Cubs ready to cash in on prospect system
DENVER -- Before he even took a question in regard to the callup of rookie Javier Baez on Monday, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein made time to give credit to the previous administration for the work it did in evaluating, drafting and signing Baez.
Because Epstein and his administration get it.
In only its third season on the job, the Cubs' front office is ready to start implementing its youth movement, having in recent weeks brought up prospects well ahead of schedule.
Because it had building blocks in place to expedite the process, and it has been able to get potential impact prospects in return for veterans.
It doesn't matter how they got to the Cubs. It's just important they are in the organization.
In the last month, however, Chicago has begun to revamp its roster. Four weeks ago, the Cubs called up center fielder Arismendy Alcantara and right-hander Kyle Hendricks soon after, and then on Monday second baseman Javier Baez arrived from Triple-A Iowa.
Baez homered twice during Thursday's 6-2 victory over the Rockies while Hendricks, acquired two years ago from Texas in the Ryan Dempster trade, became only the seventh pitcher this season to work eight innings in a game at Coors Field.
The Cubs' top-20 prospects underscore the open-minded approach the franchise has taken in building the system.
There are nine players who arrived through either Latin American signings or the draft since 2012, but there are also four players who were drafted and signed by the previous administration, and seven who have been added in trades of veterans since the start of 2012.
"We haven't been afraid to trade quality veteran players who don't fit in our timeline," said general manager Jed Hoyer. "Trading good players is not easy, but we have to be realistic about where we are and where we want to be and how we can facilitate that transition."
It is a philosophy that led to the trades of:
• Right-handed starting pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel in early July to Oakland in a deal that brought back shortstop Addison Russell, who had been atop the A's system, and outfielder Billy McKinney, ranked ninth among Chicago's prospects.
• Starter Matt Garza a year ago to Texas in a deal that included C.J. Edwards, who's curently ranked seventh on the Cubs' prospect list.
• Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson to Atlanta two years ago for right-hander Arodys Vizcaino.
• Left-handed reliever James Russell and versatile Emilio Bonifacio to Atlanta last month in a deal that brought back catcher/third baseman Victor Caratini.
• Veteran Ryan Dempster to the Rangers two years ago in a deal that brought back Hendricks.
• And outfielder Alfonso Soriano to the Yankees a year ago in a deal for right-hander Corey Black.
Hendricks has already arrived in the big leagues, where he is 3-1 with a 1.87 ERA, and at least four others that are less than a year away -- Vizcaino, who is at Triple A, and Addison, Edwards and Black, who are at Doubled A.
"And don't forget [Anthony] Rizzo, [Jake] Arrieta and [Pedro] Strop," said Hoyer.
Those three already have established themselves on the big-league roster.
Rizzo is the starting first baseman and anchor of the team being built for the future, who came from the Padres in a deal for Andrew Cashner two years ago. Last year the Cubs picked up starting pitcher Arrieta, and Strop, who is in the bullpen, from the Orioles for a package that included Scott Feldman.
There's a bonus in acquiring prospects from other organizations. They're usually closer to the big leagues than a recent draft choice, and they have shown an ability to adjust their game to the Major League level.
Now the Cubs may start cashing in their chips sooner than we all expected.