Theo Epstein: Cubs Likely to Trade from Position-Player Depth to Acquire Pitcher(s)

Appearing this morning on the Mully and Hanley Show on 670 The Score, Theo Epstein discussed the Cubs’ current and future situation with his typical candor. Of note was his talk of the club’s need for more pitching depth, both in the present and future. Not that that’s some kind of new revelation, but it was interesting to hear him speak so freely about it.

“It’s going to be really hard to crack this lineup,” Epstein admitted. “We have a lot of outstanding position player prospects on the way, as well. But we don’t have the kind of depth, and we’ve been open about that, that we want with our starting pitching. There are going to be likely changes of some sort of the next several years with the way our rotation works.

“So at some point, we’re going to be able to pull off a deal where we trade some position player resources, probably in the form of prospects, for starting pitching to help our big league club, either in the present, the future, or probably both.”

Well, there you have it. The Cubs are trading all the prospects for Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, and Sonny Gray. Okay, not really. But those are the names being bandied about most often. And none of them, particularly Archer and his four years of control at only $34 million ($8.5M AAV), can be had for a song. You’ll notice Epstein said that the Cubs would probably deal prospects, which is as telling as it is obvious.

Prospects are almost always going to play a role in big trades, but the Cubs clearly don’t want to mess with the young core they’ve spent so much time and effort developing. That could mean parting with Ian Happ or Eloy Jimenez rather than Javy Baez or Albert Almora Jr, though we’re talking apples and oranges in some of those cases. Happ’s versatility and pop no doubt make him a very coveted asset, but even he won’t be nearly enough to bring back a controllable starter in return.

Recently-promoted Jeimer Candelario figures to be a big part of any trade too, particularly one that involves the Rays. Third baseman Evan Longoria is awesome and under contract through at least 2022, but he’s neither young (32 in October) nor cheap (though his contract is a good value for what he can produce) while playing for a team that may want to move him to acquire more players who are both. And first baseman Logan Morrison is decidedly meh and is only signed through this year.

I’ll leave it at that before getting into further speculation, but Candelario’s continued presence on the Cubs roster does feel like a bit of a showcase for a guy who really isn’t going to get a chance to shine in Chicago on a full-time basis. Now if the Cubs could just get back to hitting like we know they can, they’ll be able to regain a little more of that leverage by the time trade season opens in earnest.

You can hear the entire interview with Epstein here and can listen to Mully and Hanley weekday mornings from 5 – 9 am CT.

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