If Somebody Must Go…
As we all can guess, putting together a major league roster is not an easy task. What players do you need, what contracts can you afford, who can be moved to the minors in a pinch, how close are you to the luxury tax, do you have (or can you get) international signing money, how is arbitration going to end up? Inevitably, the reality of roster construction means someone has got to go. Given the Cubs’ needs right now–pitching, pitching, and more pitching–combined with the assets that they have–mostly all on the major league roster–means someone is more likely to go than not. If we had to pick someone, who would be the best to choose?
Kyle Schwarber: The man with no real position on a National League roster. Kyle’s struggles through the 2017 campaign were well documented and included a brief return to Iowa. I suspect that being stuck out in left field, where he isn’t a reliable fielder, has much to do with his offensive struggles. Getting to a team that, ideally, has a need for DH would probably be for the best, but absent that, a team needing a catcher or first baseman may also be a good fit, and given that he’s under team control for a few more years, he could net a nice return–despite his poor average, he did hit 30 home runs. You also open a spot for a more reliable batter who is also a better defender. There’s not much downside to a trade here, provided some other guys can get going.
Albert Almora: Another young player, who is already a damn good MLB center fielder, but can play in the corners too. In 2017, his bat wasn’t bad either, as he hit near .300 in 323 PA. Given that he won’t even hit arbitration for 2 more years, he has quite a bit of value for a team that is in need of an outfielder. Make no mistake, Almora can be and should be an everyday player. If the Cubs are willing to give him a full-time role, then you have to keep him. If you’re looking to bring in someone else to play center, though, it may be worth kicking the tires on the trade market. Almora would be a nice cost-controlled piece for a team either at the end of a rebuild, or looking to keep their window open.
Addison Russell/Javier Baez: When Russell went down with an injury, Javy Baez stepped in brilliantly, and made the shortstop position look easier than Russell did. Neither has a fabulous bat, but they get on base decently enough that their defensive upside is worth that downside. The combination of Russell and Baez up the middle is a great one defensively, but where both of them are offensive liabilities, it may not be worth keeping both around. Moving one would mean a steady diet of Ian Happ and/or Ben Zobrist at second, but it’s likely we see them alot anyway, just in the outfield. Given that Russell is getting into arbitration, and will see his cost begin to creep up, you probably don’t get as much, but he’s still under team control for a couple more years, which is always valuable.
Jason Heyward: Moving Heyward has a LOT of caveats–he does have a no-trade clause, after all–so your options are limited based on where he may want to go. However, since coming to Chicago, he’s been basically a glove-only player. Some teams may be willing to take a gamble that a change of scenery would be good for him, particularly if they’ve got a bad contract they can send to Chicago in return. There has been some talk of a trade involving Jeff Samardzija and Heyward, which wouldn’t necessarily be ideal–but it would at least get the Cubs an arm for the rotation, while opening an outfield spot for a better bat.
Jen-Ho Tseng: The Cubs need pitching, why include a pitcher here? Well, the simple fact is that pitchers are a gamble. Tseng did well enough in Iowa to get a look in September, and promptly got eaten in his lone start with the big-league team. I honestly don’t think Tseng is part of the Cubs’ plan for the pitching staff, except maybe as emergency depth–but they can get that in other ways. A move here probably would be a late spring-training item, if he looks good in Arizona–and probably won’t yield much of import since he’s not proven at the major league level. But, it’s better than clogging up a spot on the 40-man roster with someone who has little chance with the squad.
Any other moves that seem logical? Think I’m deluded? Let’s hear it!