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Cubs Prospect Perspective: Joel Machado

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Machado’s spot in the pipeline asks the question: Should player “loans” between organizations be allowed?

The flag of Venezuela, Joel Machado’s home country
Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images

This off-season, two particulars are filling my non-baseball time more than before: Tottenham Hotspur futbol and audiobooks.

The books tend toward drama/crime/intrigue, though I’m really not a fan of murders and gore. As the author walks me through getting familiar with the characters, one premise is amusing. When one main character makes a charge/claim to another, and you either know or don’t know if a lie is being told. Which character is ahead or behind the other in “awareness of information”? My look at Joel Machado looks a bit at honesty, and a bit at a concept more popular in futbol than in affiliated baseball.

Joel Machado, left-handed pitcher

Born February 9, 2002, Barlovento, Venezuela
Signed internationally by the Cubs as a free agent

Machado fits snugly into the category of minor league players harmed by the 2020 season being scrubbed. He should have gotten 40 or so innings in the Dominican League season, but did not. Catching up is difficult. Maybe he’ll be able to, and maybe he won’t. If he misses on a lengthy pro career because of missed time on the field, he won’t be alone. Should it be in baseball’s best interest to make it easier for players like Machado to have a better chance at a pro career? This is a very apt time to ask that question. It’s unlikely it will realistically come to that.

A fascinating thing in the futbol galaxy that isn’t really in affiliated baseball much is the loaning of a player” The Cubs have, over the last decade I’ve followed the pipeline, “loaned players”, but unless I missed one, it’s almost always been loaning a player (often a pitcher) to a Mexican League team (and often a player who is actually from Mexico). Those loans make sense. If the pitcher was less likely to get quality innings in (for instance, Double-A Tennessee), the loan gets him innings in another league. Another arm gets innings for the Smokies, and it’s win/win for both sides. And the player. If he does well, he’s retained. If not, he’s released.

Intra-organization loans, though, are rare. Why loan a player from the Cubs pipelne to the Blue Jays or Phillies pipelines? If they want him, have them trade for them. If “we” can extort something from “them,” all the better. Which is why the loan premise doesn’t work.

Remember the audiobook scenario: The lead protagonist faces his adversay. “I have the documents.” He might, or he might not have said documents. If he has the documents, and the baddie disbelieves, the good guy has the edge. At some point, common ground can be a good thing. Without common ground, the baseball player loan makes no sense. With common ground, the player loan can help both sides, and the player. Do you trust your rival?

Currently, teams can have 180 players not on the 40-man roster or the 60 Day Injured List in their pipeline in season. Out of season, it “balloons” to 190. A goal for forward-thinking teams ought to be to have enough players to have two, or even three, short-season teams. Six of 30 MLB teams pulled off a second such club in 2021. None managed a third, which is no surprise with a rather stringent 180 player limit. Even with no injuries, and many organizations were injury-hit rather hard in 2021, having a third team would have been virtually impossible. While three Grapefruit and three Cactus League teams managed a second, a third is almost inconceivable with a 180 player limit.

Tossing in loaned players wouldn’t help. The loaned player would either be attached to the loaning team’s 180, or the team accepting the loan’s 180 limit. However, since it’s my article, what if the loaned player was exempted from the 180-player limits? You say you have the documents, and I ninety percent believe you. What if I say, “I don’t entirely believe you, but maybe we can agree on something, anyway. Despite being at cross-purposes.”?

Say the Cubs have, hypothetically, a pitcher they’d like to get 40 innings in the Arizona Complex League. However, they have a few other arms they prefer, and are a few (or twelve) roster spots short of a third ACL team. Some futbol loans that I’m aware of are Eric Hosmer situations: “We don’t really want him anyway. If you want to pay for him, you can have him.” Some could be: “At this guy’s level of effectiveness, our U23 squad has four better players than him, so we’d consider loaning him out.”

If having enough roster spots for players who need the development chances to develop is important to baseball owners (it seems to be to many of the executives, who I tend to trust more than the owners), baseball loans could make sense. As to any way of providing coverage for players who go to a new organization and get better or get injured, providing a modicum of general protection for both sides would need to be discussed. Trusting some executives across the league isn’t always a certainty. However, if the Cubs are eight player loans and eight players being loaned from having a third team in the Compound League, I’d be totally good with Joel Machado tossing against the Cubs in an ACL game in 2022.

The day I began writing this piece, the Spurs came out with an article on a reserve keeper they’d loaned to a team in a Swedish League. Yes, the wide variety of leagues in soccer speaks more easily to the premise of loaning a player for experience, However, if better developing a system of player development is more important to ownership than strip-mining organizations for every available glint of a nickel, the teams that are interested in developing talent to the nth degree could make trades to help each other do that.

Which begs a final question, and answers are welcomed below. Are there any teams that you so oppose making trades with that you would support the Cubs not trading with them, even if it mutually benefited both teams by allowing a second or third ACL squad?

Poll

Are there teams you would oppose the Cubs making a trade with if it helped both organizations?

This poll is closed

  • 43%
    No
    (41 votes)
  • 34%
    Anyone except the Cardinals
    (33 votes)
  • 22%
    Maybe a few
    (21 votes)
  • 0%
    Something else (leave in comments)
    (0 votes)
95 votes total Vote Now