Not too long ago, the Cubs assigned Albert Almora Jr. to their alternate training site in South Bend. Along with Jose Martinez and Miguel Amaya, Almora comprises much of the offensive contingent of available call-ups. The Cardinals recently designated for assigment southpaw reliever Rob Kaminsky. Looking at the present and future value of Kaminsky and Almora at the same time is a bit of what I'm currently referring to as “deeper dive baseball.”
For roughly a decade, I've committed energy to the minutiae of affiliated baseball. The pipelines. The Draft. Projecting which players make sense on the waiver wire. I'm referring to all the arcane angles of the game as deeper dive baseball. The podcast I began before COVID-19 hit (Pre-Arb Excellence) has expanded to assessing players on the current roster as “left column” (likely to be around in 2021), “right column” (unlikely to be retained), with the focus on middle column players who are still either/or, and assessing them.
Almora is a middle column type. He is arbitration-eligible and the Cubs can retain him if he makes long-term sense. His projected 2020 salary was in the $1.5 million range for a full season. If retained for 2021, his earnings would likely be in that range again. If it's decided Almora doesn't have enough future value to warrant retention, a particularly thorny question arises. Is he worth current retention?
As comprised, the Cubs have a roster that doesn't need or use him now. If Ian Happ misses time, Cameron Maybin or Jason Heyward can play center (Maybin did on Friday). Jose Martinez could be called up, and serious or multiple injuries derail any post-season success, regardless. I'd prefer to designate Almora over Dillon Maples and the eight percent chance Maples figures out command over the off-season.
Which leads to Kaminsky. Dan Kantrovitz, the Cubs’ current VP of Scouting, chose Kaminsky in 2013 for the Cardinals out of Tommy La Stella's alma mater, St. Joseph Regional High School in Montvale, New Jersey. Kaminsky went from St. Louis to the Indians in the 2015 Brandon Moss trade. He was then granted free agency in November 2019, and re-signed with St. Louis in December. With their COVID-based double-headers, their pitching staff has been a jumble of levels of injury. Leverage reliever John Gant was left on the roster with a sore groin, due to his upside when healthy. However, to have enough healthy arms able to give length, Kaminsky was designated, despite a 1.93 ERA.
If Almora is a likely long-term casualty, Kaminsky's long-term potential (team control through 2026) might justify a roster spot over Almora. Future value of Kaminsky plus present value of Kaminsky might exceed present value of Almora, who's buried for now in South Bend.
With no need to DFA anyone currently, planning that far ahead might not seem necessary. However, players can't be immediately DFAd anymore after a waiver claim. As such, thinking three steps out seems preferable to being blindsided. Kaminsky over Almora might make sense in 10 days to two weeks.
Realistically, Kaminsky would likely get DFAd if claimed on waivers by the Cubs, eventually. Similarly, if Kaminsky appears good enough for the Cubs to claim, he might be a good claim for a team with a lower waiver priority. (I wouldn't endorse trading talent for Kaminsky.) If a team has special circumstances, like the 2020 Cardinals, I’m definitely taking a second look at their waiver options in deeper dive baseball. Denying the Cardinals the opportunity to outright their own talent to their own organization serves as a nice tie-breaker. The Cubs should claim Kaminsky, if just to try the same stunt in December. Don't be afraid of the podcast.