The Case for Selling

In Uncategorized by myles49 Comments

Let's get one thing out of the way first: the Cubs won the 2016 World Series. I bring that up for 2 reasons. First, that's awesome and I want to bring it up at every opportunity. The other reason is that it buys you a significant amount of runway to do whatever you want for the near future. 

I'm not exactly sure why, but the Cubs are not good this year. At their current pace, they are an 83-win team, and they haven't given any indication that they are going to hit above their weight from July forward. There are some injuries, some demotions, and the return of the suck for the pitching staff. Compounding these woes, the farm team isn't what it used to be, and it's going to need to produce pitching at a pretty high clip going forward (or else the Cubs are going to have to pull some FA/trade magic). Next year, John Lackey and Jake Arrieta are both free agents; the former is cooked and the latter is one of the biggest FA question marks of the past decade.

Those aren't the only 2018 FAs, either. We'll lose our 4th OF (John Jay), our backup C/starting malcontent (M. Montero), and our best and 3rd best relievers (Davis and Uehara). All told, the Cubs are shedding $55 million in payroll next year, but go into next season with Kyle Hendricks as the ace, an aging/deteriorating Jon Lester as the #2, and Mike Montgomery as the #3. Anyone's guess after that.

I believe the Cubs should be selling off parts this year. The path to the NL Central is achievable, of course, and once you get there anything is possible. The problem there is that you'd probably have to BUY to get there, and that would be very irresponsible unless you're buying long-term assets at the deadline (and those are expensive). A team will pay something from Jake Arrieta, maybe even something good. A team will take on the rest of John Lackey's $16 MM payroll (prorated at the deadline, approx. $7 MM in cash savings). Don't laugh, it's true – someone would trade for John Lackey at the deadline. You'd get absolutely nothing but salary relief in return, but $7 million is not nothing when you need every dollar you can muster to sign Bryce Harper. Asshole antics aside, Miguel Montero could start at catcher for some team looking to improve at the deadline (probably an AL team that can stash him at DH a not-insignificant part of the time). Wade Davis would command a HUGE prospect haul – you could probably get more for him than you paid to acquire him. Koji Uehara would bring back something fairly interesting (a back of the top-10 in the org type). There's even a small (really small) chance that you could unload Zobrist, though that would be a salary dump in the same vein as Lackey. 

If you could successfully unload all of these assets, you'd save $30 million dollars and you'd probably get a top-20 in the minors prospect and a pair of top-200 guys. That's 1/3 to 2/5 of an Alex Cobb contract, and perhaps a starting pitching prospect that you can slot into the back end of your rotation. When the price of that is the 5% or so of a WS you forgo by selling, it seems to be a no-brainer.

The counter-argument takes two forms. The first is that you might want to re-sign some of these players in free agency. If that's the case, go ahead and keep them (except Wade Davis – the Cubs should definitely sell Wade Davis is they sell anything at the deadline). The other argument is that the Cubs are a 13-3 run away from being 5 games up and looking like buyers at the deadline. My response to that is which 16-game stretch in the first 70 games of the season led you to believe that this team is at all likely to do that? The Cubs are a beast with 6 gaping bullet wounds (LF, RF, SP1, SP2, SS, RP). Why would sell a piece of 2018 or 2019 to buy a single band-aid?

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  1. dmick89

    I believe the Cubs should be selling off parts this year. The path to the NL Central is achievable, of course, and once you get there anything is possible. The problem there is that you’d probably have to BUY to get there, and that would be very irresponsible unless you’re buying long-term assets at the deadline (and those are expensive).

    I agree and have for the last few weeks, but good luck convincing even the halfway intelligent Cubs fans that’s what they should do. Chuck (IvyChat guy) is more of an idiot than anything else, but he thinks Alvin is writing here now based on this post. Still, he has a functioning brain and that’s more than a lot of Cubs fans have. I suspect Thoyer will take a buy/sell approach. Gone will be Wade Davis, Jake Arrieta and Miguel Montero (teams pay for a backup catcher when they’re trying to strengthen their potential playoff roster), and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Strop and Rondon gone too. I think a buy/sell approach can be effective here, but buying would not be very smart and just letting these guys walk for potential draft picks would be stupid. Teams will pay dearly for a good closer and the Cubs have Davis. They could get back as much as they gave up last year for Chapman if they find a team desperate enough.

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  2. dmick89

    aisle424:
    One. Game. Out.

    They’re mediocre. I get they’re one game out and that’s great, but do you really want to buy for a team that’s shown no signs of being anything other than average? The only thing this team seems to be good at is one game winning streaks.

    If the Cubs were five games below .500 and one game out, would you argue they should be buyers? I sure as shit wouldn’t want to give up minor league prospects to improve a subpar team.

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  3. RandyK

    Unfortunately, I think this is correct. But it won’t happen. They must “defend the title” even if it means a slow train wreck.

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  4. Edwin

    dmick89: The only thing this team seems to be good at is one game winning streaks.

    As long as they win the first game in a series I’m fine with this.

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  5. Edwin

    I see them as having 3 options. Buy, Hold, or Sell. I get not wanting to buy, but the fact that they’re still very likely to make the playoffs makes me short on selling. I’m fine with them making some smaller moves around the edges, similar to Montgomery last season. Selling a piece like Wade Davis, who would be super valuable in the post season, seems a bit much. There’s no gaurantee that this team will be any better in 2018 or 2019, even with selling, and it’s possible that another team in the division has a breakout season, and suddenly the Cubs are staying home with 0 shot to win the world series in 2018 or 2019. The Cubs are a flawed team right now, but they’re a flawed team that’s probably going to make the playoffs where anything can happen. Chicago Cubs, do not throw away your shot.

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  6. dmick89

    Edwin,

    I’d be OK with holding, but if they end up not in the playoffs and all they get for Wade Davis is a draft pick I’ll be pretty pissed. So I guess if you’re going to risk that much you may as well add a few pieces that improve your playoff odds from around 65% to 85%.

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  7. Rice Cube

    Couldn’t they do some kind of happy medium, where they don’t exactly sell, but they retool, kind of like when they traded Nomar in Boston in that complex deal?

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  8. Myles

    Sure, you hold. You could hold onto Arrieta and Lackey and if you make the playoffs, great. There is no way I get buying, and Wade Davis is worth more to the Cubs in 2018-2022 assets than as a closer for a 84-win team.

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  9. dmick89

    Myles:
    Wade Davis is worth more to the Cubs in 2018-2022 assets than as a closer for a 84-win team.

    Exactly. It’s not as if the difference in a short series between Davis and Edwards is that large. There may not even be a difference.

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  10. Edwin

    Myles,

    As a closer for an 84 win team he’s not super valuable, but as a closer for a playoff team, which the Cubs should be, he is super valuable. I can see trading Arrieta and Lackey, but as long as the Cubs are a good bet to make the playoffs I think they should keep Davis.

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  11. Edwin

    dmick89: Exactly. It’s not as if the difference in a short series between Davis and Edwards is that large. There may not even be a difference.

    No, but the difference between Edwards and Rondon is pretty big. Having two shutdown relivers gives the Cubs a huge advantage in late game situations.

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  12. dmick89

    I think there are two things the Cubs have to do around the deadline if they’re still sporting a mediocre record: trade Wade Davis and keep Eloy Jimenez. I guess I don’t really care what they do beyond that. Davis is the one valuable piece they have and Jimenez is about the only prospect that has much value. Even if the Cubs go on a 20 game winning streak, I’d probably still consider trading Davis.

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  13. dmick89

    Let’s say the Cubs hold and they get bounced from the playoffs in the LDS (or sooner), which as of now, would be the most likely scenario, how useful was Davis? The Cubs will be underdogs in any series in the playoffs. With or without Davis, their odds of winning a playoff series won’t change considerably.

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  14. Edwin

    dmick89,

    That’s true of any trade or move, though. It’s the risk you always face when a player is in a contract season and the team is on the bubble. Let’s say the Cubs trade Davis, and the prospect they get back has a career ending injury, or never makes it out of the minors. How useful was the trade?

    Maybe I’m just over-valuing the bullpen in the playoffs, but I see an elite closer being able to make a big enough impact that I’d rather keep Davis and risk getting nothing than trade him.

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  15. Edwin

    Dave,

    But I’d be remiss if I failed to ask, does this award come with a cash prize? If so I can assure you that I have opinions much dumber than Myles could ever dream to think up, and I can share them quite readily.

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  16. aisle424

    These Cubs are, at their core, the same Cubs that floundered around .500 for half of the 2015 season, got no-hit by the Phillies and then damn near caught the Pirates and Cardinals that had been running away with the division. And then eliminated them both from the post-season.

    To say there is no evidence this team is capable of making a run while only a game back of the fucking Brewers is crazy. We’ve all seen teams that had no business winning get hot at the right time. The Cubs are in position to do that. Nothing is guaranteed, but punting on that opportunity is a complete waste of a season.

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  17. dmick89

    aisle424,

    Jake Arrieta is not the same guy. He was never that guy, but like many other pitchers before him, he managed to put together some good years. He’s been pretty bad for more than a year. The difference between Fowler and Almora is huge.

    Could this team get hot? Yeah, so could the Brewers, Cardinals or Pirates.

    Nobody is advocating they sell the future away. I think buying would effectively do that.

    The 2015 Cubs were 39-34 on this date in 2015 and nobody advocated selling because they didn’t really have anything to sell. They were 54-47 on the trade deadline and they had the fourth best record in the NL. They have the 7th best record in the league right now.

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  18. dmick89

    Edwin,

    I don’t know if you’re overvaluing the bullpen, but we knew going in that Chapman could throw multiple innings. Do we know that about Davis? Joe doesn’t seem convinced. He definitely won’t be used like Chapman. And he probably shouldn’t be since he’s not as good. My guess is that it’s two innings at the most. My money is on him being used more as the traditional 9th inning guy and that’s it. But I’m just guessing.

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  19. JonKneeV

    Based on the comments, this post should have been “The Case for Not Buying”.

    I’ve yet to read a good response on why we should sell. The offense is fine. The defense is good when Heyward and Russell are healthy. The starting pitching is the only reason this team isn’t 12 games over .500. That can correct itself. It’s not a guarantee, but punting on a season at the deadline with two months left to make a run (after winning the WS with largely the same roster) is terribly misguided. The Indians almost won the WS with a pair of #5 starters.

    It’s one thing to not want Theo to buy a SP at the deadline and trade away another top prospect (or more). It’s another thing to sell pieces that a) punts this season and b) may not have much positive effect on the future. Theo didn’t play the FA market last offseason in anticipation of this offseason. We aren’t the 2014 Cubs, we’ll spend big when the team needs impact talent.

    Let’s not overreact.

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  20. JonKneeV

    ESPN 1000 @ESPN1000
    59m
    Rizzo on Miggy’s comments:
    “When you point fingers you’re a selfish player. We have another catcher that throws everyone out.”

    Attaboy Rizz.

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  21. dmick89

    JonKneeV: after winning the WS with largely the same roster

    I’m not disagreeing with anything you said, but this should have no impact on what the Cubs decide to do. Players get worse with time. It’s not surprising that the Cubs are worse with largely the same roster. It was expected and the expected loss in performance was larger than I think any of us thought. Players who perform well in one season tend to regress while the opposite is true. The Cubs had a lot of player who performed well. A lot of teams in baseball have won the World Series and then kind of sucked after that. I think the Cubs have a lot of talent, but I also think they have a lot of holes. Some of those holes were apparent last year. Jake started sucking and they had to trade away a shitload just to rent a closer. There was almost no way whatsoever that Kyle Hendricks wouldn’t at least be a run or more worse than he was in 2016. Lackey is old and Hammel (replaced by Anderson) was a disaster waiting to happen. There was no way the defense wouldn’t be considerably worse. Not to mention the 2016 Cubs were mostly healthy. It’s not surprising that hasn’t been the case this year. As I said, I agree with almost everything you said, but this part I quoted is useless because regression (a lot of it) was expected.

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  22. Author
    myles

    JonKneeV:
    Based on the comments, this post should have been “The Case for Not Buying”.

    The Indians almost won the WS with a pair of #5 starters.

    And some guy named Corey Kluber.

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  23. Author
    myles

    Why I go farther than “not buying” and into “selling” is because we DO have assets that contending teams want, and we don’t have as strong a farm system as we have in any year of the past 5 or so. Staying put means the most likely outcome is missing the playoffs, barely, staying at the 15th pick next year (so not protected), and buying means the most likely outcome is losing in the first round of the playoffs (though I readily concede the difference between making the playoffs and not making the playoffs is huge precisely because of how much of a crapshoot it is), depleting your farm system by even more, and going into 2018 with significant problems (that are fixable, but not non-existent).

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  24. Edwin

    myles: Staying put means the most likely outcome is missing the playoffs, barely

    Is that really the most likely outcome? I’d think staying put the Cubs still have a really good chance of winning the division. They could even just lightly buy, trading guys like Candelario, Caratini, Cease, or some of those players. That alone could patch up this season, and probably wouldn’t impact 2018-2020 by too much.

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  25. Author
    myles

    I wouldn’t trade Cease under any reasonable circumstance. Cease is absolutely a part of the Cubs’ long-term plans, and is maybe the only chance they have at a front-line starter from the farm system (which has innumerable 4th starter/longman types in it). Perhaps I’m lower on this team than the majority of fans, but I don’t think this team is 50% to win the division and they have 0% to win the WC.

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  26. dmick89

    I’d say the Cubs are at about 60% odds of reaching the playoffs, but that assumes the Brewers aren’t buyers. If they are, those odds fall below 50%. I also think the unprotected pick/missing the playoffs thing is a huge issue. The 60% odds also assume a somewhat more useful Arrieta and I have no real reason to believe that will happen. And it assumes they get more healthy.

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  27. Author
    myles

    dmick89: Yes.

    The clubhouse is in terrible shape, everybody hates each other, and Joe Maddon can’t/isn’t reigning them in. There have been a few comments all season about how “joe doesn’t really talk to the pitchers” or “nobody is telling me that,” and the team has responded to the adversity with more infighting which has fed on itself all year.

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  28. EnricoPallazzo

    dmick89: I agree and have for the last few weeks, but good luck convincing even the halfway intelligent Cubs fans that’s what they should do.

    honest question – do you think the FO gives a shit? i think that in years past, there’s no way that an FO would be sellers with the current team because they were way too concerned about pissing off the fans, but i’m not sure that theo and ricketts are at all concerned about fan reactions (in the short-term). i don’ t know though.

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