Why the Astros' farm system is in the dumper

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There was a story about the state of the Astros’ farm system in Saturday’s Houston Chronicle, painting a bleak yet accurate picture of what happens when you spend a decade signing free agents, skimping on international signings, drafting poorly and failing to come appreciate when it’s time to add talent and when it’s time to rebuild. Today Buster Olney adds another factor:

Here’s the bottom line: The teams that have adhered closely to the
slotting bonus guidelines set forth by the Commissioner’s Office have
seen the quality of their prospects dwindle, and the teams that have
painted outside the slotting system lines — the Tigers, the Red Sox —
have thrived. The Astros have been one of the teams that followed the
slotting guidelines.

This is not terribly shocking, of course. When you have a system in which some clubs agree to arbitrarily limit the things they’ll do to make their team better and others do not, those in the former camp are bound to suffer.  What’s so surprising to me is that so many teams value loyalty to Bud Selig and ownership politics more than they do, you know, winning.

Cubs won’t make Kyle Schwarber available in trade talks

Kyle Schwarber
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Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Cubs won’t deal Kyle Schwarber this winter, despite multiple inquires from teams around the league. Schwarber is approaching his first year of arbitration and will remain under team control for another three seasons before reaching free agency in 2022.

The decision comes on the heels of one of the strongest seasons of the 25-year-old outfielder’s short career. Over 137 games and 510 PA for the Cubs, he proved a passable defender in left field and batted .238/.356/.467 with 26 home runs, an .823 OPS, and 3.2 fWAR in 2018. He also led the National League in intentional walks, with 20, and bumped up his total walks from 59 in 2017 to 78.

Despite his marked improvements from previous years, Schwarber’s performance still left something to be desired — specifically against left-handed pitchers, who held the slugger to a paltry .224/.352/.303 with four extra-base hits across 91 PA. Still, it’s evident the Cubs feel Schwarber is capable of strengthening his splits in the years to come, and they might stand to get more value from him on the field than they would in a trade this offseason.

Of course, that’s not to say the Cubs intend to pass the Winter Meetings in total silence, especially as they’ll be seeking bullpen and catching depth in advance of their 2019 run at the division title. As club president Theo Epstein remarked last week, “We’re certainly open and active in trade talks with a lot of deals that usually don’t come to fruition. So, we may make some trades. We could make big ones that transform the roster. We may make smaller complementary ones. But there’s certain things we’d like to accomplish.”