it’s incredibly early, but you may not have noticed just how well a couple of Cubs’ top offseason pitching targets are doing. Anibal Sanchez currently sports a 317 ERA+ (which, hahahaha). Hyun-Jin Ryu has a 2.75 FIP.
  • The Rockies have DFA’d third baseman Chris Nelson, who was Ian Stewart after Ian Stewart was Ian Stewart, and it’s fair to wonder whether the Cubs will kick the tires. A former top 10 pick, Nelson finally broke through in 2012 when Stewart’s departure opened up a spot for the then-26-year-old. Unfortunately, his .810 OPS in 2012 was almost entirely BABIP-driven (.374), and his glove at third apparently isn’t very good. With a high strikeout rate and a low walk rate, I’m not sure there’s a ton of value here, particularly given the presence of fringe types like Stewart, Josh Vitters, and Junior Lake all shortly battling for third base playing time at AAA. Then again, the Cubs have never let a mediocre positional glut (i.e., outfield) stop them from piling on more marginal big league talent.
  • Another Yankees injury, with Kevin Youkilis likely headed to the DL with a bad back. At 15-10, the Yankees have weathered the early storm quite well, and may not have to add a bat to make up for the losses of Youkilis, Alex Rodriguez, Derrek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, and Mark Teixeira. Pretty amazing. The Yankees may actually look to pick up Chris Nelson for a little time at third base.
  • MLBTR looks at the transactions from last May, which gives you an idea of the kinds of things you could see happen (last year, it was mostly minor moves).

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.