In the aftermath of Boston's Monday shopping spree that netted Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, the San Francisco Giants find themselves with a big hole in their lineup and fewer options for filling such hole than they had last weekend.
Unsurprisingly, speculation began to link incumbent Cubs third baseman Luis Valbuena with the Giants. Valbuena is likely attractive to the Giants for the same reason that he is attractive to most teams: he has a plus glove, he's relatively inexpensive (slated for approximately $3.1 million in his third arbitration year with a fourth year in 2016), and his offensive game has developed into that of an average regular with good power and excellent plate discipline making up for a middling hit tool.
With that in mind, what would a deal between the Cubs and the Giants look like? As with any trade, there are myriad possibilities, so I'll look at them starting with the most simple and ending with the most convoluted.
Proposal No. 1: Cubs trade 3B Luis Valbuena to Giants for SP Adalberto Mejia and SP Kendry Flores
Depending on which source you trust most, Mejia entered 2014 as either the second (Baseball Prospectus), third (Fangraphs), or fourth (Minor League Ball, Baseball America) best prospect in the San Francisco system. After a strong 2013 in the hitter-friendly California League, 2014 represented a step backward as Mejia struggled at Double-A Richmond: his strikeouts tumbled, his walk rate stayed roughly the same, and although his home run rate dropped after leaving California, he couldn't overpower opposing hitters.
Two weeks ago, the bomb dropped: Mejia was suspended 50 games for testing positive for a stimulant. Acquiring him comes with the added risk that he could find himself missing most of a season for another positive test. However, it also comes with a 6-3 lefty package with a low-90s fastball and MLB-ready changeup. His slider is on the way, suggesting that Mejia could have a legitimate three-pitch mix. He has the look of a back-end rotation option with room to see more.
Flores, a 6-2, 175-ound right from the Dominican Republic, was all over the place on preseason rankings checking in at fourth (Baseball Prospectus) and 18th (Minor League Ball) while not appearing on the Baseball America or Fangraphs lists at all. It's not difficult to see why. After working in the high-80s, Flores jumped to the low-90s in 2013 while posting an incredible 1.08 BB/9. 2014 was a regression as the California League experience resulted in additional home runs and a huge spike in walks up to 2.73 BB/9. To make matters worse, he was shut down in August with a shoulder injury. The fastball is a strong pitch and his changeup should play well at the top level; his curveball is still a work in progress and shoulder injuries are always alarming. Regardless, this is worthwhile gamble as the second piece in a deal.
Flores is already a member of the Giants' 40-man roster while Mejia would need to be added after the 2015 season.
Proposal No. 2: Cubs trade 3B Luis Valbuena to Giants for C Andrew Susac
Susac has always come with power in the package, some strong walking tendencies, and reasonably projectable defensive game. His arm should play well enough although his receiving has been only decent. It's hard to see a plus catcher, but it's also hard to see him spending fewer than a few years at the MLB level while competing for a starting gig. While Cubs fans may have pined for Russell Martin, Susac provides a competent complement to Welington Castillo and provides the front office with some flexibility as they address the catching spot long-term; Susac could form a nice platoon with Kyle Schwarber down the road.
However, to the Giants, Susac figures to be in a battle to make the Opening Day roster despite his BABIP-driven debut in 2014. Hector Sanchez has a more respected defensive game, something that complements Buster Posey a bit more effectively on the San Francisco roster. This trade also enables the Giants to cash in on Susac before MLB clubs develop a book on him.
I don't love this deal for the Cubs, but Susac would have plenty of value and we all know how the front office feels about right-handed power hitters.
Proposal No. 3: Cubs trade 3B Luis Valbuena and SP Pierce Johnson to Giants for SP Kyle Crick and SP Martin Agosta
I wanted to come up with a deal that netted the Cubs Crick, but without making it into a 5-for-4 deal. It was tough, but I think this is the right spot. Johnson seems likely to stick near the back end of the BP Top 101 this year despite his struggles with leg injuries and command at Double-A. Vogelbach is nearing Top 101 consideration as well despite possessing only an offensive game.
Crick, a 6-4, 220-pound righthander, works with a huge mid-90s tailing fastball, a darting changeup, and two breaking pitches with average usefulness. The arsenal is tremendous. Unfortunately, the command and delivery are not as Crick has struggled significantly with throwing strikes. Crick followed a terrible 5.11 BB/9 in 2013 with an impossibly worse 6.08 BB/9 in 2014. This has many prognosticators seeing him as a reliever, but the Cubs can afford to be patient with a starter who has a professional strikeout rate of 11.24 K/9. His stock is falling, but the ceiling hasn't dropped one bit.
Crick also struggled with his command, though his body, pedigree, and arsenal all suggest an impact arm whereas Pierce still looks like a No. 3 or No. 4 starter. Though Crick's stock is down after a wobbly 2014 -- he dropped off of the BP Top 50 at midseason and checked in at 31st on Minor League Ball's midseason list -- his upside absolutely makes him worth the risk to me even if this deal might be a slight overpay.
Agosta is just a throw-in here. The wheels came off completely in 2014 as the Giants somewhere ambiguously shut him down. This deal is all about Crick.
So what do you think? If Luis is off to the Giants, would you do any of these deals? Regardless, let's hear your ideas in the comments.