My family and I stayed with some friends up near Lassen National Forest here in California over the long holiday weekend, and it was extremely relaxing and a very good time. However, it's a strange feeling now when you go anywhere that your cell phone does not work all that well. Service in this area of the state essentially did not work at all, it seemed. No calls in, no text messages, and absolutely no internet data coverage. For someone like myself who is on Twitter and the internet in general on a fairly regular basis, not having access to this information (while very calming in one sense) can lead to strange things happening.
Randomly, I did receive a text message on Friday night from a friend, who had no idea that I didn't have service for the past day.
Friend: "Do you like the trade?"
Now, I play in a fantasy league with this guy, so I assumed that it was just a trade in our league, since there had been a lot of activity lately.
Me: No idea. Up at Lassen National Forest and service here is terrible. Haven't been able to check anything since yesterday.
F: Samardzija & Hammel to A's for Russell, Straily, and McKinney.
This is the type of thing that I usually would have heard about as the news started to leak out on Twitter that things were happening, so for it to get to a point of being essentially done in the 24 hours since I had lost legitimate cell service was amazing. And yet, not entirely surprising out of the A's or the Cubs really. I'm a fan of the deal for both sides, although I wonder what the A's plan for next year at shortstop is with Russell gone. Flags fly forever though, and the A's clearly pushed in toward that end.
Daniel Kelley took a look at the trade's impact for this season over the weekend, but the abundance of top prospects in the Cubs' system now has the potential to have long-ranging fantasy impact for many years, so let's look at that a bit more in-depth.
Samardzija - Jeff is under team control for the 2015 season, so it's possible we see his value for 2015 improve slightly with the change to a better team and a more friendly home park. He's still going to be a top 15 starting pitcher, with the potential for a few more wins along the way.
Jason Hammel - Hammel is a free agent again after this season, so the long-term impact on Hammel's value is negligible. It's possible he gets a better contract if he can show that he can pitch well down the stretch than he would have pitching for the Cubs.
Starlin Castro - Here's where things get interesting. Castro has a very team-friendly contract through 2019, and has been having a great season so far (.284 with 11 homers so far). He's still just 24 years old, and is the type of player that you can build a franchise around. With all that said, the speculation that he might be traded in the next year started quickly, with teams like the Mets and Dodgers suggested as potential matches for the Cubs as a trade partner. Castro's value doesn't change particularly either way, but could improve someone else's opportunity if he is.
Addison Russell - Russell had a very clear path to a starting job in Oakland as soon as 2015 with Jed Lowrie being a free agent after this season. He now has both the previously discussed Starlin Castro and top prospect Javier Baez at the two levels ahead of him on the depth chart. That said, I think his timetable is a bit slower, but the value remains the same. Russell has the athleticism to play anywhere on the diamond, so wherever they end up needing him to play should be just fine.
Javier Baez - Baez has slightly more competition at his position than he had before the trade, but this trade doesn't change his fantasy value particularly. It's possible he will move from shortstop to somewhere else on the diamond as a result of Russell being in the organization, but that was always a possibility anyway.
Billy McKinney - I think McKinney's value might have the biggest chance of improvement with this trade, as the potential to move into a better offensive home park could suit his swing better. He's still at least two years away, and there's the potential he ends up blocked by a number of the outfield prospects already in the system, but his fantasy ceiling just ticked up a tiny bit.
Kris Bryant and Arismendy Alcantara - Both players remain top 25 fantasy prospects regardless of position, but adding another elite middle infield prospect to the mix could move one or both of them elsewhere. This was a possibility before, but increases the odds slightly.
Daniel Robertson - One of the top prospects remaining in the Athletics' organization, Robertson was expected to defer from the shortstop position to Russell long-term. With Russell out of the picture, Robertson is now the top shortstop prospect in the system, and could be in Oakland by 2016.
So, What Do You Think the Cubs Lineup Looks Like in Two Years?
The Cubs have put together one of the largest groups of elite hitting prospects we have seen in a long time. While it's always a possibility that one or more of them will not turn out as expected, the fact that many of these top prospects have already reached AA or higher bodes well for their long-term outlook. With that in mind, here's my best estimate of where the pieces fall into place by 2016:
3B - Starlin Castro - I don't think the team ends up moving Castro via trade, but instead continue to build around him with the rest of the top prospects. That said, I do think that he does end up at a new spot on the diamond, as I think that there are other players who are better long-term defenders than Castro. He still has the potential to be a top 10 third baseman most seasons, although it would be more likely near the back end of the top 10.
SS - Addison Russell - There were questions when Russell was drafted whether he could stick at shortstop, but reports on him the past two years point to the potential that he can stick there for the next few years. He's a good defender at the position with the potential to be even better there. He's a potential top 5 shortstop in his prime.
2B - Javier Baez - There have been concerns about Baez's defense in the past, and with a potentially better defender in Russell available, the ability to move Baez to second base long term could lead him to the top of the position. A potential 40 home run hitter at second base? Stop drooling.
RF - Kris Bryant - With Castro at third, the move that has been speculated on for Bryant becomes a reality. He can be a top 10 outfielder, capable of hitting for a high average and great power.
CF - Arismendy Alcantara - Alcantara ends up as the primary center fielder until Albert Almora is ready, and could slot in as a Ben Zobrist-type of player that plays a number of positions as a super-utility type that gets enough playing time to essentially be a starter. He could be a top 10 second baseman, shortstop, and a top 25 outfielder with that type of profile and playing time.
1B - Anthony Rizzo - This one's easy, as he's under contract until 2019 and has emerged as a top fantasy first baseman with 18 home runs and a .274 batting average.
C - Welington Castillo / Kyle Schwarber - It is in the Cubs' best interest to keep Schwarber behind the plate for as long as possible, as the only other spot to put him would be in left field, but he may not be ready come the start of the 2016 season. If he's not ready, it's likely Castillo is still there, since he is under team control through 2018.
LF - Unclear - Jorge Soler seems like the most likely candidate to be here by that time, but for some reason I'm not really convinced just yet.
If it all works out, the Cubs could have a top 10 fantasy option at nearly every position on the field, and hopefully at least some of them are helping out your fantasy team when that happens. What do you think happens here? Is there one of these prospects you think ends up disappointing and doesn't reach this potential?