All of baseball waited to see how trades would come together for Jeff Samardzija and David Price. Then the Chicago Cubs pulled off a Samardzija trade to the Oakland Athletics, acquiring top shortstop prospect Addison Russell in the process, while the Tampa Bay Rays are still contemplating what to do with Price. Seeing the Cubs get Russell, though, adds a new wrinkle to any potential Price trade: the possibility of the Rays flipping a pitching prospect to the Cubs in exchange for one of their several impressive infield prospects.
Addison Russell joined about the only organization where he would not undoubtedly be the shortstop of the future. Starlin Castro was just named an All-Star, and Javier Baez at Triple-A has the potential to be even better. Russell and Baez could move to other positions, but then Chicago will have worry about where Kris Bryant and Arismendy Alcantara will fit in. The Cubs have a stockpile of hitting prospects, and while that is a great problem to have, exchanging one of them for a pitching prospect could make sense. The Cubs’ young position players have looked much better than their pitchers at this point, and a trade could balance that one. Russell, Baez, and Bryant should be untouchable, but Alcantara could be a player the Cubs would deal, and the Rays would surely be interested.
Alcantara, 22, is having a great year at Triple-A Iowa for the Cubs, hitting to a .310/.352/.541 line with 24 doubles, 11 triples, 10 homers, 41 RBI, and 21 stolen bases. He is not without his concerns–his increased patience from last season has not kept up and he is also putting up those numbers in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League–but he remains a talented prospect with the ability to fit in at multiple positions. Alcantara is a plus defender second base who can also handle shortstop and centerfield among other positions, and you know that the Rays love that type of versatility. At the plate, meanwhile, Alcantara features good bat speed, solid power, and the ability to turn singles into doubles and doubles into triples with his excellent speed. Speaking of that speed, Alcantara uses it to swipe plenty of bases and also reads pitchers well, allowing him to steal at a very high percentage. Arismendy Alcantara would give the Rays two things they do not have much of right now: an advanced middle infield prospect and a legitimate stolen base threat. However, what would they possibly give up for a player of his caliber?
Right now, there is not a single pitching prospect that the Tampa Bay Rays have that would entice the Chicago Cubs to give up Arismendy Alcantara. If the Rays suggested one of their major league pitchers, the Cubs would talk, but the Rays are unlikely to make such an offer. With that in mind, the pitcher the Rays would trade to the Cubs would be the one they acquire in a David Price trade. If the Rays acquire a hitter as the centerpiece of the deal, they would have less interest in Alcantara, but if they received a pitcher, they would be tempted to deal him for a sorely needed hitter. The middle infield spots are especially a concern right now with Ben Zobrist set to leave after 2015. If the Rays could acquire Alcantara, he would be their second baseman of the future, and he could fit into their 2015 plans as a super-utility player. The Rays aren’t loaded up with pitching prospects at this point–they would be taking a risk by trading whichever prospect they receive–but acquiring Alcantara would be worth the trouble. The trade would not necessarily be a straight swap, but with one team or the other putting a prospect or two on the table, a deal could work. Maybe we could see a David Price trade then a separate Arismendy Alcantara deal, or Price could be dealt in a three-team trade including the Chicago Cubs, but expect the Rays to go after Alcantara if the Price trade does come together with a pitcher as the headliner.