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Shortstops: Cubs 4, A's 0

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Castro: "The Cubs are revolting! The Cubs are revolting!"
Castro: "The Cubs are revolting! The Cubs are revolting!"
Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

{NOTE: Monday's ALCS Game 3 between Kansas City and Baltimore has been postponed due to rain and will be played on Tuesday}

I guess if you draft for "best player available," you trade for prospects that way too. It's not like the Cubs targeted Addison Russell to fill a void. If Russell takes one step to his left, he's liable to bump into another of the Cubs hot young shortstops. You would think that in aiming to build a contending team in the next couple seasons, the Cubbies would be looking to move a SS ... but which one, and where?

Russell needs no introduction. If you aren't consummately familiar with him already then you clearly don't wish to be. For the purposes of this article, consider him "major league ready" probably sometime in 2015, perhaps ready to make an impact in 2016. He is considered to be a true SS who, if he had to move off of the position, would probably land at 3B.

Also well known is current SS Starlin Castro. Castro will turn just 24 at the end of spring training, but is locked up through 2019 with a club option ($16M) for 2020. And it's a club friendly deal at just $43M over the next 5 years. Castro is coming off of his best season, having put up a slash line of .292/.339/.438. His defense has been consistently in the average range (with an UZR/150 between +2.0 and -3.5) over his last three seasons.

Too much of a good thing? As Al Pacino would say, "I'm just getting warmed up!"

Javier Baez will turn 22 on December 1st. He is one of the few prospects for whom John Sickels will give an "A" grade, as he has done each of the last two years. Baez is not without red flags, as Sickels notes Baez "will chase stuff off the plate and his strikeout rate is quite high," adding "but so far this hasn't hurt him at all."

Will it hurt Baez at higher levels, as happens so frequently with prospects who have issues with plate discipline and contact rates? Obviously Sickels does not think so, ending his scouting report with "...Think about a guy who hits like (Giancarlo) Stanton while playing shortstop; that's what Baez could be." Drool.

In 2013, at age 20 Baez handled A-ball pitching to the tune of .274/.338/.535, then pummeled AA pitching in 54 games with a line of .294/.346/.638. This season, at age 21 Baez played at AAA Rochester and produced a line of .260/.323/.510 before struggling in a big league callup (52 games, .169 batting average, 9 HRs). Baez played both SS and 2B for the Cubs, and Sickels notes that his tools would work at 3B.

As if this isn't enough traffic on the infield, add Arismendy Alcantara to the mix. Alcantara will turn 23 at the end of the month, gets a solid B grade from Sickels and continues to hold his own as he moves up the ladder. In 2013, in his age 22 season Alcantara batted .271/.352/.451 at AA with 31 SBs in 37 tries. This season, at AAA he did more than hold his own: he mashed (.307/.353/.537, 21 SBs in 24 attempts). Like Baez, Alcantara scuffled in his late-season callup to the Cubs, batting just .205 in 70 games.

Sickels believes Alcantara has the tools for SS but may be a better fit at 2B. So it's not out of the question the Cubs could keep everyone they have, allow for one bust and create an infield in which Castro, Russell, Baez, and Alcantara combine to cover 3B, SS, and 2B. However, you're looking at some awfully valuable trade chips and a Cubs team that is not so robust going forward in other key areas...

The question is whom the Cubs might shop and more importantly, to whom. As it happens, the teams looking for shortstops are not necessarily the teams with the right chips to offer. The A's and Yankees are examples of teams in need of middle infield help who do not have much to offer from their farm system. The Rangers have a deep farm system but are not seeking help in the middle infield.

In any event, it's ironic to think of the A's and Cubs when the Cubs may be looking for a future frontline SP, like maybe a Jeff Samardzija type, while the A's seek help at SS to replace the shoes Russell would once fill. But here are the Cubs with literally 4 young shortstops, any of whom would be a bargain for Oakland and would fill a huge need, and here are the Cubs with too much talent in one place and ample room to improve elsewhere.

All I can say is that if and when the Cubs decide to move one of those 4 guys, someone might be getting a true jewel at a key position. And of course jewelry never comes cheap.