The Wall Street Journal published a great article a few days ago on the Chicago Cubs as Baseball’s Human Lego Set. Seems like GM Theo Epstein and Manager Joe Maddon are attracted to everyday players who can play multiple positions.
By the way, am I the first one to suggest that Joe Maddon is starting to look more and more like Ezra Wohlgelernter?
And while we’re on subjects that you first heard about here, consider this one. The Phillies have a position player by the name of Cody Asche who just turned 26 and came up as a third baseman. Despite having a decent glove and a good minor league pedigree he was moved to the outfield a couple of years ago because the Phillies perceived that Maikel Franco, a young rookie, would be better at the position. Cody was then converted to left field, where he has learned to play the position well and his bat seems to have come to life.
Cody fits the human lego profile of what the Cubs have been cultivating. In addition to versatility, he’s also a match for the Epstein/Maddon work ethic. Cody’s salary is a bargain at $530,000, and he’s arbitration eligible next year. The Phillies also have Jeremy Hellickson on the trading block, who recently turned 29 and may be an attractive alternative to John Lackey. Turning 38 in October, Lackey has another year on his $32 million two year contract. Hellickson makes only $7 million for stats similar to Lackey’s and, if nothing else provides some nice insurance as a middle reliever/spot starter.
So who should the Phillies target in return from the Cubs? How about Cubs’ first round draft choice from last year, switch-hitting outfielder/second baseman Ian Happ – who has moved through their system quickly.
The thought crossed my mind after reading Todd Johnson’s blog on potential candidates for the Arizona Fall League for the Cubs’ Insider. Johnson writes:
“In just a few weeks, the Cubs will announce who they are sending to the Arizona Fall League. The league is usually for players who have missed some time, those the Cubs want to take a longer look at. Players who are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, for example. The Cubs could also get a look at players they may want to showcase for possible trades in the winter, while simultaneously giving those same prospects exposure to other teams.”
Regarding Happ, Johnston opines:
“Ian Happ might be one player the Cubs want to look at in more detail this fall. They obviously know a lot about him already, but you can never have too much information. As he goes up each level, he does better and better. Being at AA, he is not that far from the majors, so an extra sneak peak in the fall might do Happ and the Cubs well.”
For Happ’s sake, I hope he stays with the Cubs and becomes part of a future that is already a dynasty in the making. For the Phillies’ sake, I hope they continue to focus on getting younger and acquiring players with high upside. For Asche’s sake, I couldn’t imagine any environment suited better to blooming as a hard working multi position player. In any event, If Ian does make it to the Arizona Fall League this year, I’ll follow him with significant interest.