Last offseason the Chicago Cubs entered the winter meetings with hopes of gaining some veteran leadership and much-needed experience during the 2015 season with an eye towards 2016. However, the Cubs became the darlings of the baseball world as they rode their young core of Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and company to their first NLCS appearance since 2003. This offseason, the Cubs will be looking to add the pieces they sorely need to add only 8 more wins to their season and waive a NEW “W” flag in Wrigley; one that stands for World Series Champions.
With the Cubs having a highly-touted young core of position players under team-control over the next 4-6 seasons, along with some added financial flexibility due to October baseball at Wrigley, Theo Epsten, Jed Hoyer, and the Cubs front office brass have stated some clear objectives they are looking to achieve this offseason. So let’s have some fun and take a look at how the Cubs and Braves may match-up as perfect trade partners in a move that would check all of those boxes laid out by the front-office and help get the Cubs back in a position to play for a National League and World Series title.
- Improved Starting Pitching
- Increased Contact Rate
- Improve Defense in OF
- Trade with Braves- Julio Teheran, Nick Markakis and cash to Cubs-Jorge Soler, Chesny Young, and Corey Black to Braves
The Atlanta Braves are in full-sell mode after unloading the best defensive shortstop in the game, Andrelton Simmons. They appear to be seeking quantity, cost-controlled returns and have a solid relationship with the Cubs front office as they have connected on a few deals over the past couple of seasons that included Tommy LaStella, Victor Caratini, and Arodys Vizcaino. Additionally, the Braves have coveted Jorge Soler for some time now- these teams just seem to match up.
In this deal the Cubs get a cost-controlled, potential frontline starter in Teheran who just 2 seasons ago posted a 3.2 WARP per fangraphs at the age of 22. Frankly, this may be the only time to get a pitcher of Teherans age, caliber, and cost-control for a package like the one listed above. When digging into Teherans subpar 2015 two stats stick out to me. His BB/9 innings rate increased by over 1.2% compared to 2014, and his HR/FB percentage increased by 5% over that same time period. Those are both fixable issues and something Chris Bosio(the wizard) excels at improving in pitchers(command of pitches, control of strikezone). For comparisons sake, Arrieta has improved his BB/9 innings of 2.75% and HR/FB percentage of 14.5 % in his last full season in Baltimore(2012) to 1.89% and 7.8% last season. I think we all can agree that turned out okay. Sometimes coaching and mechanics make all the difference, and we know that Teheran has the stuff needed to be a frontline starter. The Cubs would have him under team-control through 2020 for a total contract value of roughly 40 million, and he would only count 3.3 million against the payroll for 2016.
Nick Markakis provides a terrific OBP and contact hitter at a solid value. Markakis has a stellar strikeout rate of roughly 7% for his career to go along with an OBP of .359, all while winning 2 gold gloves in the outfield. I absolutely love this guy. He is consistent with making contact and getting on base, involves himself in the communities of the cities he plays for, and his teammates love him. On the field, he is the perfect piece to set up the Cubs power bats in the heart of the order. In the field he doesn’t have the most range in the world, but as we saw with Dexter Fowler this past season, Wrigley Field’s “friendly confines” can help outfielders range defensively and he has proven to have a consistent glove at a corner outfield spot throughout his career.
Assuming the Cubs get about 9-12 million back in the deal to drive Markakis’s annual salary down to 7-8 million,this is a solid move that would check all of the Chicago Cubs stated offseason goals. If the Cubs then make a trade involving Starlin Castro, they would be adding a potential frontline starter under team control through 2020, an outfielder who improves the defense and consistently makes contact and gets on base, and would do so without adding anything to the 2016 payroll. This would allow the Cubs to still pursue a free agent of the likes of Jason Heyward or David Price and look into extending our newly-awarded Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta to a long-term contract.
Obviously the Cubs are giving back a major piece in Jorge Soler in this deal. However, you’ve got to give to get in this league, and with carbon-copy Eloy Jimenez in the system along with newly-signed IFA Eddy Julio Martinez, the Cubs have the redundancy needed throughout the system that trading Jorge in this package doesn’t sting quite as much as it would for most organizations.
The Braves also get two pieces back in Corey Black and Chesny Young that have a high probability of being contributors at the Major League level for the Atlanta Braves while they also are unloading some future payroll. Again, the Cubs can include pieces like this because they have players such as Ian Happ, Mark Zagunis and Carl Edwards Jr that allow them to be more flexible with their prospect-currency in the right deal.
Whichever direction the Cubs go, we know it’s going to be a very exciting Winter Meetings for Chicago Cubs fans as Theo and Jed try to finish the job and bring a World Series title to Wrigley Field.
Let me know your thoughts on this deal and some trade ideas you have in the comments below.