The Chicago Cubs got a huge boost down in the minors on the fourth of July, by acquiring top prospect shortstop Addison Russell of the Oakland Athletics in the Jeff Samardzija/Jason Hammell trade.

Russell started his first game in the Cubs organization for the Tennessee Smokies today. With the acquisition of Russell, the Cubs have the top minors in the major leagues. Jason Parks was asked if the Cubs have the best hitters in the minor league as a whole in a long time and Parks said “Hell Yeah!”  The Cubs also acquired the Athletics second best prospect, outfielder Billy McKinney, pitcher Dan Straily and a player to be named later. Nice Cafardo said the Cubs would receive a “significant” player to be named later, likely a pitcher.

Now the Cubs have added to their already loaded minors, a look ahead to what could be many great years ahead of the Cubs. We will see Cubs prospects sprinkle up through the end of this season, through all of the 2015 season. With the 2016 season, being a season the Cubs will contend for the world series. The Cubs would have to make a trade or two, plus high priced free agent signings.

The Cubs are set up well for that to happen as they have more depth in the minors to trade and more revenue coming in to sign high priced free agents. A look and what the lineup will be as a whole for the 2016 season and what moves could be made now until the 2015 season:

2016 line-up:

1) CF Arismendy Alcantara: Alcantara is the best second baseman in the minors and is killing the ball for Triple-A Iowa. Alcantara will be the Cubs first major call-up and that is likely after the trade deadline sometime. The speculation is when Darwin Barney is traded. Barney is gaining interest, manly for his defense and the Toronto Blue Jays are one team that has scouted Barney. Alcantara will come up to play 2nd base this year, with CF as well. By 2016, he will be the Cubs full-time CF. Alcantara is getting a lot of games in CF for the Iowa Cubs this season.

2) 2B Addison Russell: Russell has dealt with hamstring injuries this season and just returned to action. He’s only 20-years old, but could be ready by late next season. Depending on how Russell plays in Double-A, he could find his self in Triple-A by seasons end. People think we will not see him next season since he is only in double-A, but many people in the Athletics organization thought he would replace Jed Lowrie next season. As Lowrie is a free agent after this season. With that said, I think he will be up next season sometime.

3) Free agent outfielder, Carlos Gonzalez or Giancarlo Stanton? The Cubs have the prospects to make a trade for one of the two outfielders. Gonzalez will obvious be cheaper, especially since he has not been healthy lately. But he will still be costly. I am not sure Stanton is available, but I do think he can be pride away with the right offer. Stanton won’t say it, but he isn’t too happy with the Marlins. There have been reports out there stating that exact statement.

4) LF Kris Bryant: Bryant is easily the best player in the whole minors this season, tearing up the leagues. People are begging for Bryant to get the call, but there is no rush for him to get the call. Right now he is playing third base for Triple-A, but will be moved to the outfield eventually. When we see Bryant start playing the outfield, then we know the time is near.

5) 1B Anthony Rizzo: I thought about putting Baez 5th and Rizzo 6th, but I thought lefty/righty/lefty/righty would be for the best. As it will throw off the manager relief pitching options. Rizzo is having a bounce back year and an all-star campaign. He is hitting for power and the average is around .280, plus he is not striking out much. He is part of the core and will help the heavy hitting lineup, plus his defense is very good.

6) 3B Javier Baez: Baez started off this year slow, but has picked it up nicely. Ever since Bryant was inserted in the lineup. Baez does strikeout a little too high and does not take a lot of walks, but that should grow with age and experience. Baez’s slow start may have delayed his call-up from now and possibly the whole season, but with his hot play as of late, we could possibly see him as a September call-up.

7) SS Starlin Castro: Castro is the Cubs cleanup hitter now and would bat 7th in the 2016 lineup. That speaks volume as to how great the Cubs lineup would be. Just like Rizzo, Castro is having a great season from the season he had a year ago. He’s hitting for average and showing more power than he has in the past. He’s another candidate for the all-star.

8) C Welington Castillo: Castillo is a good hitter, but he would be at the bottom of the order. He does take more walks now and with hitting in front of the pitcher, he wouldn’t not get too many hit able pitches and the walk rate would rise. Castillo could easily get into scoring position then with the pitcher’s sacrifice bunt, depending on how many outs there are of course.

I know all would have to go right for this lineup to happen, but it is definitely not out of the question. The Cubs have the player that do change heads and are soon-to-be-major-league-ready-players. In reality, it is fun to think about and how close the Cubs really are after a few bad seasons.

The Cubs would need to make a trade for a outfielder. There are not much free agent outfielders you look at and be like “we need him!” Carlos Gonzalez is being shopped and is only 28-years old. He does have a hefty contract, but one the Cubs can and will need to take on. The centerpiece for Gonzalez will start with Albert Almora, plus other players. One being Christian Villanueva and more minor pieces. A trade revolving around Almora will get the Rockies interest and a trade can be worked upon. Giancarlo is a monster and a bat like that in the lineup would be scary with everyone else around him. He would be more hard to trade for, but the Cubs have the pieces.

Start the trade with Almora, Villanueva, Dan Vogelbach, newly acquired McKinney and a pitcher, I think the Marlins would consider or try to work out a trade. Pitchers that could be included are Eloy Jimenez, Paul Blackburn and Corey Black. I could definitely see a trade working out, plus the Cubs would not hurt by losing any of those players.

The Cubs minor leagues are filled with hitters, but very light on pitchers. CJ Edwards has been injured this season and far away, along with Pierce Johnson. The Cubs could make a trade for a pitcher, but it will not be David Price. The Cubs could make a trade for him, but the Seattle Mariners seem like a better fit. I don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up and would be on a lower caliber than Price. I’m not sure who, though. The Cubs would have more revenue coming in after the season as renovations will start. Chairman Tom Ricketts will have to open his wallet. Two names that come to mind out Justin Masterson of the Cleveland Indians and Jon Lester of the Boston Red Sox.

Both pitchers will demand a lot of money on the open market, but the Cubs have to pay them. Both Lester and Masteron have the Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer connection. They were both drafted by the Cubs people in charge and seems like a good fit. When the Cubs played in Boston last week, Lester had only good things to say about the Cubs and that they are close to contending. By saying that, Lester would be open to signing with the Cubs and the Red Sox/Lester can’t find common ground to an extension. I could easily see the Cubs signing one of those two guy, but both seems like the best move.

If the Cubs were to sign Lester and Masterson, there starting rotation wouldn’t look too bad:
1) Lester
2) Masterson
3) Jake Arrieta
4) Travis Wood
5) Edwin Jackson

The Cubs bullpen is younger and less inexperience, but have good live arms:
Closer: Arodys Vizcaino
Set-up: Hector Rondon
Set-up: Neial Ramirez
Left-handed relief pitcher: Zac Rosscup (taking James Russell Spot)
Left-handed relief pitcher: Trade or free agent signing
Right-handed relief pitcher: Armando Rivera
Right-handed long relief: Dan Straily

The bullpen is young, but if they throw strikes, that is a deadly bullpen. All can fire the ball in and have strikeout stuff.

I know you may thing this is a pipe dream, but in reality, it is not. The Cubs have the prospects and will have the money to make these moves. If the Cubs front office works hard and want these moves to happen, the moves can and will happen.

Just looking ahead is making me happy and knowing the Cubs are close to contending. The drought will be over soon! I promise!

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