Spiegel: Time for Chicago Cubs to deal from strength
As the two best, most complete teams in baseball battle into November, the Chicago Cubs' front office is scheming on how to be doing so next year.
Here are some options to acquire vital top-line starting pitching, while also addressing the center field hole Dexter Fowler is likely to leave.
1. Throw $200 million at David Price or Zack Greinke. This probably would mean a stopgap in center (Austin Jackson? An experimental year of Kris Bryant?) while they wait for Albert Almora.
I see the massive high-end contract as unlikely. Locking up yet another huge money arm based on past performance is very dangerous, especially this early in the winning window.
Also, the emergent ace, Jake Arrieta, will be offered a pre-emptive extension sooner rather than later. His agent, Scott Boras, has allowed those very infrequently, but the fragility of pitching makes an agreement here seem sensible on both sides.
2. Throw 80-110 million dollars at Jordan Zimmermann or Johnny Cueto. This could leave the Cubs still in the market for Fowler, with an outside chance at Jason Heyward, or certainly the ability to pay someone such as Denard Span. This center field scenario also fits the next option …
3. Throw 60-80 million at Yovani Gallardo, or (shiver) Jeff Samardzija. They've had success rehabilitating the career of a big-time arm who has been coached poorly. Samardzija's year with Don Cooper may qualify as that, and success in this tier would come at a relative bargain.
4. Trade from strength; parting with three or four of the treasured young players in order to acquire a young, cost-controlled, top-of-the-rotation pitcher.
Consider me officially obsessed with the idea of acquiring Sonny Gray from Oakland. The Athletics still are a couple of years away from full contention, and by then would likely be unable to pay Gray. Would Billy Beane go for, say, Javier Baez, Almora, and CJ Edwards?
If not Gray, maybe this is the time when San Diego's Tyson Ross, a trade-deadline target, is finally pried away from A.J. Preller.
All the while, the Cubs will continue to target "project arms" in the mold of Arrieta, perhaps in a trade consummated for more high profile players.
Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have spoken of the tremendous upside to be found in secondary prospects; big arms who may be taking poor advice. Arrieta primarily had to be told to discard what Baltimore was trying to do to him.
Scouting inferior methodology of other organizations may be its own kind of market inefficiency.
You knew all along you'd have to eventually dip into the treasure trove. The window is opening earlier than you'd expected because of the emergence of a true ace.
Don't let his excellence be wasted as you wait for things to coalesce. Pounce, efficiently.
A deal is coming.
The Kansas City Royals, meanwhile, are beautifully out of style.
In an era when every organization is trying to scout and/or teach patience, the Royals' lineup is full of free swingers. They look for their pitch early in the count, and pounce on it as soon as they like.
It's beautiful because it works for them. Last season the Royals were 30th in walks; dead last. Their fourth-best batting average led to a 16th-place finish in on-base percentage. This year they're 29th in walks, third in average, and 11th in OBP.
Look at the leadoff hitter, Alcides Escobar, who has swung at the first pitch in every one of their 13 games. His full-season swing percentage on the first pitch was 32 percent, and in the playoffs it's an absurd 48.5. And, oh, Escobar has reached base in 24 of his 62 plate appearances this postseason.
It's great that the Cubs are now seeing a ton of pitches, as we've written about before. It's a worthy organizational goal, fulfilled. But there is more than one way to skin the OBP cat.
If all of your guys can make contact the way the Royals can, you could swing your way to a title.
• Matt Spiegel co-hosts "The Spiegel & Goff Show" 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday-Friday on WSCR 670-AM. Follow him on Twitter @mattspiegel670.