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December 2015

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COMMENTS

Why Not Making a Move is the Right Move

Written by , Posted in General

The upside of two trade targets, Jorge Soler and Javier Baez, is not worth the Cubs exploring that option right now. Keeping Soler and Baez helps the Cubs for 2016 and the rotation is better and deeper than people realize. There could be a move at the deadline for one of these pitchers, but right now is not the right time for the Cubs.

Lets flashback to December 11th for a moment. That is the day rumors came out that Jason Heyward was going to sign with the Cubs. The happiness and jubilation filled every Cubs fan’s heart. Just dreaming about the lineup, with Ben Zobrist signed earlier in that week, was something that made every Cubs fan want the calendar to flip to February for Spring Training. However, there was one rumor that came out that same day about a different Cubs player, Jorge Soler. Soler, along with Javier Baez, has been rumored to be a possible center piece of a trade to acquire a young, cost controlled starting pitcher. While there are arguments that say trading for one of these pitchers can help not only the 2016 team, but the team for the next three to four years, there are a few reasons why the Cubs should stand pat with their team right now, but the upside of these young players isn’t worth trading them.

Acquiring a young starting pitcher would help the Cubs anchor a rotation that could change in a big way in two or three years. However, there isn’t a realistic deal for the Cubs to make to trade for one of these pitchers without including a part of their young core, namely Jorge Soler and Javier Baez. Let’s start with Soler. The 23-year-old outfielder is signed through 2020, after signing a 9 year/$30 million deal in the summer of 2012. Soler has struggled to stay on the field in his time in professional ball, while dealing with a number of injuries. In 2015, Soler missed time with an ankle sprain and an oblique injury. The outfielder only accumulated 404 plate appearances in 101 games over the season, but the postseason is where Soler thrived. In his first playoff appearance, Soler reached base safely in his first nine plate appearances and in all seven postseason games that he played in, while finishing with a .474/.600/1.105 slash line, three doubles, and three home runs. While Soler was only worth 0.1 fWAR and the defense is shaky at times, Soler slides perfectly into the right field spot for the 2016 Cubs, with new outfielder Jason Heyward in centerfield. If the Cubs were to part with Soler, that moves Heyward to right field, and an outside option, most likely, to play centerfield.

Another young Cubs position player who flourished in his postseason debut was Javier Baez. The 23-year-old started in place of the injured Addison Russell in Game 4 of the NLDS and Baez responded with a booming, opposite-field 3-run home run in the second inning, which gave the Cubs the lead. Baez has come under some criticism for his 2014 rookie year performance, where he hit .169 with a 53 wRC+, a 41.5% K rate, and was worth -0.8 fWAR in 434 plate appearances. In 2015, Baez missed time on bereavement, dealing with the death of his sister, and a broken finger, as the young infielder only had 80 plate appearances in the majors, which were all in September. However, in his time in the majors, Baez did improve. Baez ended with a .289 average, a 98 wRC+, a decreased K rate of 30%, and a final fWAR of 0.5 in 28 games. The upside with Baez is that he can play three positions in the infield, all above average, and is now working in Winter Ball playing some centerfield. The Cubs signed Zobrist in the offseason, and they may have a different version of Zobrist in Baez.

While the Cubs current rotation is a reason for concern with most people, it actually looks better than last year’s. The 2015 Cubs rotation actually ended with the highest starting pitcher fWAR in baseball at 19.2. Pointing at the lack of starting pitching in the playoffs is a viable argument. Then enter John Lackey, who is coming off a career year in St. Louis last year with a 2.77 ERA, a 3.57 FIP, and 3.6 fWAR to lead the Cardinals rotation. Lackey fits into the three spot in the Cubs rotation, behind NL Cy Young award winner Jake Arrieta and last offseason’s free agent prize Jon Lester. While the backend of the rotation was a revolving door, especially the 5 spot, the depth has been answered. Kyle Hendricks likely has the 4th slot locked down, coming off a sophomore year where he compiled a 3.95 ERA, a 3.36 FIP, a 3.25 xFIP, and 3.4 fWAR. For the last spot in the rotation, there are a number of interesting options that including Jason Hammel, who was a star in the first half of 2015, and a number of swingmen like newly-acquired Adam Warren, Travis Wood, Trevor Cahill, and Clayton Richard, who all will be stretched out in the spring to battle for the last rotation spot. With these pitchers that can move from the rotation to the pen and back to the rotation gives the Cubs flexibility if there were an injury were to happen in the rotation, a spot the Cubs were not suited for last year.

While trading for a Carlos Carrasco or a Tyson Ross would certainly help the Cubs rotation and make it possibly the best rotation in baseball, the Cubs are in a great position right now. They don’t have to make a move. The 2015 Cubs won 97 games and added three key free agents and rotation depth. While Soler and Baez both have flaws and could not end up as projected, there is a ton of upside for both players. Soler should be the starting right fielder on Opening Day, and Baez could possibly play four different positions and provide much needed power off the bench. As for the rotation, the newly acquired depth is a key attribute and can help the Cubs in the long run of the season. There are many reason to make a move, but right now, the Cubs should sit back and get ready for the season with the team they have now.

  • Paul P Covelli

    Cubs lost last year because of thin starting pitching & not enough offense.
    The hitting has been addressed . The pitching could have if the Cubs got
    Kasmir today instead of the Dodgers . And they would still have all their
    Trade chips .

    • Sean Powell

      I’ll take Lackey over Kasmir for 2016. Don’t sleep on Adam Warren, either, who could be a great swingman/fill-in starter.

  • Paul P Covelli

    Look, Hendricks is nothing but a soft tossing pile of you no what .
    Kazmir and a healthy back issue Hammel in the 4/5 starting slots
    And the Cubs could have been munched improved for 2016

    • Jedi

      You don’t like Hendricks but you DO like Hammel?

      • Paul P Covelli

        Yes if his back is healthy and the Cubs get 12 wins each from him & lackey it takes a lot of pressure off Arrieta & Lester .

  • Paul P Covelli

    And yes warren will be in the mix but pitching over a center fielder is
    More important . Resigning denorfia to go with coghlan as your vereran
    Outfielders off the bench will be fine . Get another impact pitcher if u
    Wanna win this year . Last year is your perfect example .

    • Sean Powell

      Did you forget about the Lackey signing? The Cubs have the highest projected WAR for a starting rotation in all of MLB, and Kyle Hendricks was great last year–27th in WAR among all pitchers in MLB.

      • Paul P Covelli

        No lackey is a great number 3 . Hendricks barely gets threw the 5th inning.
        That’s why you have Richard , wood , Cahill & now warren so madden
        Can play his pitching chess game with career 3 inning pitchers and why
        Another starter is warranted . Bosio is a great coach but turning career
        1 to 2 time guys threw the order into long term starters is a crap shoot .
        And let’s not forget the shark failure . A man with not one above 500
        Hundred season in the majors making millions as a giant now .

      • Jedi

        Hendricks pitched into the 6th in 21 of his 32 starts. Hammel did so in 18 of his 31 starts. Not really sure why you see these two guys as such radically different pitchers.

      • Paul P Covelli

        Like hammel if back is good . He pitches with a bulldog mentality when he wants . Cubs where highly overmatched against mets after jake & Lester starts in playoffs . Wanna win it all you need another starter if possible to get without giving up the farm . If Cubs do trade Baez alacantra gets another shot . But I don’t get the possible interest in the Yankee closer.

      • Sean Powell

        “Wanna win it all you need another starter if possible to get without giving up the farm.”

        THAT’S WHY THEY SIGNED LACKEY!!

      • Paul P Covelli

        Three starters is not enough . All though
        Lackey as a cub last year may have put the Cubs up against the royals . You can’t bank on 22 from hake again & possible injuries . I think 16-17. Out of jake and we all be happy . The key is Lester & the others .

      • Jedi

        Hendricks pitches with a bulldog mentality when he wants to as well. I really can’t understand how you can separate these two guys…they’re the same pitcher where outcomes are concerned.

        As for what is needed in the postseason – the Royals silenced the Mets with a rotation NOT as good as the Cubs. Then we added Lackey. This team is fine – it doesn’t NEED another starter. It needs relatively good health, and an October hot streak (like basically every other quality team).

      • Paul P Covelli

        If you think Hendricks pitches with a bulldog mentality & the Cubs are fine with him & Hammel as your 4/5 starters the next couple of years then I have some property for sale in Florida for you. As bulit now, if the Cubs don’t address the starting staff in 2 years they will fall back for a few seasons as the Roy’s did in the recent past before gelling as a team.

      • Jedi

        When did this turn in to a question of whether the Cubs are fine for the foreseeable future? Lackey only has another year or two (hopefully) of being a solid pitcher before he slides back to the rotation filler that Hammel & Hendricks currently are…I’m quite confident the Cubs will continue to address their pitching needs in the future. Do they NEED another pitcher for 2016? No.

      • Paul P Covelli

        In the next
        two season the Cubs must decide on the full starting eight & begin to trade away players for other prospects,pitchers draft choices . They have done wwell amassing offense . Now it’s time to turn to pitching . That starting 8 will hopefully play 8-10 years together with even better pitching
        Then what they have now.

      • Sean Powell

        *through

      • CBPtOSU

        Ah another one of those subscribers to W-L as a good way to evaluate a pitcher. Maybe it works to win your fantasy league, but not in real life.

      • Paul P Covelli

        My evaluation is the Cubs overpaid for Lester got a career year from Arrieta and have two guys in lackey & Hammel who are basically 10-12 game winners. And Hendricks hardly gets threw a line up twice . And thank god they did not resign the shark . A career under 500 pitcher who shouda stuck to football . If you wanna win a World Series
        You can never have enough pitching & banking on 22 wins from Arrieta again is
        The wrong approach . I’ll bet you now one of the Cubs sp lands on the disabled list
        In 2016 . Last year they got lucky in that regard . We can talk subscriptions then .

      • CBPtOSU

        W-L record is 100% useless in my book. I prefer using WHIP and ERA to evaluate pitchers.

      • Paul P Covelli

        Of course it’s useless . That’s why 97 wins ment nothing last year .
        Cubs could win 84,88 or 98 this year but if you don’t have the pitching
        To get you threw a 7 game series or late into those post season games
        The your back to square one . ( curricula ) 2015 playoffs versus N.Y.
        Mets .

      • CBPtOSU

        For evaluating a pitcher, W-L record is useless.

  • One could argue that not making a move isn’t really a move.

    • Seymour Butts

      Inertia applies to both movement and the lack thereof…food to blow your mind.

      • Solid argument.. Guess we should have inked Bartolo to up the momentum.

      • Sherm

        Right – since food is now involved.

      • Seymour Butts

        FYI
        An ellipsis has 3 dots.

      • CBPtOSU

        Smokehouse would have been great for eating innings in 2013 and 2014 instead of paying Edwin Jackson 52M to do such.

      • Jedi

        I would’ve preferred we sign Adam Dunn for that purpose.

      • CBPtOSU

        Lame

      • cap’n realist

        sodium and nitrite laced meats that can be served either hot OR cold. And no tipping=mind blowing.

      • CBPtOSU

        An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion unless acted on by an outside force.

    • Doug S.

      I think you’ve argued that before, yet here it is again.

  • Sean Powell

    Did you forget about the Lackey signing? The Cubs have the highest projected WAR for a starting rotation in all of MLB, and Kyle Hendricks was great last year–27th in WAR among all pitchers in MLB.

  • I hope Hammel doesn’t hurt us again. I think Travis should get one more chance on the 5 spot…..

  • Sherm

    I have been hard on Hendricks – probably more than anyone here, but he showed flashes of quality and a great pitching temperament. I’m willing to give him a shot to win that 4th or 5th spot. All he needs to do is be successful to win me over. He’s a guy who has to use finesse to win games – and many before him have done it with the same kind of, or even lesser, stuff.

    Hammel – had a terrific first half, which seems to be his pattern.

    I’d agree on Kazmir…a few years ago. Not now. Might as well have signed Rich Hill if you wanted that kind of guy…and he knows his way around Wrigley.

    My mantra has been “Keep the core” all along, and I would hate to see a Shelby Miller deal scenario where we give up a ton of young talent to get a controllable young arm. It’s fun having young talent. It takes years to accumulate young talent, and one stupid trade to get rid of it. Unless the tables are turned and the offer is so good the Cubs can’t refuse it…that’s different, but you don’t see many of those these days.

    Maybe not making a move really isn’t a “move” but not making a move is certainly a DECISION…and it’s one I’m okay with at this point.

    And, one other thing – this team is going to outhit a lot of teams this season. We don’t need to have five guys who with sub 2.00 era’s. We simply need guys who can keep us in most every game. When was the last time you saw a #5 pitcher in anything but relief in a playoff game, anyway?

    • CBPtOSU

      You want a good #5 to make it to October, but after that, there’s no need for it.

      • Sherm

        Rarely see a GREAT #5 – so now we are down to the definition of “good.” Either Hammel or Hendricks probably fit the bill as a good #5 starter, and it’s entirely possibly to add someone else during the year, or even have a young upstart who surprises people. I wouldn’t spend too much (talent, that is) in an effort to add starters at this point, unless, as I’ve said, we are BLOWN AWAY by some offer that is tilted heavily in our favor.

      • CBPtOSU

        The main purpose of a #5 is to eat innings IMO

      • Sherm

        Again with the Bartolo Colon jokes?

        I’d say that the main purpose of ANY starting pitcher is to win baseball games. Of course, any pitcher who can go deeper into those games is a benefit to the bullpen and the team.

  • Doc Raker

    I agree, keep our young talent. What the Cubs have done in acquiring so many top tier rookies and bringing them up together within a short period of time is unprecedented in the big leagues. Schwarbs, Russell, Bryant, Soler and Baez all coming up within a season or 2 of each other is something I want to see play out on the field. Throw Rizzo into the mix and you have 6 young very talented ballplayers all growing and developing together. I wish Starlin was still here but I get why the move was made.

    The only guy I would even consider trading is Baez since he hasn’t proven to make consistent contact but imagine if he does start making consistent contact, all that power and defensive flexibility on one roster. This is must see baseball.

    • Brad Lyerla

      I can find nothing wrong with the moves made so far this off season. I do expect to see the Cubs make a move for pitching before the deadline next summer. Could be in the pen or rotation depending on performances the first half. I don’t think a move makes the best sense now. And, like most fans, I do not want to see the core broken up.

  • Sherm

    BREAKING NEWS: The Yankees just signed Ray Rice.

    • CBPtOSU

      What?

    • Doc Raker

      More food jokes.

    • Seymour Butts

      Going to platoon with Billy Bean.

  • Adam Peters

    I can see the logic in standing pat at this point. Soler’s performance in the playoffs gives me serious pause when thinking of trading him. Schwarber needs to play somewhere, and apparently it’s not going to be at catcher, so he’s in left. The thing that makes me nervous is Heyward isn’t really a centerfielder. He has proven he’s the best in RF defensively, but that doesn’t make him a Gold Glove centerfielder, and with Schwarbs in LF and Georgie in RF we kinda need a Gold Glove CF.

    If the Cubs stay with the current lineup, it’ll probably work well enough, but my guess is come July, the idea of trading Soler for either pitching or a CF or as part of a package for both and putting Heyward in RF, is going to look pretty good.

    Of course, they could trade Soler now for pitching and sign Denard Span to play CF and lead off. But, like i said, I really have a hard time trading Georgie after the playoffs he had. Of course, now might be the perfect time to trade him. Arrg!