I’m taking some time out from preparing the Down on the Farm report in order to offer some observations on the recent eight-player trade. Please keep in mind that these are just observations … from a Minor League perspective.
This trade can be seen as a ringing endorsement for Starlin Castro and how he will develop, both offensively and defensively. It also says they are satisfied with the development of Darwin Barney, Marwin Gonzalez, Junior Lake, and Wes Darvill. Hak-Ju Lee was defensively the best out of all of these players. However, with the exception of Lake, all of the others are no slouches on defense.
2. The Cubs had concerns about moving Starlin Castro to another position.
Hak-Ju Lee is a shortstop, period (some may say exclamation point). His skill set does not project to any other position. In order for him to make the major league roster, Castro would have needed to move to somewhere else on the diamond. There has been speculation of moves to second, third, and outfield. Each move would have had their special problems. The Cubs avoided making these decisions by simply trading Lee away.
3. The Cubs are satisfied with their player development at second and third base.
The system depth at third (in descending order) is Marquez Smith, Josh Vitters, and Matt Cerda; the depth at second is Tony Thomas, D.J. LeMahieu, and Pierre LePage. The wild card is Ryan Flaherty, who can play both positions. The Cubs may feel that at least two of these players will eventually make the Major League roster. That would have forced another position change by Castro if Lee was still with the team. They may also feel that Barney, Gonzalez, or Darvill could convert to another infield position.
4. The Cubs addressed a need for left-handed pitching in their system.
As of right now, the Cubs’ biggest deficiencies in their minor league system are left-handed pitching and right-handed power. The Cubs addressed one of these by acquiring Zach Rosscup in the trade. While Rosscup is a long way away from the majors, his 5:1 strikeout to walk ratio and 0.95 WHIP are intriguing.
5. The Cubs like their depth at the catcher position
Since converting to the catcher position two years ago, Robinson Chirinos showed amazing progress, both offensively and defensively. He had bypassed more prominent prospects such as Welington Castillo, Steve Clevenger and Michael Brenly on the depth chart. The organization must feel that despite Chirinos’ success, it has promising players behind starting catcher Geovany Soto in Castillo, Clevenger, Brenly, and Micah Gibbs.