This week marks Thanksgiving Turkeys, Thursday-afternoon football, black-friday sales, and family-fun. It also marks the end of November, which for baseball fans all over the world, means we are inching ever-so-close to the Winter Meetings. While last years meetings kept us on the edge of our seats and refreshing our twitter feed every 30 seconds awaiting the decision of Jon Lester, this year appears to be even more active for Theo Epstein and the Cubs front-office brass. With that, I figured I’d put my list for Santa Claus on hold and put a wishlist together for “Theo-Clause” that, if delivered, will have me celebrating with way too much eggnog a little early this holiday season. To the list:
Trade 1: Jorge Soler, Jeimer Candelario, and Chesny Young for cash, Nick Markakis and Julio Teheran
I won’t go into much detail on this one since you can read it here. However, I like this move for multiple reasons. Nick Markakis adds a contact bat that our lineup sorely needs, improves the OF defense, and has terrific on-base skills. He will immediately balance the Chicago Cubs fearsome power lineup with a bat that strikes out less than 10% of the time and can be placed anywhere from the 1 or 2 spot in the order, down to the 5 or 6.
Julio Teheran is only being rumored to be available because 1. He had a down year last season and 2. The Braves have embraced their rebuild ahead of their new stadium. I firmly believe Teheran is a potential ace the Cubs would have under control through 2020 at a more-than-reasonable rate. Teheran is the perfect candidate for a bounce-back and a pitcher of his age and caliber, frankly, does not become available via trade often.
Trade 2: Starlin Castro, Kyle Hendricks for Tyson Ross
The most polarizing Chicago Cub, Starlin Castro, showed his team-first mentality along with the on-field play that made him a rising star just a few short seasons ago after moving to second base mid-season. That said, the Cubs have multiple needs to address this offseason and now is the time to move Starlin Castro considering the depth the Chicago Cubs possess throughout the organization in the middle-infield. Castro should perform exceptionally well with his ability to hit line-drives to the gap with the dimensions of PETCO park, and after last seasons spending splurge, the Padres are sorely needing middle-infield help at a reasonable rate. It’s a perfect match.
Kyle Hendricks may seems like adding too much in this deal as a Cubs fan, but in doing so the Cubs can get the Padres to take on the rest of Castro’s entire contract which will come in handy later in my list. Additionally, the Cubs would then have a rotation that incldues Arrieta, Lester, Teheran, and Ross as your top 4 through 2017.(assuming deal one takes place) That is a 4-man rotation that can go toe-to-toe with any team in the playoffs over the next few seasons as the Cubs aim for a World Series title with their core of controlled offensive talent.
If there is a knock against Ross it would be his BB/9 innings. Last season he posted a rate of 3.86 percent BB every 9 innings pitched. Fortunately for the Cubs, they have Merlin the Wizard (Chris Bosio) as their pitching coach. Bosio excels at mechanics and command issues and Tyson Ross has the kind of stuff (9.73K/9 innings) that teams long for in a potential front-line rotation arm. Hendricks and Castro were key in the Cubs run this past season and fans will no doubt miss them on the Cubs team, but this is a move that provides the Cubs a clear window over the next 2 seasons with essentially the same pitching rotation and position players.
Free Agent Move: Sign Jason Heyward
Jason Heyward, based on fan reaction, may be the most underrated 27.7 WARP I have ever seen in my entire life. I want to underscore that. Jason Heyward, per fangraphs, at the age of 26 has already been worth 27.7 WARP for his career. That’s outrageous. To put into context, Jose Bautista posted roughly 32 WARP over the same time period during his PRIME seasons. Heyward posted almost 28 WARP before even entering his age 27 season. Players like this do not hit free agency often, if ever.
Additionally, he checks all of the Cubs offseason boxes. Heyward immediately improves our defense, stole 59 bases over the last 3 seasons, has terrific on-base skills(career .357), and could easily be a consistent 20-20 guy at the leadoff spot for the next 5-7 years. Perhaps even a 30-30 considering he hasn’t yet reached his prime. For those who bring up the fact that Heyward has limited experience in centerfield, I counter with the fact that he played a more-than-serviceable centerfield in Busch Stadium, a stadium which centerfield is significantly more challenging to play. If Dexter Fowler was able to be a serviceable centerfielder at Wrigley Field, Jason Heyward will have zero issues doing the same.
So, to cap off, if the Cubs were to fulfill my “Theo-Clause” wishlist, they would then have a rotation of:
Arrieta, Lester, Teheran, Ross, and Hammel
and a starting lineup of:
Heyward, Russell, Rizzo, Bryant, Schwarber, Markakis, Baez, Pitcher, Montero/Ross
Outside of the catcher position and Tyson Ross(controllable through 2017), the rotation and lineup would be set for the next 3 seasons and have the Chicago Cubs in a position to compete for a World Series with virtually the same players leading up to their major cable TV deal in 2019. By being able to move Castro and by receiving some cash in the deal with Atlanta, the Cubs would still have room for arbitration increases and moves to add depth to the bullpen. Now that’s a winter meetings that will have me kicked back in a La-Z-Boy with my eggnog anxiously awaiting opening day.
Let us know your thoughts on MY wishlist and what YOUR wishlist for Theo would be in the comments below.