With the deadline, just a couple of weeks away and the big fish of Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel sent off to Oakland, the Cubs will turn to deal some of their spare parts in hopes of continuing to build depth for their farm system. One player that has really started to open some teams’ eyes is Justin Ruggiano. His ability to play all three outfield positions and his recent hitting surge has lifted his line to .292/.360/.455 with four home runs and 20 RBI make him a player with versatility and a right-handed power bat off the bench. Let’s see what the Cubs might be able to get for him at the deadline.
The first deal to look at involving Justin Ruggiano is the one that sent him to the Cubs this offseason. Ruggiano was acquired from the Miami Marlins for Brian Bogusevic who found himself starting some games for the Cubs last season after David DeJesus was dealt and Ryan Sweeney was injured. Both players were at one point five-tool prospects, with 15 home run power and the ability to steal 10-15 bases, but due to lack of tangible results in the majors, their stars have lost some of their shine. Even with Ruggiano hitting better lately, the best the team may be able to hope for is a player similar to him who has some ability, but hasn’t been very consistent in showing it.
Another player with a similar skillset to Ruggiano, although one with a better track record and pedigree is Drew Stubbs. Stubbs, a former first round pick burst onto the scene with the Reds in 2010, batting .255, slugging 22 home runs, stealing 30 bases but striking out 168 times. Since then, Stubbs has seen his power numbers decrease some, but thanks to his penchant for swinging and missing has seen his stock and his batting average fall quite a bit. He’s been traded twice, once in 2012 and again before this season. In the first trade, Stubbs was part of a three-team deal that saw the Reds send him to the Indians and Didi Gregorius to the Diamondbacks. The Diamondbacks sent Matt Albers, Trevor Bauer and Bryan Shaw to the Indians, the Indians sent Lars Anderson and Tony Sipp to the Diamondbacks and sent Shin-Soo Choo, Jason Donald and cash to the Reds. There’s a lot going on in this trade, so let’s simplify it for the purposes of Drew Stubbs value in it. The main point of this trade was for the Reds to acquire Choo, but had to expand it to a three-team deal, because they just didn’t have the prospects needed to satisfy what the Indians were looking for. To get the deal done, they had to send a young shortstop prospect in Didi Gregorius to the Diamondbacks, to facilitate the young player return needed to pry Choo from the Indians. Stubbs became a sweetener to improve the return given to the Indians who essentially received two solid bullpen arms in Albers and Shaw, a young starting prospect in Bauer and an outfielder in Stubbs with a lot of potential. In just one season for Stubbs, the Indians received below average production as he batted .233/.305/.360 with 10 home runs, 45 RBI, 17 stolen bases and 141 strikeouts. The Indians were disappointed enough in his production that they shipped him to Colorado, where he has experienced somewhat of a career renaissance for reliever Josh Outman. Outman despite the cool name hasn’t been very good at getting hitters out as a reliever and was recently demoted to Triple-A. However, lefthanders carry a career .188 average against him, so he as least a somewhat useful player if he could cut down on the walks.
Another deal to consider was the trade that sent Justin Maxwell of the Astros for starting pitching prospect Kyle Smith of the Orioles. Maxwell surprised some in 2012 when he slugged 18 home runs in limited at bats. At the time of the trade however, Maxwell was not off to best start, but still managed to net the Astros a decent pitching prospect in Kyle Smith. Smith did not have the best tools, but managed to get hitters out at a good rate in the minors and might end up being an effective bullpen pitcher down the line.
As all these deals suggest, Ruggiano would be good to either improve the return on a larger deal or to receive a somewhat useful spare part in return, which is essentially what he is. Considering that the large deal of Hammel and Samardzija has already been made, it’s up to the Cubs to decide if Ruggiano is more helpful to them on the team or to receive a reclamation project another team has given up on. Either way, his value has never been higher as evidenced by his hot hitting and daily insertion into the Cubs lineup.