Chicago Cubs Boost The Farm In A Summer Flurry
Looking for a haul of prospects, parts, and financial flexibility, the Chicago Cubs wheeled and dealed and dangled all the way to the July 31 deadline for non-waiver trades. They spun Alfonso Soriano to the New York Yankees, Matt Garza to the Texas Rangers, Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger to the Baltimore Orioles, Carlos Marmol to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Scott Hairston to the Washington Nationals. And even though the front office couldn’t quite close deals on Nate Schierholtz, David DeJesus, Kevin Gregg, James Russell, or Dioner Navarro, the trades that they did make, their draft, and their free agent signings set the team up well for the near and long-term future.
Going into the 2013 season, the Cubs had one of the strongest farm systems in baseball, with four players on the Baseball America Top 100 Prospects list – Javier Baez, a shortstop with plus power, Albert Almora, a slick fielding centerfielder with an above average hit tool, Jorge Soler, a Cuban outfielder with strength and speed, and Arodys Vizcaino who topped 101 on the radar gun before getting Tommy John surgery. And Junior Lake may not have made any lists, but the 23-year old converted shortstop called up to replace Soriano in the Chicago outfield has impressed this year, batting .316 with two homers in his first 13 big league games.
Now Mike Olt, the slugging third baseman added from the Rangers in the Garza trade, joins Baez, Amora and Soler to give the Cubs four position players among Baseball America’s Midseason Top 50 Prospects. Chicago also signed their top draft pick, Dick Howser Trophy winner and consensus Collegiate Player of the Year Kris Bryant, giving them another potentially elite bat on the farm.
With Vizcaino still in recovery, the Cubs loaded up on pitching, garnering live-armed minor leaguers Ivan Pineyro from the Nationals, C.J. Edwards from the Rangers, and Corey Black from the Yankees. They also picked and signed seven pitchers from their first 10 picks in the June draft.
Chicago was also the most aggressive team in the international free agent market, obtaining bonus pool headroom in trades with the Orioles and Houston Astros, then spending it all and more. The Cubs agreed to terms with two of the top three consensus international prospects, 16-year olds Eloy Jimenez and Gleyber Torres, as well as a brace of developing pitchers, led by Taiwanese 18-year old Jen-Ho Tseng.
As all these farmhands develop, they hope to join a big league club that has already taken steps to secure its future core, signing Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo to long-term deals that go to 2020 and and beyond, and seeking repeatedly to do the same with Jeff Samardzija.
Yet as promising as their player pipeline may be, the Cubs have to share the division with the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates, who have proven top major league talent to go with farm systems that can run with Chicago’s. In the end it will fall to Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer to develop, deploy, and deal their young talent to fashion a team that can contend in the competitive National League Central.