Is it time to trade Geovany Soto?

Is it time to trade Geovany Soto?

Steve Clevenger has had just  2 starts and 9 PAs this season and he's made the most of them.  He was behind the plate when the Cubs had their  two best pitching performances of the season. Offensively, he has 6 hits in his 9 at-bats.  So now the question becomes, Should the Cubs trade Soto and entrust Clevenger as their everday guy in 2012?

Apart from Clevenger's great start, there are a few other factors in play...

  1. Geovany's maddening inconsistency.  He was a well-above average catcher in 2008 and 2010 with WARs of 3.9 and 3.4, respectively.  In his other two years, he's had a 3.7 WAR...combined.  We're talking about a fringe average starting catcher in his down years.  The Cubs simply don't know which Soto is going to show up in any given year.
  2. Soto is 29 and will be a free agent in two years.  Signing a 31 year old free agent catcher surely isn't in Theo's rebuilding plans.  Not when he's got two other young MLB ready catchers on the roster.
  3. Clevenger is not Koyie Hill.  For once the Cubs have a backup catcher they can insert into the lineup who isn't an automatic out.  For once, fans want to see their backup catcher get more playing time.  But it also may skew our perspective as to how good he really is.
  4. Welington Castillo is hitting .357 at Iowa.  He was shown patience (3 walks) and power (2 doubles and 1 HR).  He also has the best arm of the Cubs three catchers and thus the best chance to control the opponents running game.  He can also make the great play on defense, but while he's much improved, he is still a bit mistake prone.  All in all, however, Castillo looks like a big league catcher right now.

All of this has everyone thinking, "Is it time to trade Soto?"

As always, the answer depends on the market demand for catchers.  Soto is one of the Cubs better trade chips, but he won't be worth much if there isn't a team with a big need willing to part with some value.

I know this is a familiar refrain, but the Cubs cannot afford to give assets away.  Theo and Jed are in the business of accumulating assets not dumping them. Geovany Soto, Steve Clevenger, and Welington Castillo are 3 assets the Cubs have right now.  Giving Soto away decreases their number of assets by one.  It's simple math.

There's a sense that we're all in a hurry to fast-forward, play the youngsters and dump the vets.  That's okay from a fan standpoint, but there should be no such eagerness from the front office.  From their point of view there is no need to hold a fire sale just so they can play rookies.  It's not going to change results this season and it's not going to speed up player development.  There simply isn't much to gain.

While Clevenger is hot right now. We have to keep things in perspective.  We're talking about 9 PAs here. That is a tiny sample size. Clevenger projects, according to ZiPs, to a .272/.322/.369 season.  It adds up to a .303 wOBA, which is a well below average player on offense.  For comparison's sake, it's a less productive year than Tim Blackwell's 1980 season and on par with Damon Berryhill's 1988 season, both of whom were better known as defensively-oriented catchers.  Another way to look at it is that Soto has never had a wOBA as low as .303, even in his off years.

That's not to say that Steve Clevenger shouldn't get more playing time.  He can provide a solid lefty bat and good defense in spurts.  He works well with the pitchers already.  But for now it's better for the team in the short and long run to play Soto.  While it may not look that way through the first few games, Soto is still the better player right now.  Even if you're looking long term, they need to keep Soto's value as high as possible in order to get some semblance of value in return when they decide to trade him.   The best way to do that is to let him play and hope that he performs at least somewhat similar to what he did in 2010.

I do think Clevenger should get more than token opportunities throughout the season and if he surpasses his projections, continues to outplay Soto and steals playing time as the season progresses, then so be it.  While it would probably mean a decline in Soto's value, Clevenger's emergence would be a nice surprise for the Cubs.  But at least let him earn it before giving him the job after 9 plate appearances and 2 starts.

And let's not forget Welington Castillo, who projects to be the better player long term.  The Cubs said as much when they sent him to Iowa to play everday -- to prepare for his future role as a startng major league catcher.

The key word here is patience.  The Cubs should be in not be in such a rush to play future assets to the point where they sacrifice present assets.  Castillo and/or Clevenger will soon be behind the plate on a regular basis for the Cubs, but the front office has to do it in such away as to maximize the value of their assets as much as possible.

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  • It's not just the small # of at-bats. Rather, Clevenger's AB's are so much higher quality than Geo's. Geo is swinging at anything and everything, way out of the strike zone. Whereas Clevenger is swining at good pitches, taking them the opposite way, etc. I know there are contract considerations, etc., but give Clevs a chance!

  • In reply to johnbres2:

    No argument there. Clevenger has a nice approach at the plate. He'll take pitches (though Soto is even more patient), he'll go the opposite way, but in the end, he's limited to being a single and occasional doubles guy. Whether that adds up to enough runs over the course of a season remains to be seen, but usually that's not the case.

    I'm all for letting Clevenger get a couple of starts during the week and see what he does with them. If he plays this well over a sustained period of time and Soto continues to decline, then by all means give him the job, but can't give him the job based on two good games.

  • Anyone and everyone should be available, except Castro. That doesn't mean trading them just for salary relief or to clear a roster spot. If the Cubs have a young player they believe can replace an older one, make the trade for equal value in return, whether that is a player that plays a different position or a prospect or more.

  • That's pretty much my position. If somebody gives you an offer for Soto today, then you make the trade and live with the growing pains, but I'm against trading to make room at this stage of the year.

  • I agree with John A. that there's no hurry. If Clevenger and Castillo are the real deal/are good, then they will still be good in July. I'd play Soto and build whatever value you can and then trade him around the deadline. But I do think you trade him this year (at the latest over the off-season) and you find out with these kids can do.

  • It seems like the Rays are in need of a C, and Soto may be a guy they are interested in. They seem to be flush with pitching, so maybe we could line up there.

  • In reply to bwenger:

    Maybe they can give us Hak Ju Lee back ;)

    In all seriousness, they always have pitching, even their depth guys would have some value. Given their finances, I wonder if they'd prefer Clevenger. Soto is a stop gap guy for them, they won't probably won't re-sign him.

  • I think my nightmare scenario is you trade Soto for a bag of balls and the next week someone like Napoli, Posey, or McCann gets hurt.

    Nothing to gain by trading him now unless someone gives you good value -- but I don't think that's going to happen until later in the season.

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    I don't think you trade soto after a down year unless you get a good offer. I think you keep him and play him for the most part, he hopefully is due to get hot eventually and then trade him once he has a hot month or two. on a side note, looks like the Cubs are off to a great start against the Cards today! Samardiza unfortunately had lots of pitches that 1st inning, 26, partially because he got squeezed on a couple calls that inning. I was following it on cbs sportsline and there was a couple balls that were in the strike zone called as balls, particularly the 2nd pitch to freese that was touch low and inside but definitely still in the strike zone! but good to see him work out of it!

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    good 1st couple innings for shark! lots of pitches though, at this rate he'll be lucky to go 5 innings! 43 after 2.

  • In reply to Gary Kueper:

    He did hang a couple of sliders in that first inning, but he's battling today. Hoping he settles in soon. We need him to go 7 with our bullpen.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    ok, thanks for the info, just following on the gametracker so can't tell when he's hanging sliders.

  • In reply to Gary Kueper:

    Do some of those calls on game tracker look as head scratching as they do on TV.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Yeah, there was a couple in the 1st innning that were in the zone according to the game tracker that were called as balls, especially the 2nd pitch to freese that I mentioned, that was clearly a strike, not even on the edge of the zone.

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    wainwright only hitting 89 on his fastball. Is he fully recovered?

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    In reply to Gary Kueper:

    Keith Moreland said he didn't think they gave Wainright enough time to warm up in the bullpen before the game. He was in the pen for "4-6 minutes", Moreland said. I think they normally do 10-15 mins, but this game was screwed up by the rain and the Cards horrible celebration of last year, and Zonk said the Cards rushed Wainright to get on the mound.
    ----

    As for my reply the question in the thread, no, don't trade Soto.

  • In reply to Gary Kueper:

    Curve ball has no bite today either.

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    well, that's their own stupid fault then I guess. See, the old saying pride comes before a fall lives out once again.

  • Hope today's game doesn't get called before it's official.

  • I heard there's no more rain in the forecast.

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    Yea after today's think I think u make clevenger Garza and sharks personal catcher. He seems to call a much better game for them and the way he can frame pitches works well for their off speed stuff. I think both starters got thrown off their game by the rain delay so I wouldn't take sharks start as anything against him. Most times when pitchers have to sit over an hour after warming up u usually don't see good outing but he can still get the win as it stands.

  • Any sense of why Soto goes impatient? We know he is capable of staying within himself and having great at-bats, even for long stretches. Why is he pressing? Has anyone asked Sveum about this?

  • In reply to TheMightyGin:

    I don't know. Good question. He usually has a nice approach up there but that hasn't been the case lately.

  • John, the Pirates among others were trying to get Geo at the deadline last year ..Did they actually make put an offer on the table for him??

  • In reply to Luigi Ziccarelli:

    I think the Pirates are a team that will wait and see. If it looks like they're taking another step forward and contending, I think the'll consider acquiring him.

  • I like Clevinger a lot, as well as Castillo, but the team/roster is going through a big transition, and they have to be smart about how they do that. I like the idea of listening to offers on Soto, but other than the fact that Soto is the best catcher we have, there are some other considerations, as well:

    1) We have a pretty young/inexperienced pitching staff, and it's nice to have an experienced guy like Soto to work with Dolis and Lendy, plus whoever else ends up coming up later, like Parker, Belliveau, etc.

    2) As most of our hitting prospects are LH, and most of the guys on the way out are RH, we're in danger of getting overly LH in our lineup. For example, if we lose Byrd and Soriano in favor of Jackson and Rizzo (with LaHair moving to the OF), we don't have a lot of RH bats left in the lineup. Ditching Soto for Clevinger would compound the problem, as Soto is one of those guys who beats up on LHP and that could keep the opposition honest.

    All in all, I would rather keep Soto for all of 2012 and entertain offers for him next winter...unless there's an offer we just can't refuse.

  • In reply to SVAZCUB:

    Agreed. Soto does a good job handling pitchers, especially younger ones.

    Just for fun, here's the Cubs all-lefty lineup by August...

    RF DeJesus
    CF Jackson
    SS Valbuena (day off only for Castro)
    1B Rizzo
    LF LaHair
    3B Stewart
    2B Cardenas
    C Clevenger

  • you know whats funny John, is that for years we'd been hearing how the Cubs were too righthanded and that's why we lost in 2008 to LA and that Hendry was gonna address it and he never did, NEVER!!!! In one offseason, Theo/Jed have made us a balanced team offensively between Stewart, DeJesus and La Hair and Clev every couple of days, that's solid...In fact, I can't rememeber a Cubs team that had this much balance since the Dallas Green days, in like 82 with Billy Buck, Durham, Mel Hall and Bowa...I want Soto gone and next to Byrd, he'll be the next domino to fall

  • In reply to Luigi Ziccarelli:

    Hard to believe that he Cubs this year will be able to fill a whole lineup with lefties (not that they will), but it's nice they have a LH bat in the org at every position

    I think it's a matter of time with Byrd and eventually Soto as well. Right now Jackson not hitting well, so Cubs aren't as pressed to call him up.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John we've had to be patient for 104 years for a ring, a couple mor emoths for some top prospects to show shouldn't be all that bad...Did Vitters play tonight?

  • In reply to Luigi Ziccarelli:

    He did but he went 0 for 4. Hot streak over for now. Time to start a new one.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    would be nice...John, just assuming that Vitters gets it together and they call him up, would he play 3rd or LF and I figure Stewart would play second...I know i'm jumping the gun but it's fun to dream

  • In reply to Luigi Ziccarelli:

    He gives the Cubs the most value at 3rd. Not sure you want to bump Stewart back to 2nd, though. He wasn't very good there. LF is a possibility but then you really need Vitters to hit. I think they've got a year to think about it. I don't think Vitters gets called up until September, barring injury.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Agree that Stewart's not really a 2Bman--he only played a handful of games there in the minors, and the Rockies quickly ended that experiment after seeing him play there for awhile.

    I like Vitters' chances of having a big year in the PCL. He's been moving in the right direction over the last 2 years, and he really cut his strikeout rate last year. Putting the ball in play a lot in the PCL parks could translate into an impressive season for him and raise people's expectations a bit. Plus, his approach seems better this year.

    I don't see the FO trading Stewart to make space for Vitters any time soon, but if Vitters takes a big step forward, I would rather lose Stewart than Soto.

    Regardless of what the brass says, Stewart is a platoon player and has had a pretty unimpressive career up to age 26. Plus, as I mentioned previously, once we lose Soriano as an everyday player, we're going to have a shortage of RH hitters who can break up all the lefties we're going to end up with in the middle of the lineup, and Vitters may be one guy who could remedy that somewhat.

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