It’s great to be back. Although this was the most exciting Cubs season in recent memory, I’ve just been too swamped with other things to write for this blog. I’ve really missed it, and I’m thankful that Joe has welcomed me back.
The Winter Meetings are upon us once again from my homeland of Nashville. I don’t typically watch MLB Network, but I have to admit that it’s pretty fun to watch the channel during the Winter Meetings. There’s no rumor too small or ridiculous for them, and it makes for some interesting speculation. Of course, Twitter is really the ultimate time-waster this time of year.
The Cubs, of course, have been the subject of many rumors this offseason. Early on, we heard that David Price was headed to the Northside. Subsequently, the Cubs were pegged for a reunion with Jeff Samardzija. Recently, there have been rumors that the Cubs and Braves were discussing a Jorge Soler/Shelby Miller swap. Conversations on Monday surrounded the possibility of a Cubs/Rays trade involving Javier Baez and multiple arms from Tampa Bay.
The Cubs’ moves so far this offseason: signing 37-year-old John Lackey to a 2-year deal and bringing back Trevor Cahill on a 1-year, 4.25 million dollar deal, along with recent (trading Soler or Baez) are signals that The Plan has shifted into a new phase: WIN NOW. It’s clear that the rebuild is over: the young core is in place, key veterans have been added, and the team has their ideal manager. For the past few seasons, the tactic has been to acquire young assets though draft and trade while shedding expensive veteran contracts. The new phase really began last offseason with the acquisition of Lester and Maddon, although those were both “get them while they’re available” type moves rather than full-bore “win now” moves. After the young players proved that they will be solid (or better) major leaguers, now is the time to really go for it.
None of this is to say that the front office will abandon their overall strategy of building a team that can win over the long-haul. The Cubs current “win now” phase is much different than it was in 2008 when the Tribune Co. was trying to win in the short term to raise the value of the team in preparation for a sale. Yes, we may trade some young MLB players or prospects, but we’re not going to do something that gives us a slight increase to win this year but hurts our chances in the long run. This front office understands that the playoffs are a crapshoot, and the best way to win a championship is to buy a lottery ticket every year…not just every decade. The Cubs’ financial position also doesn’t allow unlimited spending. No, this is not the Ricketts being cheap–this is simply a symptom of not having all the revenue streams in place yet. They are working on it. Increased success on the field will bring increased revenues, of course, as will the improvements to Wrigley Field. The really big increase in payroll, however, should coincide with the new TV deal that will take effect in 2019.
So, we’ve turned the corner. Instead of waiting to see which prospects would pan out, we have a good sense of who will be on the team going forward, and a better sense of the value players could bring on the trade market. As an aside, I want to point out how amazing it is that all of Bryant, Schwarber, Russell, Soler, and Baez (yes, I’m including him) panned-out. All of them should be above-average to All-Star-level players. It’s amazingly rare that a team has a success rate like that. I was prepared for at least one or two of them to bust. It’s really a testament to the Cubs scouting and coaching.
Anyway, it appears that Bryant, Schwarber, and Russell aren’t going anywhere, which leaves Baez and Soler as the most likely trade candidates. I think Baez intrigues with his bat speed and stellar defense (and the fact that the Cubs are set at SS with Russell). I know the Cubs love Soler’s bat and upside, but I think they’re going to be looking to improve their defense (especially with Schwarber playing left), and Soler still has some work to do there.
That being said, I don’t think the Cubs will just give either player away. The Lackey move was brilliant: sure, they’d like to get another starter still, but they can now afford to wait for the best deal, since they have Lackey on board, and they could field a very solid starting rotation today without any further moves.
So, what would and Baez or Soler trade look like? The two potential scenarios most often mentioed are Soler or Baez to Atlanta for SP Shelby Miller or Baez to the Rays for one of their relievers plus a young starter. Here’s my take: Shelby Miller really intrigues me, and if the Cubs add him, I would be really excited. Would I do Soler for him straight-up? Eh, the fan in me says “no.” Soler’s upside remains ridiculously high, especially with the adjustments he made late in the season. On the other hand, I couldn’t complain if we added Miller to the rotation. Also, from what I’ve heard about a potential Baez to TB trade, I’m underwhelmed. I don’t think you trade Baez, who still has monster potential, for a 4th starter with 3rd starter potential. We already have pitchers like that, and Baez is a rare talent. I want to be really impressed with a trade. If such a trade isn’t possible, I say we stand pat now and add at the trade deadline if it seems really necessary for a playoff push.
For the rest of the offseason, my wishlist would be: sign Jason Heyward (checks so many boxes), trade for a young starting pitcher (and try to do it with prospects only, which means Soler and Baez stay), and maybe ad one more bullpen arm (although I’m a fan of our bullpen as is, so I wouldn’t complain if we stand pat there, either).
What do you think? What would be a reasonable trade involving Soler or Baez? Should we sign Heyward?
Things are happening fast and furious right now, so if news breaks that changes things tomorrow, I’ll try to update this post with the new info.
It’s great to be back!