With reports that have Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara both seeing time at shortstop and second base this season in Iowa, Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney coming off bad years, the Cubs are suddenly the envy of many other Major League clubs. They have too many shortstops and it’s clear that someone will have to go. So what’s the value of a shortstop and what can we expect the front office will hold out for? The value of a shortstop obviously varies by talent level and the aforementioned guys do different things well, but the Cubs have essentially two types of players, the veteran player and the unproven prospect. Let’s take a look back at some recent trades of shortstops to gauge what Cub fans could expect to receive per each player.
A shortstop by trade, Barney won a gold glove in 2012 for his defense at second base. With his numbers declining each year over the past three seasons, Barney is probably worth more to the Cubs than he is to any other prospective buyers unless he shows he can turn it around. With two years of control left, Barney has shown he can play the middle infield well defensively and plug a hole when needed. At this point, he’s a good starting option for a team that can absorb his poor offense or a team in need of a good utility guy. Brendan Ryan has been traded twice in his career and like Barney has a great defensive reputation that allows him to stay on the field despite his lack of offensive ability. His first time traded, St. Louis sent Ryan to the Mariners for Maikel Cleto, a reliever with great velocity, terrible command and an inability to stay in the majors. Ryan’s second time traded netted the Mariners a player to be named later, but by then Ryan was nothing more than a utility player. As you can see in both deals, Barney isn’t worth much and the Cubs may be holding out for an interesting project player like Cleto who has some flaws, but also has some raw talent. That’s the best they can hope for.
Of the four we will explore in this article, Castro is probably the most tradable. He’s an established player with a proven track record. If he turns it around as he’s shown so far, he’s a player a team can plug in and know what they’re getting. All negatives aside, he’s a good contact hitter, shows flashes of power, can steal a base and is an average fielder at the position. He’s an above average player at a weak position and as past trades have shown can provide some good value. Similarly to Castro, Jed Lowrie is a plug and play player who netted a nice return for the Houston Astros who traded him to the Oakland A’s prior to last season for Chris Carter, Brad Peacock and Max Stassi. Carter, the highlight of this trade, got some regular at bats for the Astros last season and slashed .223/.320/.451 with 29 home runs and 82 RBI. Peacock and Stassi haven’t quite made it yet, but Peacock has some strikeout ability as a decent number four starting pitcher while Stassi is a possible back-up catcher with some pop. Like Castro, Lowrie has always had the talent, but injuries have kept him off the field to showcase it. If Lowrie can net this kind of return, as long as Castro is hitting, there’s no reason that the Cubs couldn’t get a similar return for him.
While it’s likely based on his minor league and Spring Training numbers that Baez will be a special player, it’s hard to say how special and therefore it’s hard to set his value. Not to mention, he likely will have to move off the position due to defensive deficiencies. With this being said, there haven’t been too many trades for players of his caliber at the position, but the main one to consider is the Hanley Ramirez trade from Boston to Florida. Now Ramirez was sent with some other players in Anibal Sanchez and two minor leaguers, Ramirez was hands down the best shortstop prospect in the game and the headline of the deal. He helped the Red Sox net a top flight pitcher in Josh Beckett, a steady third baseman in Mike Lowell and a reliever in Guillermo Mota. That’s quite a haul for a two prospects in Ramirez and Sanchez. Baez probably won’t be traded, but if he were to be, it’s likely that the front office might try to pull off something similar and package him and another top guy for a lot of net value as in this trade.
Like Baez, it’s hard to set Alcantara’s true value, but his minor league numbers suggest a player similar to Castro, but maybe with more focus and more ability in the field. One thing for sure is Alcantara’s star has been rising and his recent power surge suggests he might compare to another shortstop who was traded to secure top flight talent, Jean Segura. Segura, along with right-handed pitchers Johnny Hellweg and Ariel Pena were acquired by the Brewers from the Angels for Zack Greinke. Segura’s breakout season saw a player with power, speed and good defense. Alcantara has shown the same for the Cubs and could be part of a package to acquire a young controllable pitcher, something the team desperately needs especially if the team trades Jeff Samardzija this season.
With Darwin Barney, Starlin Castro, Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara, the Cubs definitely have some options and some decisions to make. As this season wears on and the team takes shape, we may finally get some closure on the shortstop position. Here’s hoping that the Cubs make the right choice with whatever they decide to do.