Kevin Alcantara – Picture by Todd Johnson
When the Cubs signed outfielder Ian Happ to a three-year $61 million extension, it didn’t really send shockwaves throughout the organization, but it does make one begin to think about just exactly how it’s going to affect how the Cubs use their large collection of depth at that position over the next three years.
Happ’s deal runs through the 2026 season. I know this is hard for some of you to believe, but it is 2023. Three years is not that long for an extension, and it runs concurrent to the contract of the right fielder Seiya Suzuki. So with two guys locked down for the next 3 and 1/2 years, it does make one wonder just exactly what opportunities there are going to be for the myriad of Cubs outfielders currently in the system.
Normally, most major league teams run with four or five outfielders. But with the designated hitter now in the National League, that also opens the door for guys to get ABs there. That means we could be looking at possibly three of the guys the Cubs currently have being a part of the team in the next three years. With his high-ranking on prospect lists, Pete Crow-Armstrong is probably the logical choice to replace Cody Bellinger in centerfield next year while Nelson Velazquez has a leg up on everybody because of his experience at the major league level already. That really only leaves one or two spots unless you end up trading Velazquez.
There are several scenarios that are going to play out here for the collection of prospects currently, in the minors that play in the outfield.
This is really a catch-22. In order for an outfield prospect to be traded, they actually have to be playing well. As a Friday morning, Brennen Davis was barely hitting above .100. then again, the trade deadlines not three more months and a lot can happen between now and then. Alexander Canario could return and tear the cover off a ball. But if he’s doing that, wouldn’t you want him on your Major league roster?
Looking down at AA there are even more names to think about like Owen Caissie, who is off to a blistering start at Tennessee. However, if he’s only 20 years old, I think you would want him to play in Chicago in the prime of his career for the next seven years.
As for Kevin Alcântara, he’s got a long ways to go and only 20 years old. He’s off to a slow start for South Bend, but you can definitely see the talent just oozing from his pores. It’s a little too early to sell high on him.
Needless to say, Happ’s signing does impact what’s going to happen with these prospects the next few years. The main thing to keep in mind is whoever the Cubs’ trading partner likes is going to be more important than who the Cubs want to deal. The Cubs can say no to any trade, but if a team is not interested in someone, it makes it a little hard to pedal them to get what the Cubs want. In other words, it is going to take two teams.
While, this is technically an option, I don’t see anybody making a move to another position outside of first base. Even then it would be a waste of talent, to be quite frank. Some of you want to see Owen Caissie in that role. His arm is too potent to be stuck at first.
Hurry Up and Wait.
This is probably the most logical thing that’s going to happen. There’s going to be a lot of wheels in motion this summer as to where the Cubs are going to be and if they’re going to be buyers or sellers. As I mentioned before, it’s a full three months until the trading deadline. There are (God forbid) injuries that could affect the outcome and depth as well as other guys popping up and breaking out in the system.
Arizona Phil and I
The Cub Repiorter’s Arizona Phil and I tend to think in similar patterns in that you can keep some and be patient with others. There is enough time over the next three years to use that depth to create depth at the MLB level. Next year, you can have 3-4 roster spots available at some point. There is still plenty of time and plenty options left to decide the best course of action.
Here is what Arizona Phil said in a comment the other day.
So while conceivably the Cubs could retain most of their best young outfielders (speaking of PCA, B. Davis, K. Alcantara, Caissie, Velazquez, Canario, and Nwogu) without having to trade any of them (well, one would be odd man out), with the 2027 Cubs having (let’s say) B. Davis in LF, PCA in CF, K. Alcantara in RF, Caissie & Canario platooning at DH, and Velazquez or Nwogu as the 4th outfielder.
I’m not saying that “hoarding” them all would be ideal (because it probably wouldn’t be). It would be better if the Cubs can trade one or two of them for a catcher and/or third-baseman (if the opportunity presents itself).
More than likely, if the Cubs do use their outfield depth to make deals this summer, the deal will also include a starting pitcher or two as well. The outfield depth by itself is not going to be enough to swing a deal for an impact arm or bat. It will require several pieces…which the Cubs do have.