The Cubs roster currently sits at 38 players though they have yet to make a significant free agent signing. With needs in centerfield and a general industry consensus that the Cubs would like to add not one, but two potential impact starters this offseason, the math doesn’t add up for all of those needs to be addressed via free agency.
Robert Killen examined a trade that would potentially address centerfield for the Cubs in a swap of higher-priced veterans with the Yankees. While I have been a staunch advocate for using our payroll to add Jason Heyward, you simply cannot count on getting the best free agent outfielder on the market regardless of how desirable the location or team may be for free agents. With the winter meetings rapidly approaching, let’s take a look at 3 names that continue to pop up when discussing a trade with the Cubs for impact, cost-controlled pitching.
Let’s start with Carrasco and Salazar since both are currently on the roster of the Cleveland Indians. The Indians highly-covet Jorge Soler and is a nice fit for their need in the corner outfield positions. Soler still has 2 seasons left on his major league contract he signed with the Cubs in 2012 before he can opt-in for arbitration. Making him a low-cost piece that has proven the ability to both hit for power and have the patience take walks at the major league level on the biggest stage. That type or approach bodes well for Solers future.
Carrasco was dominant last year on many levels. He struck out more than 10 batters per 9 innings, walked just over 2 per 9, and had a FIP and xFIP of 2.84 and 2.86, respectively. All of that was good for a 4.8 WARP. Make no mistake, getting Carrasco into the mix gives the Cubs as dominant a 1-3 punch as any team in the bigs. What makes him most attractive is he is signed the next 3 seasons for less than 20 million total and has team options the following 2 seasons that never get above 10 million per year. He is of the most value with the cost of free agent pitching. An elite-type pitcher signed through his prime at a total cost of less than 40 million.
That means the price will be high.
Another pitcher in the Indians rotation of interest is Danny Salazar. Of the two, Salazar is cheaper, younger, and may have greater potential. He is not arbitration eligible until 2017 which gives the Cubs control through 2019, at which point they will have more annual payroll flexibility with a new TV contract and Cubs station.
Salazar can get expensive quick, however. If he performs as he did last season over his first 2 theoretical seasons as a Cub, then you have a fairy significant arbitration number being owed for years 2 and 3 of arbitration. Of course, the fact that year 3 of arbitration will also be year one of that tv deal helps offset any payroll concern if Salazar performs at an elite level.(a problem the Cubs would hope to have)
Salazar pitched 185 innings last season while striking out 9.5 per 9 innings, only walking 2.58 every 9, with a FIP and xFIP of 3.62 and 3.48, respectively.
He is certainly cheaper the first 2 seasons between him and Carrasco, which could bode well to land Carrasco depending on what the Indians goals are in terms of payroll the next couple of seasons. Either one of the pitchers would step right into the 3rd spot in the rotation to give the Cubs an elite 1-3.
The fact that one pitches within the same rotation as the other is why either is available to begin with, but it will cost.
Soler would be a starting point and with Eddy Julio Martinez, Billy McKinney, and Soler carbon-copy Eloy Jimenez within the organization, the Cubs can afford to send Soler back in the deal. The question is what would the secondary piece(s) be? Likely, it would start with names such as McKinney or Jeimer Candelario as the primary second piece as well including lesser known prospects such as Chesny Young.
If the Cubs could swing a deal for either the rotation would be set for the considerable future.
Shelby Miller of the Atlanta Braves is another potential trade target. MLB.com actually listed a trade proposal yesterday that included Shelby Miller moving to the north side of Chicago. They had Wilson Contreras and Billy McKinney going to Atlanta in the deal and, while Contreras is the perfect hedge bet at the catcher position in case breakout prospect Kyle Schwarber has to move to the outfield, I’ve got to think if that was the package that would bring back Miller the Cubs would make the move.
Miller’s peripherals were not as good as those of Salazar or Carrasco. Miller pitched to the tune of 7.5 k/9 innings and over 3 BB/9 innings, good for a 3.45FIP and 4.07 xFIP. The Braves are also interested in Soler and are aiming 2017 to be their year to be competitive as they move to their new ballpark. If Soler is involved in the deal then I’d rather us get a guy like Julio Teheran back from the Braves as his peripherals indicate greater success.
MLB.com wasn’t too far off, however. If he Cubs were to make a move for Miller the Braves would want a couple of near ready prospects such as McKinney and Contreras. Instead I would hope a package around McKinney and Candelario that includes a pitching prospect that could fit into the back of rotation, such as Pierce Johnson, may be enough to get Miller.
The Cubs and Braves have a solid trading history so a move between the clubs this offseason, considering their areas of depth and need, wouldn’t be surprising at all. Miller would easily step into the 3rd spot in the rotation and, by potentially not having to include Soler, the Cubs still may be able to swing a deal for one of the Indians stud pitchers. That would give the Cubs arguably the best overall rotation in all of baseball.
At 25, Miller will be going through arbitration this offseason which means the Cubs would have him under control through 2018.
There are more options available. Tyson Ross of the Padres makes sense in the right dea. James Paxton of the Mariners may be a fit as well. One thing is for sure, if the Cubs maneuver their depth appropriately they may be able to have potentially the top rotation in baseball while still maintaining the payroll flexibility to sign a Jason Heyward-type or bring back salary in a trade for a guy like Carlos Gonzalez.
Time will tell. Can it just be December 7th already??