Two mental tracks should be ongoing in any MLB organization. Winning games should always be at the forefront. The other track should be to keep the collective eyes open for organizational talent upgrades. If another organization panics, all the better. The New York Mets recently fired both hitting coaches around midnight. They’re a prime place to look for a panic move. Last Saturday, the Twins designated second baseman Travis Blankenhorn after he made a costly error Friday night. The Cubs should inquire about Blankenhorn’s availability.
Blankenhorn is likely unfamiliar to you. I had no idea who he was until I researched him. Principally a second baseman, third baseman, and left fielder, Blankenhorn was a third-round choice ($650,000 signing bonus) in 2015 out of Pottsville High School in Pennsylvania. In his minor-league career, Blankenhorn hit 56 homers and 24 triples. He has obvious pop and speed. He’s also stolen 38 bases.
Blankenhorn’s MLB tenure is slight. He’s played in two games, and had had a hit, already. With Blankenhorn, he could obviously be hidden in Des Moines for a few years, as he’s just 24. There’s no rush for him to have his power (18 homers in Double-A in 2019) translate to the MLB level.
Three questions remain. The first is, would Blankenhorn likely improve the Cubs long-term? I’d say he’s probably a better long-term play than Nick Martini. Given that he has already shown power, a degree of versatility, and a minor-league OPS of .755, the lefty could assist in filling in for giving days off to right-handed hitters like David Bote and Nico Hoerner, or provide bench pop.
The second is, would he be worth the waiver fee and roster move? Unless you’re totally sold on Nick Martini, Blankenhorn seems a much younger player who is probably more similar than dis-similar. Blankenhorn hasn’t been as walk-heavy as Martini, but the Cubs would gain six calendar years in the swap. If run through waivers, the Cubs should bite. That so many teams are facing 40-man roster crunches could work to the Cubs’ advantage.
I have no idea how many teams will be interested in Blankenhorn. Teams at the bottom, with empty vessels on their 40-man roster, might as well be. The Cubs might have to trade a marginally useful piece to get Blankenhorn. Simply offering a DSL pitcher with a seven-plus ERA in 2019 won’t get it done. Someone like Jacob Olson, a Cubs 2019 26th-round choice from South Carolina (now with High-A South Bend) would be about as high as I’d go in trying to obtain Blankenhorn. If someone is offering more than that, wait for the next over-reaction on the DFA wire.
This would be a long-term addition. Would Blankenhorn help much in 2021? As few MLB-valid players as the Cubs have on the 40-man roster that aren’t already on the roster, he’d likely get an occasional look. But the idea is more long-term. If another team DFAs a player foolishly, the Cubs should inquire on adding him. This article is about the future, and learning about unfamiliar players.