Scouting the Swap: The Cubs Get Busy

The home stretch has arrived for the 2012 trade deadline. As if the Chicago Cubs weren’t busy enough trying to move Ryan Dempster, Alfonso Soriano and possibly Matt Garza, they managed to flip Geovany Soto, Reed Johnson and Paul Maholm Monday night. In addition, the Mariners sent Brandon League to the Dodgers and Steve Delabar to the Blue Jays, who in turn sent Travis Snider to the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was a busy night around baseball and now it’s time to dive into the scouting reports of the prospects involved!

First, the Cubs shipped catcher Geovany Soto to the Texas Rangers for right-hander Jacob Brigham. Brigham has some limited upside and could fill in at the back of the rotation for the Cubs. He has run his fastball up to 95 mph since getting back to full strength after Tommy John surgery, and he typically sits in the 90-92 range. He lack command and can battle his control at times, something he will have to improve to be anything more than an up-and-down back end starter. His slider is a solid-average pitch that can miss the occasional bat and his change-up is well-below average.

In the Cubs other deal of the night they sent left-hander Paul Maholm and outfielder Reed Johnson to the Atlanta Braves for right-handers Jaye Chapman and Arodys Vizcaino.

Vizcaino is the big name here and he epitomizes a high-risk play by the Cubs. Ranked as the number two prospect in the Braves system entering the season, Vizcaino shows elite stuff when healthy. He has battled a litany of injuries including elbow problems that have caused him to miss all of the 2012 season. When right, his fastball can reach 98 mph and sit in the 95-96 range in short bursts. Scouts that like him in relief point to his hammer breaking ball as a second swing-and-miss pitch that could make him a lights-out high leverage reliever. I wrote up Vizcaino’s full scouting report back in December.

Chapman is a fair second piece, but nothing special. He has an average fastball that he locates well and a breaking ball that earns 40-45 grades from scouts. His change-up is a true 60 pitch that can be a swing-and-miss pitch at times but without anything else noteworthy to keep hitters at bay, he struggles to be as effective with the pitch as he could be. Chapman has a mid-relief ceiling and may not even stick in that role.

The Mariners also managed to make two moves Monday night, flipping right-handed relievers Brandon League and Steve Delabar in separate deals. I will focus on the trade of League to the Dodgers as neither Eric Thames or Steve Delabar are considered prospects.

In exchange for moving their closer the Mariners received outfielder Leon Landry and right-hander Logan Bawcom. Landry offers more upside than Bawcom but neither projects as an impact big leaguer. A former third round pick, Landry has his fair share of tools, including plus running ability, good defense and enough contact ability that he should hit for some average. His power comes up short and even the gap power he has is sapped by a hacktastic approach that leads to far too much weak contact. It’s easy to see Landry profiling as a nice bench player and fourth outfielder.

Bawcom could be ready to contribute next year, though not in a high-leverage role. With a fastball that sits in the low-90s and can scrape 95 when he reaches back for more, Bawcom has the fastball and fastball command to get hitters out in the middle innings. His slider shows flashes of being a plus pitch and could give him second offering to rely on. It’s not flashy but Bawcom could be a solid bullpen piece that pitches anywhere from the middle innings to the seventh inning.

Though neither player in the deal are prospects, the move by the Pirates to acquire Travis Snider is a move I must applaud. Snider still has boat loads of offensive talent and is still extremely young. This is an astute move that could help them right now while also paying dividends down the road.

I will continue to keep up on the trades throughout the day and possibly into tomorrow, depending on how busy the deadline actually is. In the midst of all the trades, I am also going to try to maintain schedule with scouting reports that were planned for this week, including a report on Jared Mitchell later today.

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