Who Is On Short For Cubs? A First World Conundrum

First world problems.

It was a phrase often uttered by Jason “Professor” Parks, formerly of Baseball Prospectus, and now a scout for your Chicago Cubs. It describes issues that most would consider luxuries. The Cubs have themselves a few of these.

We have recently written about the value of Kyle Schwarber playing catcher versus an outfield position. We have covered whether Kris Bryant could stick at third base.

However, the the biggest positional conundrum when it comes to the Cubs’ future of course, lies at shortstop. The question was raised by multiple outlets yesterday: Could Starlin Castro have played his last game as a Cub?

Usually when you have a three-time All-Star at age 24, those questions aren’t really raised. But with the Cubs acquiring top shortstop prospect Addison Russell this past trading deadline, the waters have become a little more murky.

Gordon Wittenmyer reports the Cubs have targeted certain teams with pitching depth attractive enough to them to possibly deal from their shortstop surplus. He writes that Russell gives the front office the flexibility to gather the kind of impact arms the organization lacks.

Wittenmyer names the Mets, Mariners and Marlins as teams who all have shortstop needs and stores of young pitching. He was told all the aforementioned clubs have eyed one or more of the Cubs’ young shortstops.

There was a time where I believed Russell, Javier Baez and Castro could all play together on the same diamond. Now I’m starting to believe that just isn’t a realistic scenario. Castro is developing into a perennial All-Star and you already know what you have. Yet many believe Russell will be the best shortstop the Cubs currently have within the organization.

Let’s say the Cubs do trade Castro this offseason. Would you consider getting a stopgap at short to fill the void until Russell arrives? You would think Baez could slide over just like he is right now. However, the Cubs really want Baez to become more comfortable at second base, where it is pretty clear GM Jed Hoyer believes his future lies. Plus, you don’t want to bounce Baez around.

In my opinion, of the three, you simply cannot trade Baez. He’s got too much haunt factor. You can’t give up 30 HR capability from a middle infielder. You simply live with the outcome there in my opinion.

From what I’ve gathered, it is difficult to deal prospects like Baez anyway. The upside is tantalizing, but the risk will limit value. Especially in the case of the Cubs seeking premium pitching in return.

There is a stronger possibility the Cubs will trade Castro, who is under contract through 2019. Then again, as Mark Gonzalez notes, the Cubs All-Star was just featured as part of a video for fans looking to renew their season tickets for 2015.

A source even speculates the Cubs may diminish themselves a bit within the clubhouse if they do deal Castro. He’s become somewhat of a leader, and he’s also been deemed a big part of this program for a while now by this regime.

It should be easier to move a proven player than a prospect like Castro. The shortstop just probably had he best season of his career. Because of his value to the Cubs, not to mention that the market for him is somewhat limited by the respective needs of potential trade partners, any deal would have to blow the front office away.

“He (Castro) showed more power than he’d shown earlier in his career,” Hoyer said.

Some industry people I reached out to ranked Castro as a top 5-8 shortstop in the game. At the same time, they also see a influx coming of young shortstops with superior defensive tools on the horizon.

Most clubs may prefer to deal for the inherent potential of Russell or Baez, I am told, with Russell the clear favorite. Most believe the Cubs aren’t sure yet which direction this thing is headed. They will remain flexible and open to the best possible deal, likely coming this offseason.

When asked which shortstop would get dealt, another informed observer says: “No clue. It would be like throwing a dart at a board.”

Somehow, I think it’s going to be more scientific than that. Besides, I’m not aware of a dartboard in the front office set up.

Just a Golden Tee game.

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