The Cubs and Shortstop Trade Value

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.

Darwin Barney

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.

Starlin Castro

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.

Javier Baez

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.

Arismendy Alcantara

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.

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  • Tom U

    Beyond those shortstops, you have to go a long way in the Cubs’ system to find a “personal” player for the current management in Gleyber Torres.

    The organization does like Wes Darvill and Carlos Penalver, but they are holdovers from the past regime. Marco Hernandez has also been impressing some scouts in the Florida State League.

    A dark horse could be Tim Saunders. Selected by Jason McLeod, Saunders has had to deal with some injury issues. If he is physically sound, he has the profile that the organization is looking for in athleticism and baseball sense.

  • The Dude Abides

    Trade Barney and let the other three play out over the next year or two. No one knows if Bryant or Olt make it at 3b or the OF. Alcantara at second & Baez at 3B is a real possibility.
    If and when all of these prospects including Olt pan out trading them then will net more. Last thing we need after all of this time is to miss on these guys and trade or keep the wrong one.

  • BillyFinT

    Allow me to introduce an alternative method, which I affectionately just named, “Who’s short indeed standing last?”

    I think we can agree somehow that the primary function of a shortstop is not to hit homeruns and knock runners in, but keep the balls in the infield as much as possible–that’s a low defensive standard but hey, the other five teammates standing around the red dirt can help you get runners out.

    Between 2009 and now (04.14, 2014), only 14 shortstops throughout Major League Baseball fielded 3000 innings or more. Starlin Castro led all shortstops with 4328.1 innings, thus proved to be most durable. That means the Cubs have led thirteen other reliable choices to keep their infield intact to save runs.

    That also means other 16 ball clubs will need to wait and see. Whether their young shortstops can prove to be healthy AND ALSO keeping ground balls in there, not rolling between their legs, or they are expecting replacement anytime soon.

    Jimmy Rollins will be retiring soon, with his Hall of Fame credential (will Chase Utley get in? I sure think so). This list of 14 short does not include Jeter–the Captain has been on and off the field, while his bat is serviceable–for a part time short and occasional Designated Hitter. Looking for a reliable short to man that middle position has always been a difficult task for pro clubs, since the Modern Era. But to what urgency?

    Looking at this season so far, only 17 short manned 100 innings or more. Many younger (than Starlin Castro) shortstops had already shown signs of injury or some defensive risks. It seems less clear, however, if league-wide demand rises or not. Stephen Drew is still out there, and nobody wants him.

    We need to ask one fundamental question when we expect a ball club to trade one of its “shorts”–Is the position on demand, regardless of the other ball club having internal options and the club believes the trade option to help its goal, to win the division or something else? Those are already three questions, all tied into one big “DEMAND” tag.

    The answer to this is we don’t know yet. I will still say this… it doesn’t matter what the price of the trade will be, as long as there’s demand, the receiving end will overpay if deemed as a necessary fulfillment.

  • cubtex

    If they trade Castro….who is the replacement? Baez doesn’t look like a SS to me. Barney? please! Alcantara? Who knows yet if he is a mlb starting player. It would be a huge mistake to trade Castro with who they currently have in the system. SS with his skill set are a rare commodity. Trading Castro shouldn’t even be a discussion.

    • cc002600

      I agree with you, I wouldn’t trade castro either.
      Watching Baez in spring training reinforced to me that he is no SS.

      • cubtex

        he has a pretty thick lower half and from what I have seen doesn’t move like a SS. I think he can play 2B and with that power could have the same type of impact as a Jeff Kent.

    • Amie

      I don’t see this front office trading Castro at this early junction when he has shown so much improvement. It would be counter productive, plus have have no replacement.

    • Kappy

      How should this not even be in the discussion? The worst thing the Cubs ever did to Castro (outside of calling him up after a cup of coffee in AA) is marketing him as the face of the franchise 3 years ago. Unfortunately fans have taken that and have run with it.

      People need to temper their expectations of him and just let him play. If he can match his 2012 stats .283/.323/.430, we should all be happy.

      Castro isn’t as bad as he was last year, but he’s not as good as his stats of 2010 and 2011. He was never going to maintain a BABIP of .345.

      If RR moves Castro to 6th or 7th in the order with anything above his projections for this season, it should be considered a bonus.

      I’m not even going to get into his issues in the field or his lack of focus.

      He might have skill sets, but if ANY player isn’t developed properly, there will be a lot of inconsistencies in their play. Unfortunately that’s where Castro sits. So should he be in discussion to be traded; absolutely.

  • Neil

    Tonight’s game has been postponed. I will post a report as soon as more details are available. Today’s game will be part of a day-night doubleheader on Wednesday.

  • Theboardrider

    Jean Segura is quite a comp for Alcantra. I hope he turns out near that.

    Speaking of Torres, where does he fit in? Is he at least 4 years away? He is mostly a defender if I remember correctly. Not much of a bat?

    • Chris K.

      I chose Segura based on minor league numbers mostly. Gregorious and Iglesias seemed to be more defense first hitters who aren’t as good with the bat.