Should Cubs consider dealing Soto to the Nats?

I'm quite sure the Nationals have talked about Geovany Soto, at least internally, as an option to replace the recently injured Wilson Ramos.  It's also very possible that they've engaged the Cubs as well.

Soto has had a couple of productive years as a catcher mingled in with a couple of decidedly mediocre seasons.  In 2012, Soto is off to a bad start and it looks like he is well on his way to another so-so season.  So naturally the inclination is to think that perhaps the Cubs should dump him and move on.

The problem to me is that the Nats are going to want to buy low here and trading Soto probably won't bring enough in return to make it worth the Cubs while.  If Welington Castillo were tearing it up or showing he's ready to be an everyday MLB catcher, that's one thing, but that hasn't been the case so far.

Similarly, if Steve Clevenger was healthy and offered a respectable fallback option, the Cubs could also make a deal without worrying about the short term consequences to their team.

You may be frustrated with Soto, and rightfully so, but even in an off-year last season, he was worth 2.2 wins over replacement level.  That speaks to the premium value of the position when even a mediocre everyday catcher has that kind of value.  What should the Cubs expect in return?  A relief pitcher?  Even Sean Marshall, who was perhaps the best reliever in baseball last season, was worth just a 1/2 win more than Soto was last season.  And the Cubs aren't going to get a RP anywhere near the value of Marshall from the Nats, not when they're a team trying to win now and unlikely willing to sacrifice current value to replace Ramos.

I'm not sure the Cubs can get anything worthwhile here.   There's always LHP John Lannan, who the Nats have been desperately trying to trade but without success.  There's also Chien-Ming Wang who is rehabbing down in AAA and has made one solid start at that level, although he has made some starts at the lower levels as well.  He's nearly ready.  Do the Cubs make a deal for more starting pitching depth?  Or perhaps convert Lannan to relief?  Lannan is currently struggling in AAA after 7 starts with a 5.31 ERA and a less than sterling strikeout to walk ratio of 4.85/3.46.  There's also 29 year old LHP Zach Duke, who's 4-1 with a 3.43 ERA.  Do the Cubs need another finesse, bottom of the rotation lefty when their system is loaded with them?  The Cubs have younger versions of Duke already in their system.

Then there's prospects, though the Nationals traded their most interesting guys in order to obtain SP Gio Gonzalez.  Who's left?

As far as prospects the Nationals might be willing to part with...not much.  I'll start with prospects outside the BA top 10...though Destin Hood is actually in the top 10 after the trade with the A's, so not optimistic they'll part with him even though he's struggling a bit.

  • Destin Hood, AA, OF (#11 prospect):  A raw, aggressive hitter with some tools, can run a little and has a nice line drive swing.  He's destined for LF in the majors.  He's hitting .243/.315/.333 with 14 walks and 27 strikeouts in 132 ABs.  He hit .276/.364/.455 with 13 HRs and 21 SBs last season in A ball.
  • Rick Hague, high A, SS (#15):  Probably fits better at 2B or 3B but a solid hitter who may have enough bat to carry one of those positions with 2B being more likely.  Hague is just coming off a dislocated shoulder, he's hitting .255/.321/.277 in high A ball in 46 ABs.  For his minor league career up until this year, he has hit .319/.388/.493 in 213 ABs, all at low A ball or below.
  • Robbie Ray, high A LHP, (#17): Ray might have been interesting if he didn't get hurt after 2 appearances and a 16.50 ERA.  When healthy, Ray is a 3 pitch pitcher (two-seamer, slider, change) who projects to have average velocity.  But again, how different is that than what the Cubs already have in multitudes?
  • Kylin Turnbull, low A LHP (#18): Turnbull is a bit more projectable at 6'5, 200 lbs, and has gotten his fastball as high as 94 mph.  He has a developing slider, which can be a plus pitch at times and is working on a change up.  He's currently 0-2 with a 5.24 ERA.  He has 6 walks and 13 Ks in 22.1 innings so far.
  • Matt Skole, low A, 3B (#21): Skole is a power hitting but not very athletic 3B.  He also has a good approach at the plate.  At 3B he has good hands and a good arm, but not much range.  He'd have to stick at 3B to be of any value to the Cubs, so he'll have to improve his quickness there.  He's off to a solid start at .284/.434/.505, with 6 HRs.  But he'll be 23 in July and will need to move up to high Class A ball soon.

Whatever the case, the Cubs would have to get some good value back because despite Soto's slow start, they'll like suffer a setback as far as handling pitchers are concerned.  The Cubs main strength this year has been their starting pitching and while it's difficult to say how much Soto has to do with that, we do know the Cubs walked 14 batters the last time Castillo was behind the plate.  It may have been an aberration, but I'm not convinced the Cubs are ready to go with Castillo as their everyday catcher with minor league filler backing him up right now.



Filed under: Rumors

Tags: Geovany Soto


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  • I don't like the idea of selling low on Soto. I think his 2008/2010 numbers are a pipe dream, but that doesn't mean he can't have good value behind the plate. As pointed out above, his WAR was still quite good even though his bat was not last year. If he can get back to hitting around .250 with some pop, he's a nice piece to our team.

    If they can get a low level player, with a huge risk/reward factor, I would be ok with a trade. But for an average RP, or SP depth, no thanks.

  • In reply to bwenger:

    I'm not either. I understand the eagerness to get on with the rebuild but trading Soto right now isn't going to help that very much.

    Right now, I don't see the Nats offering anything that will make the Cubs better in the present or that adds much to their farm system.

  • We'd almost have to get a ML ready catcher back in the trade, at least a backup. Just doesn't make sense right now. If Clevenger wasn't on the DL, I like the idea of him starting everday, but not of Castillo being the backup or in a platoon. I'd much rather have him playing everyday at AAA learning how to frame pitches MUCH better. Plus like I just wrote somewhere else (Piggly Wiggly bathroom stall) Soto is a good clubhouse guy and his teammates love him, which is important for team chemistry.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    Castillo really seemed to struggle with that in the last game and the Cubs didn't get any borderline calls.

    Soto isn't the best defensive guy, doesn't have the best arm, and maybe even doesn't call the best game...but he does have a way of keeping his pitchers loose and in the game. If he can hit at all, he's a valuable guy.

    Like you, I'm just not that eager to go with Castillo and a currently non-rostered guy as a backup. If the Nats give the Cubs an offer they can't refuse, that's one thing, but the last thing we need is a mediocre reliever to hide in the back of the pen.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I'm not a fan of Castillo, period. He's shown nothing in his short MLB stints and has never hit in the minors. He's not starting catcher stuff, despite all the hoopla. He has a strong, accurate arm, but horrible footwork behind the plate.

  • In reply to Just Win:

    I'm not convinced yet either. He's a little rougher around the edges than we were led to believe. What he can be, in my opinion, is a catcher who hits for some power and controls the running game -- but he needs to become at least an average MLB defender back there to be a starter.

  • If the players you listed, John, are all we have to choose from, my response is "Meh". Too bad the Nats can't trade their No. 1 pick in this year's draft, even if the draft is a little low on overall talent.

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    They have some nice prospects left, but most of the good ones were drafted this year and probably won't be traded. They also have Sammy Solis, whom I believe has a significant injury right now. Also have a couple of 1B...which we don't need.

    Just not a lot there. It'd be making a trade for the sake of making one, in my opinion. If Castillo and Clevenger were both healthy and playing very well, then maybe you sacrifice a little to make some room, but that's not the case right now.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    After posting, I thought that one of the SP's (Wang, Duke) might be worth a shot but ONLY IF they can be immediately spun for a good RP. But that is hard to do, and I do not have any suggestions about which team or player.

  • Soto hit about as good as Koyie Hill, so I guess he's not much worse as a backup. A least he looks like he might be able to hit where Hill was about as threatening as having a pitcher up there and you knew it wasn't going to get any better..

    So... at least do nothing until Clevinger gets back.
    Castillo is not ready but we could live with him as a backup.

    We could use a Major League quality relief picher.
    No scrub... we got those already.

  • In reply to eaton53:

    I'd take a quality reliever and a good prospect, but I don't think Soto can fetch that kind of value right now. Maybe by the time Clevenger gets back, Soto starts hitting, the Cubs move Castillo back to AAA where he can regain his stroke and work on the finer points of catching. By then they can start looking at trades in earnest.

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    In reply to eaton53:

    Soto is an established MLB starting catcher. Hill is an unsigned journeyman. There is no comparison.

    I understand the frustration that Soto isn't consistent and has never captured the promise of his rookie year, but take a look at the starting catchers in MLB. How many are better hitters than Soto, even as he is today? Very few. He was 14th in RBI's for MLB catchers last season, despite missing a chunk of the season and only playing 125 games. For the last 4 seasons, he's 6th among all MLB catchers in RBI's.

    I think people are not realizing that the production by MLB catchers (and man positions, especially SS/2b) have dropped like a rock as steroids has gotten out of the game.

    Despite Soto's inconsistency, he's still a top 10 catcher in MLB, or at the least, in the top half of all MLB catchers. That's not easy to replace, so I wouldn't be so eager to trade him, especially for practically nothing.

  • In reply to Just Win:

    I'm not trading him now but he needs to kick it up a notch before Clevinger gets back or he loses his job.

    TODAY, he's Koyie Hill without the defense. But maybe he starts hitting (fingers crossed) or we can find someone who will to take a chance on the past like the Cubs revious regime loved to do and give us something of value.

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    In reply to eaton53:

    For the 4 years from 2008-2011, Koyie Hill's WAR was -0.4.
    Soto's was +11.0, 7th best among MLB catchers (and two of the guys above him, Victor Martinez and Mike Napoli played a lot of DH and 1b).

  • I've been pretty disappointed in Castillo. He seems pretty lost behind the plate all together. I was excited to see him come up. I figured he may struggle hitting, but he's been real rough behind the plate too. Not cool...

  • In reply to JR Cubbies:

    That's the disappointing part. He has all the skills you need back there, but he just hasn't been a great defensive catcher.

    I'm okay with trading Soto, but it has to be for something worthwhile -- and I'd rather wait until Clevenger gets back. Not that Castillo can't become a good catcher, but it would give the Cubs more than one option behind the plate.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Yeah I am good with trading Soto too. I don't think there would be much of a return for him at this point though. I would wait it out and hope he starts hitting over the next month or so.

  • I totally agree with you that Clevenger needs to come back before you put Castillo back there without someone to push him. I didn't realize that they had 14 batters that last game. He's one of the least polished catchers I've seen behind the plate. I don't even recall him framing pitches. Let alone, his catching setup for pitchers while in the windup was just plain bad. There's no way Castillo's ready to take the reins yet. We can't get rid of everybody from the old regime by snapping our fingers. All of this stuff takes time. Rome wasn't built in a day.

    Any idea or word on Clevenger's status? I haven't read anything but saw he was working Dempster's fundraiser. So I'm guessing he's still with the team and not getting rehab in AZ(??).

  • In reply to Greg Shuey:

    He's not rehabbing yet as far as I know. Best case scenario probably is rehab in 2-3 of weeks and maybe we see him a week after that.

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    My last thing about Soto, his BABIP this season is .154. He's been extremely unlucky and it shows his average and production is going to bounce back up shortly. His career BABIP is .295.

  • In reply to Just Win:

    I think it'll bounce back somewhat. I'm a little worried about how pull-conscious he is now and the defensive shifts are reflecting that -- so maybe some of those balls that got through in the past, won't get through now.

    I think the Soto we've seen in 2011 and 2009 is the Soto we'll see going forward. He'll give you a little power and he'll draw some walks to make up for a low batting average, but I think the 2008 Soto is gone forever.

  • John
    I think your reasoning on moving Soto and analysis of Castillo's developement is spot on. The Cubs are still in this thing and most other teams feel the same way. It would be hard to get value for any player yet.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Thanks! My only exception is they give the Cubs an offer they can't refuse - but I don't see that coming.

    I think eventually they have to trade Soto, but not when the Cubs are thin at catching and Soto's value is at it's lowest point.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I think this last statement sums it up perfectly John!

  • John, I don't think you can consider trading Soto with Castillo looking to be a ways away from every day catching in the majors, and clevenger according to Arizona Phil supposedly in therapy only as of yet, and unseen on he practice fields. I assume the young guys Dillon Maples and Reggie Golden are in that same group that Phil refers to, as they have been unheard of for a while.
    John, you are really doing a fine job with site. I assume there is some connection with the Trib here and if I may make a suggestion, why don't you and whomever consider bringing Arizona Phil over to your site. The guy is a storehouse of knowledge on these young Cub farmhands, and unfortunately the site he is with is completely disorganized and I get the impression the guy running it is out on the west coast somewhere and hardly a north side guy like yourself. Just a thought.

  • In reply to Leo the Lip:

    Thanks! AZ Phil is great and I love the info he researches and provides for everyone. The Cub Reporter is a great blog in it's own right so he's probably quite happy there.

    Maybe we can get him in for a guest blog sometime.

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    I see no reason to trade Soto now, to early in the season. What would we do, if we traded Soto and one of our catchers gets hurt? Lalli? I don't think so.

  • In reply to Robby Rae:

    Exactly. There's nothing down in AAA or AA at this point. The Cubs have some interesting catching prospects but all are in A ball or lower.

  • The ideal trade right now for the Cubs would be to trade Dempster to the Jays for AJ Jimenez and one of these Pitchers Syndergaard, Nicolino or Aaron Sanchez. I love Jimenez behind the plate, He will hit for average and I believe he would hit for some power as he get older (he has the bat speed. And I would take any of the 3 pitchers I mentioned.

  • In reply to WickitCub:

    If we can get Syndegaard or Nicolino, I'd be bouncing off the walls. Sanchez more likely but he's a lesser prospect, imo.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Have you looked at what Sanchez have been doing this year?

  • In reply to WickitCub:

    He's been pitching well but there's more overall concerns with him. But a big year could help erase all that.

  • I think Demp has a no trade clause. Doesn't mean he won't waive it, but it does pose a problem. Headed to New Busch to root for his first win of the year...hopefully his luck changes.

  • In reply to Cubswin4harry:

    Bring us some luck!

    Agreed on the NTC. Depends on the situation, I guess. I think he'd go if it were for the good of the team.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    He said before the season he would waive his 5 and 10 as a favor to the Cubs because of everything the Organization has done for him. He said that on MLB radio

  • In reply to WickitCub:

    That sounds like him. Good guy.

  • John, Smokies are killing the ball today. Lake playing 3rd is 2 for 2, a huge blast to left, a gapper to left center and 2 walks! He's also showcased his cannon arm!

    McNut throwing well and pitched the 5th, but gave up two HRs.

    I'd trade Soto and go with Lali/clevenger

  • In reply to socalcub:

    I've been watching! Great day so far. Made a great defensive play at 3B on a slow roller. Enjoyed watching another routine grounder he fielded well behind 3B near the line. His arm is on another level. Throws it across the diamond without effort.

    He now has 3 walks, HR, double, and a SB, and 4 runs scored.

  • John
    Who calls the Cub pitches? The catcher (usually Soto) or the bench?

    We've heard that Marmol's problem is that he is overusing his slider at the expense of his fastball. You wrote that Kerry Wood was overusing his cutter at the expense of his other good stuff. (Bob Brenley said that too). Yesterday, Bob Brenley complained that the Brewers were teeing off on Shark because he was starting EVERY hitter off with a fastball.

    So, with all of these apparent problems with pitch selection, who is making the calls anyway? Or are the pitchers doing a lot of shaking off?

    As always, Go CUBS!

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    In reply to DropThePuck:

    I wish there was a LIKE button here.

  • In reply to DropThePuck:

    I think Soto calls most of his own pitches while the rookies get a lot more help from the bench.

  • I think the most significant trade that the Cubs could make right now would be for a stud closer. The current pen could relax and step down a rung and become productive. We need power, but we need late innings help more. We already have Rizzo down on the farm. Of course there is not any of closers available or cheap.

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    My take, and it may be worth nothing, is that Soto's value doesn't really change no matter where he was at. We are not talking about a small sample size here, in fact, it's a pretty large one. So even at a 2.2 WAR what can we get in return?

    1. Some salary relief
    2. A mid-level prospect or two or at the very least, one mid-level and one low-level prospect.
    3. A slot on the 40-man roster which obviously is the most enticing part of the deal.

    The Cubs have exposed a few guys to waivers and have been lucky (or not so lucky depending on your view point) to be able to retain those players.

    I say get what you can for him and move on.


  • In reply to Jive Wired:

    But why? They don't need salary relief. They don't need another middling relief arm to hide in the back of the bullpen.

    They have nobody to catch.

    What's the rush?

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    What's the deal with Clevenger?

    If he wasn't out, I'd feel a lot better about dealing Soto right now. I'm not as impressed with Castillo yet. Clevenger was playing great. I hope he comes back as strong when he returns.

  • In reply to brober34:

    Unfortunately, he's still out with torn/broken cartilidge and probably will be for another month or so. Tough time for the Cubs to lose the guy who probably has been their best catcher this year.

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    The rush is that Washington needs a catcher now and might not later. There is not a big market for Soto. If there is one now, you make the trade IMO. Washington looks like they just lost another catcher.

  • In reply to Jive Wired:

    But if they're not willing to give anything up, then why rush to trade him just because they need him? The Cubs don't owe the Nats any favors.

  • Should they go after Josh Beckett. Can they without giving up
    to much

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Only if they take on our baggage. I saw Kap make that suggestion today.

  • Well, there's our answer with that K, trade Soto!

  • Sometimes one has to give the pitcher credit. He handled Johnson as well.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    He made Johnson look lost up there.

  • All of the teams the Cubs have been dealing with want something for nothing. We are not desperate and must not give away solid, major league talent like Soto, even if we have young talent ready to replace them. Zambrano, now that he is out of Chicago and with Guillen, is pitching like his old self with an all-star like ERA under 2.00, and we received less than nothing for him since we are paying most of his salary. Marlon Byrd is hitting .299 since joining the RedSox and we received no major league future talent of significance in return. The only trade I'm happy with is the trade for Anthony Rizzo, who if he stays healthy and gets enough at bats at triple A to establish unwavering confidence, should be a major talent for years to come since he has exceptional, God given
    skills.The trade of Cashner for Rizzo will make up for all the other bad trades if things fall into place like they should.

  • In reply to shalin:

    Agreed. I'm not against trading Soto. I'm just against giving him away for another bullpen arm that Sveum is afraid to use.

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    It brings me joy that the cardinals have a manager who would load the bases with 2 intentional walks because of the daunting threat of Ian Stewart and Darwin Barney!

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    In reply to Gary Kueper:

    some wild bunt plays tonight

  • In reply to Gary Kueper:

    I was livid when I saw Castro squaring up to bent. When Mather did the same thing a few innings later, I nearly hit the ceiling.

    The fact that Frese bailed out the Cubs by throwing it away doesn't absolve Sveum who for making such an idiotic call. Was he channeling Dusty Baker for a night??

  • In reply to Taft:

    You and me both. How do you bunt with Castro? They would have walked LaHair and you would have lost your two best hitters even if it worked. Which, of course, it didn't.


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    In reply to John Arguello:

    yeah, some questionable strategy to say the least from sveum, but you got to love matheny and all his intentional walks!

  • In reply to Gary Kueper:

    That did help.

    But man, I am not a fan of bunting at all!

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    When Castro bunted, the Cards fans I was sitting next to were stunned...and laughing. I guess we got the last laugh, but without those errors, the Cubs don't win. 14 LOB not so good.

  • In reply to Cubswin4harry:

    It all worked out this time. I just hope they don't do it often this year.

  • In reply to Taft:

    edit: bunt, not bent

  • I see the Nats catcher they just called up got hurt tonight as well. I doubt if that increases Sotos value but maybe if the Nats run out of viable internal options they would overpay. Besides, didn't the Cubs win the division the last time they went with 2 rookie catchers? I say do it based on that info alone......

  • In reply to Larry H:

    As long as the Nats are desperate enough to give the Cubs good value, then I'm okay with a trade. I just don't see a reason to give him away until the Cubs catcher situation is more stabilized.

  • I don't like the idea of dealing Soto now, while his value is at its lowest and Clevenger is on the DL.

    Last year, out of the 21 MLB catchers who caught at least 700 innings, Soto was 13th in OPS and 9th in throwing out opposing basestealers. Overall, he was roughly middle of the pack--arguably a little better, when you take into account the fact that there were only 21 MLB catchers who caught at least 700 innings--so some teams didn't even have a full time catcher. And that was in a "bad" year for Soto.

    All in all, over his career, Soto is an above average MLB catcher. And though he has slumped early this season, there is no reason to think he is finished as a ballplayer at this stage.

    I doubt that either Clevenger or Castillo will be above average MLB starting catchers. I would expect Clevenger, as a starter, to hit about 270/330/390/720 and not throw out quite as good a percentage of basestealers as Soto. I would expect Castillo to throw out a few more basestealers but hit about 240/280/420/700 as a starter.

    Despite the fact that Soto is our best catcher overall, trading him is not out of the question, as long as what we get in return makes up for the difference between him and Castillo. But it's not beneficial to trade him just for the sake of trading him.

    In Soto's case, it's not like he's been playing at or below replacement level for the last year, like Barney and Soriano. (Those are the guys who need to be replaced NOW.) For Soto, it's just been a slump at the start of this season, though, admittedly, his 2011 numbers are unspectacular.

    It makes sense to wait until Clevenger is healthy and Castillo shows a bit more with the bat, and in the meantime, give Soto a chance to turn his season around a bit. He seems to be hitting a bit better lately.

    One last benefit of keeping Soto around is that, as we continue to collect more hitters who go deep into counts (guys like LaHair, Stewart, Dejesus and soon possibly Rizzo and/or Jackson), it makes it tougher on opposing pitchers to get through the lineup multiple times. Soto is one of the guys who compounds that problem for our opponents' starting pitchers, whereas Clevenger and Castillo are not.

  • I agree, trading Soto now will get the Cubs almost nothing in return. The best the Cubs can hope for is Soto getting betterand then trading him. People always need a catcher and if Soto can turn it around somewhat, so much the better.

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