Looking at Tampa's possible interest in Soto

According to the Tampa Bay Times, the Rays are looking for a catcher.  The Cubs have 2, maybe 3 starting caliber catchers with Geovany Soto being the guy the Cubs would be most likely to trade.

Unfortunately, Soto is off to a slow start and doesn't have the kind of consistent track record that makes teams confident he'll rebound.   The ZiPS projection system sees him going .236, 14 HR the rest of the way, which would give him a .225/.311/.403 line for they year.

Not exactly the kind of numbers that bring in a strong return, especially given Soto's average defensive skills.  Still, catcher isn't a position, unless you're Mike Napoli, where you expect to get huge numbers.  So dismal as they may sound, those stats amount to a 2.1 WAR catcher on the season.

If you remember from our stats glossary, a 2 WAR player is starter-level, although not an especially good starter.  But it is significantly better than what Tampa has now.  With each "win" worth $4.5M on the open market, Soto's 2.1 wins above replacement are worth 9.45M, giving approximately $5M worth of surplus value -- something that would certainly entice a Tampa team who is looking to run as financially efficient a team as possible.  Soto has 2 years before he becomes a free agent, so if we assume an 89% raise next year, the average in 2012 for arbitration cases, we're looking at an $8.1M salary next year.

I don't think Tampa will want to pay him that much.  They'll either sign him to a long term deal or they'll look to trade him, but seeing that Tampa is going to look at this from a financial value standpoint, we can look at Soto as having about $6M worth of surplus value over the next 2 years.

So it's a fit for Tampa position-wise and in terms of value.  Given that the surplus isn't a whole lot, we shouldn't expect much in return, either.

The Cubs have some leverage in that Tampa has a need at catcher, so perhaps they can extract an arm.  RHP Wade Davis is a possibility.  He's signed to a team friendly deal (4 years/$12.6M with club options for the next 3 years).  The deal is not so friendly, however, if he stays in the pen.  So perhaps Tampa has some incentive to deal Davis.  The option years figures are not ones they are likely to meet, as it escalates 3 years and $25M ($7, $8, and then $10M w/a $2.5M buyout) -- it's especially costly if he doesn't become a starter.

The Cubs would get a 3 year look at Wade Davis before the club options and escalated salaries come into play.  Thus far, Davis hasn't been all that special as a starter, posting a 0.6 and 0.9 WAR in his two full seasons in the rotation.  In other words, over the past two years, he's been worth 4 less wins than Soto, who has put up WARs of 3.4 and 2.4.  If Soto merely hits his modest projection for the year at 2.1, it's still unlikely Davis can top that as a relief pitcher.  The Cubs would obviously prefer that he become a starter if they were to acquire him.  In the end, the Cubs would be rolling the dice a little as it would be more about playing the upside angle on a 26 year old pitcher moving from the AL East to the NL Central.

Another arm that might be interesting is Alex Cobb.  Cobb ranked as the Rays 16th best prospect per Baseball America in 2011.  He has a low 90s fastball, a curve, slider, and change.  He had some success last year with Tampa.  He went 3-2 in 9 starts with a 3.42 ERA (3.61 FIP).  He has a 2.00 ERA in 3 starts and 18 innings at AAA, so he's off to a decent start.  He consistently gets good results in the minors and in his brief time in the majors, but the trouble is that Cobb's stuff isn't all that great and his command is average.    Long term he may project more as a reliever in the big leagues.

The Cubs could go for a higher upside play in Alex Torres.  He's a LHP with better stuff than Cobb.  He has a low 90s fastball as well but it has good movement and he has a very good change.  He has struck out 9.4 batters per 9 innings in his career.  He ranked as the Rays 6th best prospect after the 2011 season.  The problem is some serious command issues which have led to about 5 walks per 9 innings in his minor league career.  This year he is off to a horrendous start with a 10.47 walk rate, although he has struck out over 12 per 9 innings.  He's also not a physically imposing pitcher.  He's just 5'10".  Both factors may spell a career as a reliever, though Baseball America pegs his ceiling as a #3 starter.

While Soto was once a valuable player at a premium position, his value has dropped signficantly.  For references sake, the Rockies traded their catcher, Chris Iannetta for RHP Tyler Chatwood, a former Angels top 10 prospect.  But there are some important differences.  Iannetta was coming off a better year and is making less money.  Even still, Chatwood projects as probably a bottom of the rotation starter or reliever.  He's a  (3.4 WAR) reliever right now with 4 appearances and a 5.63 ERA.

The Cubs are in a tough situation where they are trying to rebuild but don't have players with a lot of value.  Other than Garza, Soto and possibly Carlos Marmol may offer the best chance of getting a decent return.  But both players may need some time to show they still have good value before the Cubs decide to trade them.


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  • Another excellent article, John!

  • Thanks Ray!

  • I would be interested in any of those named pitchers for Soto. We have ready made replacements in Castillo and Clevenger, and I would like to see what they can do.

    If we call up Castillo soon, how will his service time be affected?

  • In reply to bwenger:

    I don't think the Cubs have any service time issues with Castillo. They'll bring him up when he's ready and there's a spot for him.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Great, I didn't know if he had a chance to be a super 2 or not. Given the flub with Castro, and how much that will cost us, I'd like to see the Cubs avoid that in the future. Rizzo and Jackson are clear examples, but if Castillo develops nicely, he could be around for a while as well. Especially given the inflated price that catchers around baseball are/will be getting.

  • Great article John...I visit this site 3x a day and it is fantastic...hope you and tom enjoy the game this evening and bring us home a "W"!

  • In reply to copinblue:

    Thanks copinblue!

    Tom and I will try to bring one home. I'm 1-0 on the year and 1-0 when I've gone with Tom, so the stats look good ;)

  • Hey John,

    Great article, as always. If Soto is traded, might the Cubs bring up Lalli instead of Castillo, to allow Castillo to get some regular at bats and solve any service time issues at the same time?

  • In reply to AZBOB:

    Thanks. I like Lalli. Definitely the kind of guy you root for, but I don't think he'll get that chance. The Cubs really didn't want to send Castillo down to begin with and he's also already on the 40 man roster.

    The Cubs would have to create room for Lalli and it just isn't worth doing that for a backup catcher when you already have a guy who is basically MLB ready.

    Lalli's shot may come once Castillo and Clevenger are up and one of them has to go to the DL. I believe he'd be first in line for that.

  • Great article, John. I'm all for trading Soto to Tampa. I'd take Davis in a heartbeat. Moving from the AL East to the NL Central should provide pretty immediate dividends.

    On another note, as a Cubs fan in St. Louis, this blog has changed how I follow the team. I've gone from opening the Tribune or Cubs.com on my computer first thing in the morning, to coming here for my news and analysis. I love it! You and Tom keep up the good work.

  • In reply to stork:

    Thanks for all the kind words Stork! That's great to hear.

    Must be tough down there is St. Louis! I went to Bradley down in Peoria and it's pretty much split 50-50 down there with Cubs/Cards.

  • Speaking strickly as a die hard, I just get dead tired of waiting and watching for some Cubs to become consistant. I have always liked the way Soto tries to grind out at bats and expected him to be a long time Cub. What happened to him?

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I hear you 44slug, I feel the same way.

    I don't know what happened with Soto at the plate. Sometimes I wonder if he went from being a grinder to just being too passive -- he's also become a very pull-oriented hitter. I'm wondering now if he's just looking to grind out ABs or strictly looking for pitches he can pull.

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    I think Torres would be a great addition though there is risk that he does not have the command to make it. I think Davis could be a good starter and wouldn't mind that move, though who would lose their rotation spot?

  • In reply to Denvil Farley:

    Good question on Davis. They could keep him in the bullpen until they make a trade or someone gets hurt. It'd be a tough call.

    Torres is intriguing but definitely a big risk. Could see him easily end up a reliever.

  • Excellent article John, as always. I would either take Wade Davis or Alex Torres. Davis because he can start right away and could be decent, but I'm leaning more for Torres, just for possibillity of him being a good reliever.

  • In reply to Steve Flores:

    Thanks Steve!

    It's a tough call. With Tampa they prefer to trade veterans before they get out of their price range. I think they thought they'd taken care of that with Davis by signing him to an early extension, but the prospect of him being a reliever doesn't make that contract look all that great anymore.

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    It would be nice to see Soto go on a tear.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    That would be ideal for the Cubs.

  • Which players are you sure, or hope, will be gone by the Aug. trading deadline

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    I'm pretty sure Johnson and Baker will be gone. Good chance too that Soto, Dempster, Maholm might not be around either. Garza's a wild card, as always.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    It's fun to speculate on who will be gone. I would put my money on DeWitt and Soriano instead of Johnson and Baker. I don't see Johnson going anywhere unless he's hitting like he did last year and makes himself attractive--I don't think we'll release him. But if Soriano continues to hit the way he has since last May (sub-700 OPS over that span), I don't see us keeping him past the all-star break, with Rizzo looking ready. And if we lose Soriano, it's less likely we'll lose Johnson, of course.

    I also don't see them giving up on Maholm so quickly. I think they'll keep him around as a 5th starter or at least long relief/swing guy for at least a year before they dump him--the new regime has invested in him and I don't see him being the kind of guy who would be that attractive at the deadline anyway, but you never know. It would make more sense to deal Dempster, assuming he's healthy--we'd just have to pay part of the remainder of his salary.

    I think we'll keep Garza around. We've got money to spend and he's a good investment.

    BTW, I agree with all the other readers that this is a great article. You guys called it on the Byrd deal, and although I think it's a little less likely we deal Soto right now, I won't be surprised if you have called it with Soto. This is the place for the best analysis and the other readers have great comments as well.

  • Any chance the current regime would want Chris Archer back? He's having a rough start to the year and his stock seems to have already faded in Tampa. Given the lack of upper level pitching prospects in the Cubs system, I've got to think he would merit some consideration.

  • In reply to Ratmoss:

    It's possible, I suppose. I think Archer's a reliever at this point. The Cubs are certainly looking for good bullpen arms. Archer came into the season as a top 100 prospect, so I'm not sure that Tampa will give up on him quite yet, tough.

  • We've gotten a bit unlucky in that the three of the four peeps we most wanted to deal (Soriano, Byrd, and Soto) have gotten off to horrible starts. Marmol's looked better lately though, so maybe we might get something there.

    And great, great article. I hope you treat all the potential Cubs moves just like this one. Combining surplus $ with WAR really gives a feel for how teams are thinking.

  • Great Article. But the Player I would want from the Rays is Enny Romero. He is a LHP that is a Strikeout machine and I see him as a future True #1.

  • In reply to WickitCub:

    im sure we would all love to have romero, but its a little unrealistic to ask for a guy with a #1 or #2 ceiling when we'd only be giving up a guy who isnt considered a top 5 catcher.

  • In reply to WickitCub:

    He's got a higher ceiling than the guys I mentioned, also a bigger risk...but I don't think Tampa gives him up.

  • i think we could get more than davis out of them for soto. im not saying it would be much more than davis, im thinking maybe a high upside guy in loA thrown in there, but taking davis off their hands would be doing them a favor.

    giving up soto would fill their biggest position of need.
    the rays cant afford to overpay anyone, ESPECIALLY relievers, so taking wade davis off their hands would be doing them a huge favor. id expect theo and co. to try to extract another guy out of the rays to complete this deal.

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    Maybe so. It would make some sense considering Soto has been the more productive player and is at a premium position.

  • John, considering you were out ahead of the Byrd-for-Bowden deal, I'm inclined to take this proposition very seriously as well! I think you've made an excellent match here.

    Were the Rays really banking on Jose Molina to be their starter, or was there an injury that elevated him? So far, he is hitting .226 with no homers and one RBI. He showed decent power as a backup in Toronto (6 HRs in 167 ABs in 2010, 3 HRs in 170 ABs in 2011), but I'm guessing that the Rays are realizing Molina is a backup, not a starter. And considering he's 37 in five weeks, the arrow's pointing down in terms of his future production.

    From the Rays' standpoint, you have to hope that some of what ails Soto is his lack of job security in Chicago, and that maybe it takes a while for the AL pitchers to learn how to pitch him. The Rays' are getting good production from the other Cub they brought over -- Carlos Pena's hitting over .300 with 3 HRs and 12 RBIs. That can't hurt.

    In terms of the names you mentioned, I think the Cubs should target Wade Davis and Alex Torres. Cobb sounds like AAA filler to me. With Davis and Torres, at least there's a slight chance they make worthwhile contributions in Chicago.

  • In reply to Taft:

    They really did think Molina could provide enough defense to offset his offense. Miscalculation on their part.

    I'm not too high on Cobb either. Not enough upside for me.

  • I have a thought?? What if they trade for Davis and use him and another from our stellar stable to trade for another pice we are lacking? What are the chance that the FO is possibly looking to move multiple pieces once assembled?

  • In reply to John:

    It's possible but three way deals are hard to pull off. I think the chances are very good they're looking to deal multiple pieces, though I don't know if they'll make mult-player deals.

  • I would hold out for a better deal when inuries happen , give Clevenger a few starts but You hae to play Soto enough to try to get him producing. He can still Yield better than Wade Davis . Get a couple A ball players with promise or wait for the ineventible inury bugs to hit around the league. Soto isnt the long term guy here but He still has 20 HR 80 RBI potential in a good lineup .

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    I do think Soto can be better. Hit the ball well yesterday. There's no rush. I'd do the same thing. Give Clevenger some spot starts but let Soto keep playing.

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    Long time reader, but brand new to posting. Just wanted to say thanks to John for a consistently excellect product. I love this blog.

  • In reply to BigMO:

    Thanks BigMO! Was at the game today, so sorry about getting back late.

  • It's slow torture waiting for Marmol and Soto to recapture their trade value. Unfortunately, Jim Hendry was in charge when both of them peaked and could have been converted into a young star quality rookie. Now they're in the discard pile and we're hoping a good team is desperate enough to draw. Last season Soto lead the league in errors for a catcher, and Marmol was overused, lost his slider and proceeded to gobble ice cream sundaes all winter.
    So far Soto and Marmol look unworthy of one of the worst teams in baseball. Trading them now gets us someone else from the discard pile. It's swapping deck chairs on the Titanic. Of course the alternative is standing pat and watching fatty throw listless sliders two feet out of the strike zone, with Soto chuggging to the backstop as the winning run crosses the plate.

  • In reply to baseballet:

    I do think we lost the opportunity to trade those guys at peak value. Worse yet, Hendry extended Marmol, a closer on a losing team.

  • A few quick news items to tide us over till game time:

    * Rodrigo Lopez cleared waivers and accepted his assignment to Iowa.
    * Jackson struck out twice today, but at least he walked twice and stole a base. You gotta love this guy's knack for making an impact even after his bat cools off.
    * Gerardo Concepcion is headed to Peoria and will start tomorrow night's game. http://www.pjstar.com/news/x787567862/Cubs-pitching-prospect-Concepcion-joins-Chiefs

  • In reply to Taft:

    Thanks Taft...that's a good sneak preview for my minor league recap!

  • Boy I love Bryan LaHair.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    Its all in the first name :)

  • In reply to Eddie:

    Agreed! Doesn't look like a 4A player to me right now. He's legit.

  • John, are you sure this guy can't play LF?? I'd love to see him and Rizzo in the lineup together...

  • In reply to Luigi Ziccarelli:

    He can play it. He just won't have a lot of range or a good arm. He catches what he gets to, but you have to go to a game to appreciate just how slow he is. Looked like he was running in quicksand.

    The question would be can the bat make up for the runs he doesn't save on defense. I wouldn't be averse to finding out if the Cubs unload Soriano.

  • John, went to the game last night. The few bright spots I see are the Shark, pitched a great game and was pulled too early, Campana is so much fun to watch, and LaHair. I don't want to compare him to Grace just yet, but he's similar in his approach.

    I would like to see them stick LaHair in LF once Soriano is traded and Rizzo is brought up. This lineup needs a lot of punch. Too many games where you're hoping the starter can go the distance because 1 or 2 runs seems all they can muster.

  • In reply to Munce:

    He was just at 90 pitches, but remember that Samardzija is converting from a reliever. I think the big first start where he wound up throwing a lot of pitches may have cost him a bit in his next two starts.

    I think the Cubs will be scratching out runs no matter who they put out there.

  • Not quite as pretty a swing as Gracie but similar , more power tho. I really hope LaHair sticks and can play LF . Never be a gold glover out there but if we have speed in CF and RF they can help protect him some too.

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