Many of you possibly played the card game War growing up. Two players get half of a standard 52-card deck dealt face down, and the top card is turned over, one at a time. The higher card claims both cards, with aces being high, and deuces the low. The intrigue kicks in when both piles flip a similar card. In that circumstance, three cards are tossed face down by each side, with the fourth card being flipped face up. The higher card pockets all ten cards. A player to be named later trade is a bit similar, as the result is known after a delay. The Cubs have sent Ronny Simon to Arizona to complete the deal for lefthander Andrew Chafin, who came to the Cubs August 31.
A switch-hitting infielder, Simon started his career with the Cubs as an 18-year old. Most major international signings debut at seventeen, and Simon wasn't major. In his first full campaign in 2018, Simon struggled mightily. Given a re-do in the Dominican Summer League, the 20 year old hit much better his second time around. Had 2020 been remotely normal, Simon would have likely logged at-bats in the Arizona Summer League.
As he's never been in a game in the States with a proper box score, details on Simon are a bit scant. With the push to eliminate minor league affiliates, Simon figures to get his next at-bats in either full-season ball or in the desert. Back to the three-card battles in the card game, I'd put losing Simon for Chafin as losing a three, five, and 10. Probably not significant, and any minor signing that turns to a MLB addition is a nice job of "coaching up" by the Dominican League staff.
Nonetheless, two aspects of trading "prospects for rentals" justify a mild look. A problem exists internally when developmental pieces are being sent away every trade deadline for the equivalent of dead wood. As soon as the season concluded, Chafin became a free agent with absolutely no specified interest in bringing him back. Subtracting pieces is sub-optimal, especially for rentals. Simon is a deeper-dive prospect in either system, but positioning a bullpen where "Chafin as a rental" is an improvement seems less-than-desired. With internally grown and developed prospects of value, adding Chafin-types at the deadline could be minimized. (A possible second player could be lost for Jose Martinez and a third for Josh Osich, as those deals have not yet been completed.)
Aside from the development angle, reality ought to be allowed a seat at the table. Losing Simon for 10 outs from Chafin is a fairly cheap lesson, but assessing the team non-emotionally should be encouraged on occasion. In November, we can usually agree that the 2020 Cubs had problems against power teams from either coastal grouping. The Cubs weren't elite. Trades of a prospect for a rental non-leverage reliever wasn't going to move the needle much. As such, limiting any trades that wouldn't needle-move now seems rather absurd. Having that mind-set before the deadline would have saved some future pieces. Being realistic in real time shouldn't be dismissed as evil if it questions an unlikely outcome. Here's to Burl Carraway and other internal relievers being 10s through aces, and trades for dead wood becoming less frequent.