It’s time to have some fun ahead of the Winter Meetings. We already examined some trade options already here at Cubs Chat for readers, so now let’s give you an opportunity. Whichever reader comes up with the best proposal based on the lists provided will get a fun little reward at the end.(along with bragging rights)

For those of you who don’t already know, Jordan Zimmermann is no longer available and thus, has helped set the market for free agent pitching contracts for the 2016 offseason. After signing an uncommon 5 year contract worth 110 million dollars, Zimmerman has locked up an AAV of 22 million per season while the Tigers are able to lock up Zimmermans prime seasons without having to pay him for his likely downturn post-35 years old.

On paper it seems like a win/win. In reality it further represents exactly why Theo Epstein has said countless times that free agent pitching is of the riskiest investments.

Jordan Zimmermann has been a solid, mid-rotation pitcher throughout his career, and in 2014 he even performed like a top-of-rotation pitcher while posting 5.3 WARP. There in which lies the problem. If a guy has one above average year before 30,  or even an average year, teams try to jump the market to hedge against inflation in free agent pitching contracts, and thus create the inflation. Now we have a “power” pitcher coming off of a 3 WARP season in which his velocity decreased and is projected to be worth only 2.8 WARP next season getting 22 million a year for 5 seasons. And guess what. It’s not an overpay. Most will say the Tigers actually got a deal by sacrificing a little more per season for a less lengthy commitment.

This is why cost-controlled pitching is so important. When you have multiple pitchers with 9-figure contracts either in their 30s or going into their 30s you are one elbow ligament or 2 mph less on a fastball away from having the ballclubs present and future in limbo. The only reason the Tigers had to go this route in the first place is because they had invested too much in Justin Verlander and Anibel Sanchez and didn’t have the means to extend Max Scherzer or David Price.  Verlander lost some velocity and boom, 2 seasons later they’re hoping Zimmerman is closer to his 2014 version than what his entire career indicates. Because they can’t afford to pay Price. They are praying Sanchez and Verlander can rebound. This cycle will continue.

What Theo Epstein and the Cubs front office have done since taking over is acquire assets. Namely, corner outfield and middle-infield assets. With the Cubs core of Rizzo, Russell, Bryant and Schwarber all at Wrigley and providing substantial value both in terms of on-the-field and also on the balance sheet the goal now should be to open a window in which the lineup and rotation will stay relatively intact with its core pieces over the next 3-5 year period. That will bridge the Cubs to their cable TV deal as well as help them develop their high upside pitching prospects that are currently in the lower minor leagues and be cost-controlled while the current core “kids” are beginning to get expensive.

To bridge that gap seemingly would mean the impact pitcher this offseason needs to be cost-controlled through 2018 at a minimum.

No player is OFF the table in the right deal, but considering where the Cubs have acquired depth let’s list some players that could realistically be dealt:

  • Jorge Soler
  • Javier Baez
  • Starlin Castro
  • Kyle Hendricks
  • Dan Vogelbach
  • Eloy Jimenez
  • Billy McKinney
  • Gleyber Torres
  • Ian Happ
  • Duane Underwood
  • Albert Almora
  • Arismendy Alcantara
  • Jeimer Candelario
  • Wilson Contreras
  • Dylan Cease

I stop at 15 but we could easily add to it. The point here is to look at this list as a list of assets that can be used to exchange for another asset. Think of it as a retirement portfolio. When you are younger, or as the Cubs were rebuilding, you’re willing to hold on to your riskier investments or even accumulate more because of the potential return you may get back. As you near retirement, or in the Cubs case are ready to consistently compete, you become less inclined to hold riskier stocks even though the return may be greater and exchange them for blue chips, or proven stock, because you can rely on those to be consistent.

The first thing to notice is the range of players on the list. The Cubs have depth ranging from current MLB rostered players under team control, to near-MLB ready players, to former prospects that would still garner interest, all the way down to the lower-level, higher-ceiling players.

Now the goal is to find one or two “assets” that would improve the Cubs rotation. The list below represents some potential options of MLB pitchers the Cubs may look into making a trade to acquire:

  • Carlos Carrasco
  • Sonny Gray
  • Jose Fernandez
  • Danny Salazar
  • Julio Teheran
  • Shelby Miller
  • Jonathan Gray
  • Jose Quintana
  • Chris Sale
  • Taijuan Walker

Again. There are more that could be listed here, but we have a decent list of pitchers that range from high probability to be available to moderate-low probability.  Now the game is mix and match.

Now that we have a list of 15 players that could be moved and 10 potential targets, Lets play Match-Maker. I’ll go first.

I love Carlos Carassco of the Indians. I think his peripherals match up with someone who will be dominant in the coming years and a move to the NL should only further demonstrate that dominance. With that- here is my “match”.

  • Indians Receive: Dylan Cease, Jorge Soler, Dan Vogelbach and Jeimer Candelario; Cubs Receive: Carlos Carrasco and Lonnie Chissenhall 

It may seem like a steep price to Cubs fans but before completely dismissing that package let’s really take a look at what the Cubs are getting.

Carrasco is cost-controlled through 2020(his prime seasons) at roughly 40 million dollars in total cost. He was good for 4.8 WARP last season and is projected to do the same next season according to fangraphs. At less than 1/3rd of the price of Zimmerman, Carrasco is worth 2 additional WARP and is controlled through the same season. Wow.

Many fans cringe at the idea of trading Soler  and with good reason. He, too, is cost-controlled and screams all-star breakout candidate. The good news for Cubs fans is that we have Eloy Jimenez, Billy McKinney and Eddie Julio Martinez in our system. We can afford to lose Soler if we are receiving the type of value Carrasco looks to be. Getting Chisenhall to play in the outfield makes the loss that much easier to swallow.

The Indians also get Dylan Cease who has high-upside that could eventually be a #2 or high-end # 3 pitcher in the bigs. However, where the Cubs are today, if moving him helps BRINGS IN a high-end number 2 pitcher to the BIG LEAGUE club, then you make that move.

Jeimer Candelario is a stud in my opinion, but he is a 3rd baseman on a team that has the future face of the entire MLB already at 3rd base. Dan Vogelbach can hit at the major league level next year but the only chance he has at playing in the NL is at first base, and the Cubs have Rizzo penciled in there through 2021.

I know, I know. Cubs fans over the last 4 years have grown attached to the prospect pool, me included. However, the reason to have that deep talent pool is to be able to:

1. Offset potential risky contract extensions or free agents by having a MLB-ready prospect prepared to take that position over or

2. Have prospect-currency to make moves necessary to improve the Major League Club. 

A move like the one listed above actually achieves both of these objectives. It also does not interfere with the next “waves” of talent that Theo has indicated he hopes to achieve in terms of prospects coming up through the system to the big league club. The Cubs still hold on to Duane Underwood, Carson Sands, Ian Happ, Gleyber Torres, Eloy Jimemez, Justin Steele, Wilson Contreras, and many others that will be involved in the “waves” to come.

The signing of Jordan Zimermann further goes to show why not having to be reliant on the free agent market to acquire pitching is so important in today’s game. The Cubs have the means to acquire cost-controlled pitching that is currently at the major league level and without completely tearing down their minor-league system. Theo and Jed have done an amazing job to put the team and system in this position. Time to cash in.

Okay. So here are the rules. Using the lists provided propose a trade in the comments below. You CAN add a player not listed that would COME BACK to the Cubs in a trade, but you CANNOT add anyone outside of the list provided that would be LEAVING the Cubs organization in the trade.

Whichever reader gets the most “likes” for their proposed trade on their comment will receive a $20 Starbucks Giftcard emailed to them. Voting will conclude at Midnight on December 1st. Play ball.