The Rundown: Cubs Roster Almost Set, Arrieta Talks Offseason Prep, Trade Value Rankings

Many a Cubs fan’s heart was rent by the news that Munenori Kawasaki had been released Tuesday afternoon. There’s still a possibility that he could come back if he doesn’t find a gig elsewhere, but he’s not going to factor in the roster either way.

The team later announced (warning: link contains some rehashing of what’s below) that Caleb Smith had been returned to the Yankees under the terms of the Rule 5 draft (he was selected by the Brewers and traded to the Cubs, who couldn’t find room for him). Then they reassigned Chris Dominguez and Jemile weeks, bringing the spring roster to 27. Only a couple more cuts to go.

Unless they’re planning to troll the living hell out of everyone (which I’d actually find pretty enjoyable, truth be told), Carlos Corporan will be reassigned shortly, leaving just two spots for the trio of Matt Szczur, Tommy La Stella, and Brian Duensing.

I have no doubt most fans would look at those names and view the latter as the most fungible, which I find kind of odd. All the business about Szczur and La Stella fighting for a spot seems to have turned the masses into children fighting over a toy they didn’t want until another child started playing with it.

While both could play important roles on lesser teams, the Cubs don’t really have a pressing need for either. The same could perhaps be said for Duensing, though lefty relievers have more inherent value than bench bats. That’s particularly true given the depth and versatility Joe Maddon’s team boasts in the field and the question marks in the rotation and pen.

Yes, there are question marks.

The final spot will come down to whether or not Szczur is traded. If he is, La Stella breaks camp. If not, Szczur gets the spot and La Stella goes to Iowa. Or New Jersey, in which case we’ve got to start the conversation all over again. But that won’t be necessary.

Arrieta on prep

Jake Arrieta is known as both a tireless workout fiend and something of a nonconformist. That’s not a pejorative term, more a way of saying he’s a cat who likes to do things his way. Getting away from the Orioles’ rigid philosophy, at least as far as pitchers were concerned, was a big part of the Cy Young winner’s ascension.

Arrieta spoke after Tuesday’s start, his last of the spring, about how the Cubs handled their staff following the shortest offseason in team history.

“They gave us the rest we needed,” Arrieta explained. “We were able to kind of go through our throwing progression in a fashion that’s…you know, let us take it at our own pace. I was able to get out there and play long toss a few days in a row and then take a couple days off. Throw a side session, (then) two days off in preparation for a spring outing.”

We’ve written a lot about Arrieta’s consistency issues, namely with his release point, and it appeared that he was illustrating that all quite nicely at the outset of his start. After giving up a leadoff homer to Denard Span, Arrieta struck out two batters and was looking great.

Then he gave up three consecutive hits — a double and two singles — before hitting a batter to load the bases. He then struck out Kelby Tomlinson to end the inning. A wild pitch allowed another run to score in the 2nd, but Arrieta was nails from that point on. He retired the last eight batters he faced, four by strikeout.

It’s all about finding that motion and that spot and repeating it over and over throughout the season. And while the man with the Coastal Carolina tattoo on his butt may be plying his trade elsewhere next season, he knows he’s in the right place for now.

“I think (the Cubs are) progressive in the sense that they’re willing to kinda go outside the box and do things that haven’t really been done before,” Arrieta said. “And it’s gonna bode well for us.”

Which Cubs have the most trade value?

There’s trade speculation like that involving Matt Szczur and there are the flights of fancy in which you wonder about what kind of return Player X could bring back. Not the really awful proposals bandied about by delusional fans come deadline time, mind you, but legitimate attempts at the valuation of guys who are probably not going to be moved.

And then you’ve got Jonah Keri’s MLB Trade Value player rankings, which factors age, position, contract, and various other park-adjusted performance metrics in an attempt to assign value to various players. As you might imagine, the Cubs have a few names on the list. I’ll allow you to check out Keri’s posts for the explanations (he lays out the criteria and has an honorable mention list here), but I’m not above showing you a few names.

  • Jake Arrieta (off list, 38 last year)
  • Kyle Schwarber (50)
  • Willson Contreras (42)
  • Kyle Hendricks (40)
  • Addison Russell (23)
  • Anthony Rizzo (8)
  • Kris Bryant (2)

Anyone figure out who’s in the top spot? Hint: It’s not Mike Trout.

We could go through this in all kinds of depth and break down where the Cubs fell and why, but I think the moral of the story is that they’ve got six players valued among the top 50 in baseball. That’s not bad.

One interesting note about potential future rankings is that the lower-middle of the pack, which features Joc Pederson (39), Kevin Kiermaier (38), Ender Inciarte (37), Jackie Bradley Jr. (36), Adam Eaton (34), and Odubel Herrera (33). Notice a common thread here? All centerfielders, some of whom are considered glove-first types. Now you wanna pull on that thread and see where I’m going?

Albert Almora Jr. has the potential to make a big jump if he can continue to put up solid offensive numbers. Again, this isn’t saying the Cubs will trade him or that other teams will start asking about him because he’s on some list. I’m more talking about his potential to be a very valuable player for this team.

More news and notes (about former Cubs)

Back to top button