The big rumor of the last 48 hours was that the Tampa Bay Rays were engaged on multiple fronts in serious trade talks, and one of the involved teams was the Chicago Cubs.
Looks like we might soon be seeing a trade come down the pike:
Miles Mastrobuoni, who just turned 27, is a lefty-hitting utility prospect who only first got his cup of coffee last season with the Rays. Otherwise, thanks to their overwhelming crowding of similar players, he’d been held up at Triple-A, where he pretty much always hit (.300/.377/.469/126 wRC+ this past season). It looks like his power picked up substantially this year, and his contact ability (16.6%) remained strong.
It’s early and I’m still familiarizing myself, but big Zach McKinstry vibes here? But with the ability to play better(?) shortstop and with better speed? And with minor league options remaining (McKinstry has none)? I’m still sorting it out in my head.
Here’s how FanGraphs described Mastrubuoni in pre-season prospect rankings (40 FV):
It’s more likely that we miss prospects in the deeper systems, especially older guys like Mastrobuoni who aren’t toolsy and just slowly develop a long track record of offensive competence and defensive versatility; Mike Brosseau (who never appeared on a Rays prospect list) is a great example of this. So here we have Mastrobuoni, whose numbers (.299/.373/.448 with Montgomery, .292/.384/.391 with Durham) should indeed be discounted because he’s 25-years-old, though the reason he’s at Double-A is because the Rays are so flush with guys who can play shortstop and elsewhere. He’s a .284/.365/.372 career hitter — not the kind of power typical of an everyday player, but the contact and OBP, when combined with a Ryan Freel-like defensive versatility, certainly give him a good big league utility vibe. Part of Mastrobuoni’s problem is that while he plays all over the place, he’s not a very good defensive player. He was constantly mentioned as a likely Rule 5 pick for this offseason because of his defensive versatility, making him a perfect 26th man, and he will likely hop on and off rosters throughout his career because of his OBP skills and panoply of defensive fits.
Mastrobuoni would go right onto the Cubs’ 40-man roster, which has plenty of room for the moment.
Gut check on the young pitcher the Cubs are sending back. You would hope, since this is a roster squeeze situation for the Rays, that it would not be a significant prospect – maybe someone eligible for the Rule 5 that the Cubs aren’t going to protect? A relief-only guy?
Of course, the problem is that the Cubs have TONS of pitchers that fit that profile at the A-ball levels that I really like! And Mastrobuoni is actually pretty interesting, so this might sting a little.
UPDATE: Max is with the SB Cubs, so he’d be a person who may know:
And, as I was guessing, the pitcher is someone who stings a little – Alfredo Zarraga was an older/breakout/relief-only guy at Myrtle Beach who had everyone talking. Not surprised the Rays were looking at him.
UPDATE 2: Just to confirm via Topkin that, yes indeed, it’s Zarraga:
On the one hand, I loved everything I heard about Zarraga from those who saw him pitch in person this year, and the video clips were impressive. On the other hand, I get that he is (for now) a relief-only 21-year-old at Low-A, and the Cubs have a whole lot of prospects in that profile right now. If they see Mastrobuoni’s power uptick as real, and if they saw an opportunity to pick him up because of the Rays’ extreme positional depth, then this is a perfectly reasonable swap.
It’s rare that you *don’t* feel bad about the other side of an offseason trade. Just the nature of these things.
UPDATE 3: Officially official: