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Some players the Cubs could swap for international signing money

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Here’s one way to help re-stock the system.

Kyle Ryan, a lefty who could bring the Cubs some international bonus money in a deal
Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Recently, I floated Anthony Bass as a possible trade piece for July 2, the date the international signing period begins. On and after that day, live talent can be traded for international spending space. An amusing part of the human psyche seems to be rebellion from new ideas. In the same Twitter discussion, the same person told me multiple times these two anecdotes. I’m over-rating Bass. The Cubs need to keep him. After that entry into the “J-2 trades” water, I have more names of players to float as trade options.

As noted in the discussion below the article, not all teams prioritize scouting internationally, as the Cubs do. The Dominican League has 44 teams. MLB has 30. One team is split between Cleveland and Milwaukee. No team has more than two DSL squads. Quite a few teams have one DSL side, and many aren’t very good.

Teams don’t invest overseas as they should. 23 of 30 owners saw to this, by crimping the hose with spending limits. Clip it in thirds. Ten teams spend a reasonable amount. A third neglect the field. A third are in-between.

As such, quite a few teams will sign 15 or 20 players, one to three for reasonably large amounts. After that, they’ll hope to back their way into Victor Victor Mesa, a soon-to-be-eligible Cuban escapee. And grumble about teams “like the Cubs” who spend too much internationally. (Shrugs?)

Just because teams should spend more of a priority on international talent doesn’t mean they will. Many teams will have money unspent. They’ll look into the top 80 talents, and the 80 below, and get outbid. Or not try very hard.

And they’ll have a useless asset that remains useless if not given away. Hence, teams will trade international space for talent. Whether it’s Bass or others, the Cubs will have to trade talent to add the cap space they crave. Here are some players that make sense in trades come early July.

Perhaps they will be traded, or perhaps they won’t be. However, Cubs fans are two years behind on these swaps. The Cubs have spent their money, and not added. Nor have they traded cap space for middling prospects. That changes, next month. My hunches may be a bit off. However, for the Cubs to add nearly $3 million in international spending, they’ll need to part with some mildly interesting talent.

Kyle Ryan - Left-handed Pitcher

Ryan pitched for the Detroit Tigers last season. This season, he’s been in the affiliated baseball version of Witness Protection. He started in Extended Spring Training, building up his pitch counts.

His action so far has been 18 innings over six games for Iowa. The 26-year-old lefty has been okay, but I don’t necessarily see the Cubs protecting him on the 40-man roster over the winter. Hence, he is disposable.

He’s done well in MLB before. A team unlikely to spend their kitty might consider Ryan worth a minor risk. As he doesn’t seem likely for a call-up, get him a few starts in Des Moines the next few weeks, and trade him for the best offer, perhaps $250,000 or $500,000 in spending space.

Jhonny Bethencourt - Infielder

Some teams lack middle-infield depth. The Cubs used to be there. Now, Zack Short (Double-A Tennessee) and Aramis Ademan (Advanced-A Myrtle Beach) are a bit entrenched, with Nico Hoerner (and others) pushing from Short-Season Ball.

Bethencourt (a 21-year-old from Venezuela) has a .720 OPS in South Bend in a bit of a time-share. Hoerner will be in South Bend in a month, probably. If Bethencourt remains, his time will shrink. He isn’t a bad player, and he would be perfectly useful for a team that isn’t blessed with infield depth. With international additions limited to $250,000 increments, Bethencourt might make sense on the lower end.

Bijan Rademacher - Outfield

If I had been writing one of these last year, John Andreoli would have made sense. As the Cubs had no plans on adding him to the roster, he was a clear choice for minor-league free agency. He landed with the Seattle Mariners, and debuted for them with a hit and walk in his only game.

Rademacher is a free agent at season’s end, unless the Cubs roster him, which is doubtful. Their best way to obtain value from Rademacher may well be by trade. While some say the opposition ought to “sign him as a free agent,” Rademacher makes a bit of sense as the 40th guy on a 40. He could play against righties, hitting some, and fielding smartly. Again, it makes more sense for a team unlikely to burn their international stash.

Scott Effross - Right-handed Pitcher

Ryan Kellogg - Left-handed Pitcher

In December, the Cubs lost three players to the Minor League Rule 5 Draft. That net them in the low-five figures each time. Two of the three (catcher Alberto Mineo and infielder Andrew Ely) had been in the Cubs pipeline an extended time. Both were left unprotected in the minor-league portion of the Rule 5 Draft in December. As a payback, the Cubs received a low-five figure fee for each from the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Mets, respectively.

The minor-league portion of the Rule 5 Draft permits teams (often with less-than average depth) to poach talent for a slight fee, with no limits on where the talent has to be stationed the next season. The minor-league list is 38 players or less.

As the Cubs figure to have system depth in December, players 38-42 figure to be quality players that will be in danger of being “selected” come December. Any player eligible to be on the list that is likely to be left off makes sense as an early July trade piece.

A 15th Round choice in 2015 out of Indiana University (and onetime teammate of Kyle Schwarber), Effross has become a bit of the “innings-eater type” in the Smokies bullpen this season. He had been fairly decent in Myrtle Beach last season in a return trip. He hasn’t been as hoped in the Southern League, this season.

Kellogg was taken in the same draft in the fifth round from Arizona State. Last season, he struggled as a starter in Myrtle Beach. This time around, he repeated the level as a reliever, and things haven’t gone much better.

I’m not normally a believer in pitchers being “good or bad.” Kellogg nor Effross have struggled this season, and both could be benefited by a change in location. I’d imagine they aren’t the only two on the list of prospects that could be added for a low exchange rate, all things considered.

***

As these trades become more prevalent as July nears, getting the specific player being traded, or teams they’re sent to, aren’t especially important in a mind game. Understanding why they make sense is rather important.

Some organizations don’t stress international development. Which seems “wearing cement shoes to a sprint competition,” but teams self-select their situations. And for those that won’t spend their international money anyway, fans seem willing to accept mild paybacks as acceptable returns over the team employing hordes of international scouts.

As usual, Arizona Phil’s section at The Cub Reporter serves as a resource, here. He provides a standing list of players eligible to be post-season free agents and Rule 5 options over the upcoming off-season.

Minor trades of this ilk cure a number of ills. The Cubs don’t really want to release anyone, or have players leave without compensation. The minor-league Rule 5 compensation is slight enough to be nil.

Trading talent to increase international spending strength is perfectly useful. Wherever the talent is signed from, they figure to provide three or four years, at least, of improvement. Some will reach the states. Some will fail to. Others will only reach the states in another organization.

Trading Bass for a large chunk of change would be helpful, in that it would allow “peak levels of cascading.” A reliever from Triple-A replaces Bass. A Double-A arm replaces Bass in Iowa. All the way down to South Bend, Eugene, and Arizona.

However, regardless from which level a player with “a potential expiration date” is traded for a degree of value beats the option of “release” or “Rule 5 selection.”

Once I follow a player for a few seasons, he usually becomes an “us” and remains there. Gleyber Torres and Eloy Jimenez are among them. I wish players I’ve rooted for success in the future. The Cubs will make a string of trades in July, and may seek to get “international spending” added to most of them.

I won’t be able to predict them all. However, if you’ve followed along this far, you likely grasp the importance of grabbing more available space, and the benefit of trading current for future talent, especially if the current talent is a bit blocked.

When the trades become official, I’ll get around to updating the “Draft Assess” and “J-2 Assess” boards. Regardless the free agency moves or other transactions, titles are won over the long haul through the Draft and International angles. I’ll hold to that. Regardless if I’m over-rating Bass and others on not. Or, possibly, both under-rating and over-rating at the same time.

Some people still hate new ideas. Which is one of the reasons why I write. To give them more reasons for irrational hostility.