It’s not a secret that I think the Cubs callup of Anthony Bass was a bit of chicanery. I doubt Bass is much better than Cory Mazzoni, who he replaced. I also think his inability to be directly sent back to Iowa (he’d need to clear waivers) is an entirely significant hurdle (he likely wouldn’t clear). Throwing that and more into the crockpot, and I think Bass is an early-July trade piece.
For the basics, Bass was a 2008 Padres fifth-round choice from Detroit’s Wayne State. He debuted in MLB with San Diego, and has logged just under 300 MLB innings. The Cubs inked Bass to a minor league deal on December 23, 2017. His 2018 Iowa numbers are a bit pedestrian, but he’s been better recently. Bass closed the game Monday night by pitching the 11th inning in scoreless fashion.
Regardless how this reads, I’m not being dismissive of Bass. He could be a valid MLB reliever, and would provide cost-control until at least 2021. The reason he leaps out as the go-to trade piece in the bullpen is that he is very coin-flippy, and can’t be directly returned to Iowa.
The international recruitment history in baseball might be described as unsavory. Teams are negotiating under-the-table deals with 14- and 15-year-olds, and their sometimes unscrupulous handlers. However, since the marketplace provides bargains, it continues.
Recently, spending limits were put in place. As time has progressed, the limits have tightened. As of now, each team is given a soft target amount. This amount for the Cubs is $4,983,500 for the July 2, 2018-June 15, 2019 cycle upcoming. Linked to three of the top 30 prospects, that cap space won’t last long. And the Cubs know that some of the best bargains are the most hidden/obscure ones.
The Cubs can trade up to a bit over $8 million total, and perhaps a little more. Amounts can be added in $250,000 increments. Beyond that, teams can trade “what’s left.” $8,721,100 is theoretically possible. However, teams can’t be coerced into trading.
“Just trade something to the Orioles.”
Which is what everyone is thinking. The 20 valid contenders for spending space will have to get creative to get much of the Orioles giveaways. Also, their talent pipeline is better than a few years ago, which means they might pay less to add more.
To add $3 million plus to the international spending budget line, the Cubs will need to provide value, not guys in the Dominican on suspension for Stanozolol. If Bass pitches well for the next two-plus weeks, he’s compelling. How much could he be worth? How well might he do?
Relievers have streaks, either direction, without as much as a news conference. If Bass is looking useful enough to be someone that fills the fifth or sixth spot in a contemporary bullpen, he is suddenly of value. The value increases the more teams buy into Bass, however little that might seem.
Three types of teams might have a degree of interest in Bass. It’s not necessary that any team will hit on all three criteria. However, a few teams should hit on two of them. Many will qualify under at least one of the three criteria. Which are they?
The first is an unlikelihood to spend their full international allotment. While Baltimore leaps to mind, the Reds and White Sox are limited to $300,000 per international acquisition. For the same reason a decent reliever might make sense to Baltimore, a decent reliever might make sense to the Reds or White Sox. He might be of value to the Mets, as well.
Secondly, any team that has a gaping hole in their bullpen, but a playoff chance. For instance, the Cleveland Indians might be mildly interested in Bass. I don’t know how motivated the Tribe would be on Bass, but the Cardinals pen seems to be leaking out of both sides.
Thirdly, he might interest a team that might think he’d be a long-term asset, as odd as that might seem. Each team has pro scouts. Bass has been quite good with Iowa recently. Perhaps someone has seen an improvement in him over before, and sees him as a useful keep through 2021 or so.
Two things to remember on the way out. Teams makes these sorts of trades rather frequently come July 2. Teams offer spending space for players that aren’t especially prospects. Some teams aren’t going to spend their full amount, as foolish as that seems.
For instance, the Rays added $1 million in spending space for Anthony Misiewicz. I was unaware of his existence. As such, amounts can be added for talent. Negotiations will be needed. Bass will need to be of use to be of value.
One other item to remember. With trades of this sort off-limits until July 2 for the next cycle, if the Cubs get a viable offer, they can designate Bass for assignment shortly before the consummation of the deal. This was done recently by the Brewers with Ji-Man Choi, while they finalized a deal with Tampa Bay. Similarly, the Cubs purportedly sequestered Steve Clevenger to a motel room the night before the Jake Arrieta trade.
Will Bass be traded for cap space? Probably not. However, not because it isn’t a useful idea. If a team needs a reliever, and they buy Bass as an option until his 2021 or 2022 free agency, it seems a practical use of something some teams don’t prioritize.
Can Bass be useful for three weeks or so? He probably stands a better chance of that than Arrieta did winning a Cy Young for the Cubs as he was being traded west.
Do you have some innovative trade ideas to add cap space? If so, roll your preferences. Be forewarned, other teams will want talent on team-friendly contracts to bite. Which brings us back to the crock pot.