Well, so much for that! A perfectly good notes piece that I had prepared yesterday will have to wait as we now digest the big trade with Oakland. I guess that’s baseball!
Let’s start looking at the trade’s impact on the minor leagues with a top-down approach. The trading of Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel left two huge holes in the starting rotation that were not filled by any of the players acquired. It is widely considered the Pacific Coast League All-Star LHP Tsuyoshi Wada will take one of those spots. The second slot is up for debate as both RHP Dallas Beeler and LHP Chris Rusin are currently on the 40-man roster. Beeler had a good showing recently in a doubleheader spot start and has a 3.93 ERA in Iowa. Rusin’s record of 6-10 does not reflect his 3.96 ERA or 1.34 WHIP. At this time, it appears that Beeler would have the upper hand, as he would provide better balance to the rotation.
The trade creates an opening on the 40-man roster. While the team has to place Dan Straily on the 40-man roster, they are not obligated to fill the other spot right away. Current speculation has RHP Kyle Hendricks getting the opening. Hendricks would have to be added to the 40-man roster after the season or risk being exposed in the Rule 5 Draft. However, even if the Cubs added Hendricks in the very near future, it does not necessarily mean that he will be promoted to the parent club to fill out the rotation. Hendricks will most likely get his shot a little later, depending on whether any further starting pitching is traded. The spot also may not go to a pitcher, but C Rafael Lopez. The 26-year old has not shown any adjustment issues since being promoted to Triple-A at the beginning of June, hitting .265/.333/.324/.657 with six doubles, a triple, two home runs, and 15 RBI in 20 games. Lopez will most likely be a late August/September call-up with the plan of grooming him as the back-up catcher for 2015.
The Iowa rotation will end up taking a hit, but RHP Dan Straily will move into one of the openings for the time being. Oakland’s Triple-A team is in Sacramento, so Straily will be familiar with PCL hitters as he has gone 4-3 with a 4.71 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and 67 strikeouts in 63 innings this season. The other spot will probably be filled internally by RHP Carlos Pimentel. Since Beeler returned from the disabled list, Pimentel has been relegated to a long reliever/spot starter role and has scuffled with a 1-4 record and 4.79 ERA. The organization could also turn to consummate tease RHP Alberto Cabrera, who has been pitching in relief, for one last shot in the rotation. An outside possibility is 25-year old RHP Eduardo Figueroa. The rubber-armed Figueroa has previous experience with the I-Cubs, going 1-1 with a 3.46 ERA and 1.54 WHIP in eight games (one start) this season.
The player who may end up most greatly impacted by the trade is Iowa SS Javier Baez. Shortstop Addison Russell, acquired in the deal, is rated by most publications ahead of Baez as a prospect and is considered a potential Gold Glove defender. Russell has been assigned to Double-A Tennessee, but with Starlin Castro ahead and Russell behind, it makes no sense for Baez to remain at shortstop. Baez has improved his defense to a career high .965 fielding average, which is considered above average for the position. Russell is currently fielding at .957 and has a career percentage of .962 (as opposed to .941 for Baez), and has posted averages in the high .960s-.970s in the past. If both players remain in the organization, it would make sense for Baez to try other positions now as they still have infielders Arismendy Alcantara and Logan Watkins available. Shortstop could also be filled by the ever-present Jonathan Mota.
With Russell going to the Smokies and 3B Christian Villanueva on the disabled list, we might end up seeing current Tennessee 2B Stephen Bruno getting a look at third. Several scouts have stated that third may be the former Northwest League batting champion’s best position, and he has previous experience there.
The acquisition of CF Billy McKinney may end up being the catalyst for several other moves. Currently at High-A Stockton, McKinney has struggled a bit this season, hitting .241/.330/.400/.730 with 10 home runs, 33 RBI, and five stolen bases in 75 games, but it has been reported that he will be joining High-A Daytona. This may be the opportunity the organization has to finally promote OF Bijan Rademacher. Rademacher is in a .235 slump in his last ten games after posting All-Star numbers, and may be having a bit of a let-down. He could receive a reward for carrying the D-Cubs offense for most of the season.
McKinney may have some company on the trip in either Jacob Hannemann or Kyle Schwarber. Hannemann has been on a tear recently, batting .415 with a home run, eight RBI, and nine stolen bases in his last 10 games. This raises Hannemann’s season average to .264/.335/.390/.725 with five homers, 36 RBI, and 28 stolen bases in 76 games. Hannemann was held out of last night’s game, and may also be heading to Daytona. Last week’s Midwest League Player of the Week, C/OF Schwarber has blown through the league at a .388/.492/.735/1.228 clip with four home runs and 11 RBI in 21 games.