Trade with A's gives Cubs best farm system in baseball

Trade with A's gives Cubs best farm system in baseball
July 5, 2014, 11:45 am
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Tony Andracki

Look, it's going to be years until we can truly evaluate this Cubs-A's trade.

If Oakland wins the World Series this season, it can be considered a success for them to give up one of the top prospects in the game for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel.

[RELATED - Cubs trade Samardzija, Hammel to A's in blockbuster deal]

Even if Addison Russell never makes it to the corner of Clark and Addison, the Cubs could still be highly successful because of this move. After all, they will eventually have to acquire some pitching and the avenue to do that could be in dealing away top young position players, as the A's just did.

So since we don't know what the future will hold, let's focus on the now. And right now, the Cubs might have the best farm system in baseball:



Parks, a writer for Baseball Prospectus, is talking about Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Arismendy Alcantara as the other three Cubs prospects in the Top 20.

ESPN's Keith Law ranked Russell as the game's No. 5 prospect during his May update. Though, that put Russell behind Pirates outfielder Gregory Polanco and Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras, who have both been called up, which would push Russell up to No. 3 on that list. (For reference, Bryant was No. 8 and Baez 9th.)

Baseball America ranks Bryant No. 2, Russell No. 5 and Baez No. 7 on their midseason Top 50 prospects coming out soon.



Even Kap got in on the fun:


But what about pitchers? The Cubs' system lacks high-end pitching talent, with C.J. Edwards and Pierce Johnson as the top two arms.

The only pitcher the Cubs got in the deal with the A's was Dan Straily. The 25-year-old starter was named the No. 6 prospect in the A's system by Baseball America heading into the 2013 season and was 12-9 with a 3.94 ERA in 34 big-league starts before struggling in Oakland this season.

So how can this trade be a success for the Cubs if they didn't even acquire a guy who could some day be a No. 1 or 2 starter?

Because, as NBC's Joe Posnanski put it, Theo Epstein and the Cubs are building an offensive juggernaut:

Throw in this year’s draft pick Kyle Schwarber – who Epstein calls “a definite No. 3 hitter” – and you see the strategy. “Yeah,” Epstein says, “we’re trying to build a behemoth of position players.”


“Are you there?” I ask him. He smiles.


“Getting there,” he says. “Obviously we’re a long way off. But that’s the plan. … Ideally, we are trying to build the type of lineup that can change the way opposing teams think when entering series. We had that in Boston, where teams always had an extra pitcher in the pen. If we got 60 pitches deep in the first two innings of a series, I knew we had a pretty good chance to win the series.”


So that’s the idea. Epstein sees the way the game is going, the way pitchers are dominating the game. As of this moment, the Philadelphia Phillies have a 3.86 ERA. In 2006, that would have been good enough to lead the National League. In 2014, it’s only good for No. 13 in the league. We are in a cycle where pitching reigns, which makes hitting so much more valuable. Anyway, that’s Epstein’s bet.


“I would say true offense is a great commodity right now,” he says. “I’d love to be swimming in bats.” He smiles again; he seems to believe the Cubs are just about swimming in bats.

Yahoo's Jeff Passan talked to a baseball executive after the trade went down Friday night, who said the Cubs have "six of the Top 20, maybe 25 hitters in the minor leagues."

Add Russell to Bryant, Baez and Alcantara as the elite prospects right now, with Albert Almora, Jorge Soler and 2014 No. 4 pick Schwarber behind them. Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo are already entrenched in Chicago, playing at All-Star levels.

Throw in Billy McKinney, Oakland's first-round pick (24th overall) in 2013, from Friday's deal and some unheralded prospects like Dan Vogelbach and there's a lot to be excited about for Cubs fans.

Of course, nobody knows where all these guys will play if they all continue to advance and make it to the big leagues.

[MORE - Kris Bryant welcomes in new top prospect Addison Russell]

But right now, the Cubs are cornering the market on position players and elite hitting prospects, which is saying something given how the game has changed.

The live-ball era is over. The Steroid Era is in the past. Pitching reigns supreme now and offense is hard to find. Power is hard to find.

So even though pitching may still win championships, the Cubs have something everybody else wants (and will want, even years down the road): offense.

As Mike Petriello from FanGraphs writes:

But then again, realize the baseball world we live in. Just in the past two days, both ESPN and the New York Times have run articles about the continuing decline of offense. By wOBA, this season is tied for the seventh-worst since integration, and so there’s an inefficiency to be exploited there. If offense is so difficult to find, then the team who can stockpile it puts themselves in a very, very good situation. The Cubs may have wanted to get pitching back for Samardzija and Hammel, but once they realized Russell was available it was too good of an option to pass up, and they’re clearly betting on teams with pitching to spare coming to their doorstep begging for someone who can actually hit the ball.

This should certainly make the next couple of years interesting on the North Side.