Analysis

Ian Happ is Poised to Make a Cubs Postseason Hero Dispensable

The 2017 Chicago Cubs have a problem. That problem is lacking starting pitching depth. It is a problem big enough to cause concern just halfway through the second month of the regular season. The front office has hinted that a big move could be coming in the not-so-distant future. When will it come? Your guess is as good as mine.

The term “big move”  usually means some type of roster shake-up. For the Cubs, this could mean trading major league-ready players or coveted prospects for an elite arm that is controlled in 2017 and beyond. One thing the Cubs have never been short on throughout the Theo Epstein era are impact position players. Recently, another one of those individuals has made his presence known at the big league level.

Ian Happ has made a strong impression on many of the Cubs’ brass in just a few games. This isn’t too surprising considering he did something similar in spring training. The Cubs need for starting pitching, coupled with the rise of Happ could be the writing on the wall for the departure of one former Postseason hero.

Javier Baez was phenomenal for the Cubs most of last season, especially in the postseason. However, he now is the most expendable player on the roster for several reasons.

The former Co-National League Championship Series MVP isn’t off to a hot start, to say the least. He is hitting just .228 with five homers and 14 RBIs. He also has been less than stellar in the field. Baez still poses a tremendous amount of upside at the young age of 24-years old, but if the Cubs want to make another deep postseason run they will need to at least, consider trading the young second basemen.

The biggest issues with Baez are that he strikes out too often and does not walk enough. This season, Baez has 32 strikeouts to just five walks. To put that into perspective, last season Baez struck out 108 times compared to just 15 walks. That is not a good trend and doesn’t pose well for Baez this season, though walks are a crucial part of his development as a player at this point.

Happ, on the other hand, is a very polished hitter at the plate. In just four games, Happ has just two fewer walks than Baez has in 34 games. Like Baez, Happ is also versatile in the infield and even the outfield. He also doesn’t strike out as much, which is another huge indicator of what should happen before July’s trade deadline.

The bottom line here is that Happ fits in better with the Cubs than Baez does, whether it’s in the short term or long term. Theo Epstein has never built his team around players that strike out a lot. Instead, the front office favors hitters that make contact and get on base i.e. taking walks.

Remember, Baez isn’t a Theo guy. He was in the organization before Theo, Jed, and the rest of the current front office took shape. Believe it or not, that does make a difference. The perfect example of this is Starlin Castro.

Castro was a solid player for the Cubs for many seasons, but he didn’t fit in with what the Cubs were trying to accomplish. So, he was traded to the New York Yankees for an arm. Similar to Baez, Castro also had trouble making contact at times and striking out. Castro has 28 punch outs on the year compared to just eight free passes. Again, a very similar ratio to Baez.

Sure, you can argue that Ian Happ’s sample size is small, but his tendencies and prior history tell us he will be a more patient and efficient better in terms of getting on base and keeping strikeouts down. That doesn’t mean Happ will be the better player and that Baez will never be a consistent MLB player, but it does make Baez expendable whether Cubs fans like it or not.

The Cubs could get a cost controlled starting pitcher if they made Baez the centerpiece of any deal. Many teams would kill to have a talented player like Baez on their roster and in their everyday lineup. Any package centered around Baez could get a pitcher of Zack Greinke or Jose Quintana’s caliber.

Javier Baez is still one of the most talented players in all of  Major League Baseball. He did have five RBIs in yesterday’s win. Baez will continue to hit, like Castro, but the strikeouts and lack of ability to get on base will also continue. Baez is not a .220 hitter. His numbers will continue to grow as he gets more at-bats and the weather gets warm. This will make the Cubs decision a difficult one.

Just because Baez is expendable doesn’t mean the Cubs have to, or are going to trade them. It just means they can be comfortable making such a move.

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5 replies »

  1. So,what?!? You sound like another bandwagon fan! Yeah, let’s trade all the young talent! Bonehead. The last few years are what we real fans have waited for! Not like the previous 30 where we trade anyone who had talent just so another team has a chance at the post season! Keep our players names and potential trades out of your mouth and off the press!!!

    • Bart,

      Apparently you don’t understand how baseball works, the Cubs are not going to keep all of those players. Multiple prospects and/or current major-league players will be moved in the next year to acquire major-league ready players to fill current holes on the roster, i.e. starting pitching. As well, in 2-3 years you will see a reshaping of sorts because with all of those superstar caliber players that have the same amount of MLB service time, will all be arbitration eligible and commanding massive paydays.

      As far as “keeping our players names and potential trades out of our mouth and off of the press”…

      You are not a member of the Cubs ownership group, or the front office, so none of those players are “yours”… and we will most definitely continue to write about whatever we chose.

      We love interacting with readers on social media as well as in-article comments whenever we can, however if you want to be offensive, excessively berating, or derogatory in any way, you can expect a response such as this one. Have a great weekend, and as always thanks for the read!

  2. Patrick
    The Javier Baez as being trade bait and or benched in favor of Ian Happ is something sports media in Chicago is getting completely out of control with.
    Please look at Javier Baez and Addison Russel’s numbers last year offensively and defensively. Look at Russel’s K rate and look at Baez’s K rate per at bat last year. Baez strikes out at just a slightly lower percentage per at bat compared to Russel last year. Russel had a ton of RBI compared to Baez but….. in large part due to the spot in the batting order.
    Baez was NLCS MVP and would have been the divisional MVP if they awarded one still.
    Baez is also having a much better season at this point that Russel offensively as of today.
    If you want to pick on Baez you should also look at Russel. Both Baez and Russel have very similar numbers why just make Baez expendable.
    BTW. Schwarber is batting .185 through 44 games and gets regular at bats..
    How do we not throw him in this conversation??
    I think it is rediculous how the Chicago media picks on Baez as if he is the player with the least upside and the player who should be traded and it is in large part because he is not a Theo draft pick. If you break down the numbers and overal impact on the game at this point without bias you could easily say the Cubs don’t make it past San Fransisco without the timely hitting and defensive runs saved by Baez. He also had a huge impact on the NLCS.

    • Nick,

      Excellent points and numbers to back them, but I have to say that I don’t think anyone on our end is picking on Baez. I’ve personally mentioned Kyle Schwarber as a potential trade candidate, and while Addison Russell is certainly struggling this season, I feel like he is the most secure of the three players that we mentioned. To be fair I’ve also suggested trading both Ian Happ and Eloy Jimenez previously this season as well.

      Unfortunately as we both know, someone is going to headline a package that leaves town for some controllable starting pitching it’s just a matter of who makes the most sense in the long-term, and that means evaluating things like a players K-rate and the ceiling on their potential. Javy was excellent in the postseason last season, and this particular article was just making the argument that he could become dispensable if he doesn’t correct certain flaws in his game.

  3. Not a Cubs fan, but a huge fantasy baseball player. I’ve been watching baseball since growing up in the Bronx with Willie Mays my 1st idol. Baseball has always been my favorite pastime. Of anything.
    Watching the Cubs closely, why would Theo want to trade Happ before he trades Zobrist, Schwarber, Baez, Hayward, Almora…. Yeah, I know, Heyward’s contract. Happ hasn’t missed a game since he was called up, and has nothing to warrant being sent back, particularly where the c.f. options are Jay and Almora. Happ may not be a very good fielder, but he’s Willie Mays compared to Mendoza Schwarber. The Cubs would well rue the day they let Happ go. Some combination of Schwarber/Zobrist/Baez ( 2 of these guys) would get the Cubs Quintana or Greinke. I’ll be shocked if it’s Happ. I’ll also be shocked if Happ doesn’t start for the rest of the season…..for the Cubbies.

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