Eloy Jimenez is the perfect trade bait at the perfect time, and the Chicago Cubs need to capitalize if they wish to repeat as champions.
The Chicago Cubs are currently 1.5 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central, and at this point 17th in baseball in FIP from their starting pitchers at 4.43. They need starting pitching, badly, as any worthwhile attempt at defending their 2016 World Series title will necessitate a shored up starting rotation.
Eloy Jimenez is currently the crown jewel of the Cubs’ farm system, with Ian Happ already up and contributing at the major league level. With a .278/.381/.546 batting line in high-A, any opposing GM is sure to demand Jimenez as the centerpiece of any package for starting pitching.
At this juncture, it is imperative that Cubs General Manager Jed Hoyer and President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein do not make the fatal mistake of overvaluing trade assets.
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Jimenez, at just 20 years old, has tremendous upside, earning a future grade of 60 from FanGraphs—the highest of all Cubs prospects— as well as a 70/80 grade on his power-hitting tool. Furthermore, Jimenez has mashed at every stop in his professional career, the high point being a staggering .204 ISO at age 19 in A-ball in 2016.
However, the reasons for intrigue at Jimenez’s future prospects are likewise reasons for not overvaluing him as a future contributor at the major league level. He is only 20 years old, he has only made it to high-A, and his supreme power figures are put up against pitchers barely a year or two removed from high school.
Placing any kind of “untouchable” tag on Jimenez at this point in his professional life is a gamble. The Cubs would be gambling that Jimenez’s future value would mean more to them than the present value of what could be had via trade. If the goal is to repeat as World Series champions, or to compete for multiple titles in the next handful of years, that gamble is unlikely to pay off.
As far as high-ceiling prospects go, Jimenez’s is one of the highest, doubly so with the emergence of a power-hitting demigod like Aaron Judge. However, with the stated goal of the Chicago Cubs being multiple championships in the near term, the potential for future returns off Eloy Jimenez’s barrel should be exchanged for current out-generation.