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Cubs trade options: Four choices, twice

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There are several ways the Cubs could approach this year’s trade deadline.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

A few weeks back, Al asked me if I wanted to do a Point/Counter-Point on making trades of veterans for prospects in July. I didn’t. Not at all. P/C-P pieces are meant to be all “four in the afternoon on ESPN.” I had no interest. For plenty of reasons. Way too shouty, usually. That said, as this season continues to muddle along, I figured out a way to make my points in a rather non-combative fashion. And chairs won’t need to be thrown. It revolves around two separate choices of four options.

The first choice is of how you think the Cubs should handle the trade deadline, in general.

The Cubs could aggressively trade to upgrade their pitching and/or offense in July. That’s one option.

Another is a bit more restrained. Send Jeimer Candelario and another minor piece, to add a low-end starter. Toss a couple prospects for a sturdy reliever. A bit like 2015 was, honestly. That is the second option.

The third option is to roll with the roster as is, and let the chips fall as they will.

The fourth option is, what I will call “other.” For now, I’ll leave it at that.

Those are your four choices. I have no interest in you explaining your preference.

Which one you choose isn’t a proxy on your Cubs-fandom. It isn’t a proxy on your intelligence, or anything else. It’s a preference, pure and simple.

***

I remember going to a grocery store opening with my nieces when they were very young. The older niece was about five, and was ecstatic to see the ice cream freezer.

“Rachel,” said Stephanie glowingly. “Which kind of ice cream do we want? There’s strawberry, chocolate, vanilla, and even neapolitan.”

“Stephanie,” the two-year-old stormed back verbally. “You know I can’t read.”

***

It explained both of them exquisitely. The older sister wanted to help. The younger sister wanted to be able to do everything the older sister could.

***

As you get to the second choice of four, the question is mildly different. Though the Cubs situation remains present.

“Would you like to trade a specific veteran, for a specific prospect, or pool thereof, this July?”

For instance, would you be willing to trade Brian Duensing in July?

Again, four possibilities.

The first is “No. Never. I don’t want to trade veterans for prospects.”

Option two. “Yes. I always want to trade veterans for prospects.”

Before I get to the next two answers, I’ll cheat a bit. As it’s my article. If either of these represent you, you very well may be a zealot. Either of those answers limit the likelihood you will contribute much to a discussion. Except anger and hostility. Maybe a slight bit of belligerence, as well.

Or, that’s how I’d take it.

Fortunately, there are two other options. It’s possible to mesh between these two. In reality, it’s probably best that way.

Option three is “What are the standings looking like?”

Option four is “Which players are involved in the trade?”

***

A bit has been made here in the past about “moving the goalposts” in arguments.

This line of questioning pushes that envelope rather aggressively.

For instance, if the Cubs are four games back on July 14, should they trade Jake Arrieta?

“Oh, definitely not. No way.”

Oh, I forgot to mention. They’re getting six of the Astros best ten prospects.

“They wouldn’t get that for him.”

Goalposts moved. Rather quickly.

***

I really want baseball discussions to be about baseball ideas. For instance, let’s say the general expected return on trading Arrieta on July 14 is “one prospect between 125 and 150, or two between 160 and 200”.

You might think that’s ridiculously low. Or ridiculously high. It doesn’t matter, as I’m inventing numbers on the fly.

However, if the industry expectation is 125-150 or (two of) 160 through 200, and someone offers prospect 22 in the game, it would have to be awfully tempting to take it. Especially if he checks the boxes.

***

Last summer, the Pirates shuttled Mark Melancon to the Nationals for Felipe Rivero. Right now, Rivero is really good. Whether the Bucs liked their Wild Card odds or not, that looks like a really smart addition.

Last year, the Cubs’ logic was that adding Aroldis Chapman bumped the Cubs odds from 20 to 25 percent for winning the World Series. To jump that five percent, the Cubs surrendered Gleyber Torres and others.

Why?

Because the time was right to aggressively make a move.

That, incidentally, worked.

***

This season, three teams might make very aggressive deadline deals.

First and foremost, the Washington Nationals.

Not only does General Manager Mike Rizzo know he’ll get fired very soon if the Nationals don’t win, he already made a huge off-season trade. For a player who is injured and out for the season. And their bullpen is so bad he is admitting he likely needs to make two additions there.

Curiously, though, few teams in the American League are looking “out of it.” Those that are, in either league, have questionable additions to Washington’s problem number one.

***

The Dodgers haven’t won since 1988. Which is like three billion years in Los Angeles. I doubt any major firings happen if Los Angeles loses to the Nationals. However, if Colorado outguns the Dodgers down the stretch, who knows?

The Astros join the Dodgers in wanting starting pitching. Which appears unavailable. And the Astros have never won the big trophy.

However, if any quality pitching becomes available, the Dodgers, Astros, and Nationals have the curious mix of system depth and desperation to possibly make an addition. More so than any other teams.

***

It would be really nice if the Cubs would run off 10 wins in 12 games. And locate a couple budget improvement options on the cheap.

However, other teams are better now. And more pot-committed. (I still think the Cubs are drawing to an inside-straight, to advance the poker terminology.)

The reality is, whether you want a brassy trade, either way, or not, is chocolate or vanilla. Strawberry or neapolitan.

However, just because we have a nice little internet sandbox, doesn’t mean everybody plays nicely in it.

If someone says they’d rather not trade Wade Davis for the Nationals’ Erick Fedde, Victor Robles, and Carter Kieboom (three of their top four prospects), that’s their choice. (The Nats wouldn’t make that trade. They have to save for the other reliever they’d need.)

The problem is when that disagreement on strategy crosses the line.

We’ve probably all been there. On both sides.

***

I want people to think. About limits. About things that might not happen, anyway. That, to me, is where the fun is.

For the people who ignore my articles, I’m good with it. However, I’d much prefer to talk about what the value of Jake Arrieta is.

And I’m not talking about a trade value, here.

Arrieta should have in the neighborhood of 17 starts left in the regular season if he stays relatively healthy. What value do those 17 starts, plus any post-season ones, have?

Are they worth, eight million dollars? $22 million? Four-and-a-half?

“Ummmmmm. I’m not. Really. Sure about that.”

That is the entirety of the thought-process.

If Arrieta is worth $20 million for the rest of 2017, any return in trade of significantly more than that should be accepted.

If a team offers more than Miguel Montero is worth, he should be traded. If someone offers more than Jon Jay or Wade Davis are worth between now and season’s end, they should be sent packing.

Regardless.

***

“But, how do we figure that?”

***

The reason I didn’t want to write a point-counter-point is they tend to be very chest-poundy. “My side won, because I yelled louder.”

I’m done with that.

I’m not sure if the Cubs should trade out in July.

However, I am sure of two things.

Three front offices have a large degree of more urgency than the Cubs do.

And, taking the veterans through October won’t help replenish the pitching in the pipeline. Which I go into far more extensively here.

***

The internet should be more about “Your idea made me think. I’m not sure if I agree with what you said or not. But I’m glad you said it.”

than...

“How dare you think a thought differently than I do?”

That mindset has gotten me to quit watching TV news.

Baseball is supposed to be about fun. And thinking. And what if’s. (“Hmmmm...... What if Rizzo would lead off?”)

When people get shouted down in an online forum, the losers are the people who miss out on the next idea because of it.

***

Here’s to the hypothetical. The potential. The doubtful. The unlikely.

The peaceful.

To those who said “If the Cubs win the World Series once, I’ll be more interested in the prospects.”

And admitted that they were lying about it when they get called on it.

Those who seek out a different way to do things. And find it.

Whether they find any satisfaction from it, or not.

Never stop looking for better ways to do things. Or going out of your way to stand up for those who do.