Could Cubs match up with the Rays this winter?

The Rays are looking for young hitters.  The Cubs are looking for pitchers.  Each team has what the other  wants in surplus.

Could there be a match there?

Marc Tompkins writes the Rays may  be interested in Cubs young hitters Jorge Soler (who isn’t?), Javier Baez, and Starlin Castro.

As for the Rays, Chris Archer isn’t going to be traded, not on that friendly contract and his production.  So let’s get that out of the way off the bat.

Jake Odorizzi probably isn’t going anywhere either, but it is not as outlandish as Archer.  Still, I think the Illinois native is unlikely.  At any rate, I think he may  be a bit overvalued anyway.  He is essentially a good #4 starter, maybe a #3 on some staffs but as far as 2015 WAR/FIP goes, he’d rank as the Cubs 5th best starter.  I don’t think he’d be worth what they may have to give up to get him.

I’m not sure the Cubs would engage in a major trade here so much as they may deal surplus for surplus with some risk exchanged on both sides.  The Cubs could add depth to the rotation, bullpen, and maybe even the OF rather than give up core players.

Even if we leave the Rays current top 2 pitchers out, there are some creative post-hype/post-injury options if the Cubs are up for taking a gamble on upside.  If the Cubs are willing to wait until late in 2016, Alex Cobb might be a pitcher they can pry loose.  Cobb is 28 years old and coming off of Tommy John surgery this past May.  Given a typical 14 month recovery, that means he may be ready by August, effectively giving the Cubs a deadline deal acquisition down the stretch and then another top 3 level starter for 2017 if he stays healthy.  It would be a creative way of stashing depth on the DL and in the minors (for rehab) until it is needed later, then provide an upgrade for the next season.

One name I’ve heard in the recent past is Matt Moore, who came back from his own TJ surgery to make 12 starts last year with mixed results.  Moore posted a 4.82 FIP with 6.57 Ks vs. 3.29 BBs per 9 IP.  On the bright  side, he did regain the velocity he had in the year prior to the surgery and perhaps can even get back into the mid 90s again after another offseason of rest, recovery, and rehab.

Additionally, the Rays are said to have been shopping Brad Boxberger, which fits with the somewhat surprising news that the Cubs were looking to add a closer despite Hector Rondon’s excellent 2015 season.  Boxberger, however, did not perform as well as Rondon did. He misses bats (10.57 Ks per 9 IP)with a good fastball, hard slider, and change, but his control (4.57 walks per 9 IP) isn’t ideal for the role.

Personally, I’d be more interested in Jake McGee because of his better control (1.93 walks per 9 IP), the fact that he also misses bats (11.57 Ks per 9 IP) and the convenient little perk that he  throws with his left arm.  The Cubs seem to want to shore up that part of their bullpen and don’t really have a high leverage lefty at this point.  Rex Brothers is an unknown and it would allow the Cubs to use Travis Wood in more multi-inning situations.  Getting a closer makes more sense to me if it is a lefty, as Joe Maddon likes to match-up sometimes depending on the team and situation.  That would make Rondon the primary closer but give them a solid 1A closer who could take over if there is an injury.  McGee saved 19 games for the Rays in 2014.

The Cubs could even expand the deal as the Rays have a little depth at another Cubs need…CF.    Starter Kevin Kiermaier is a league average hitter at best but he is an elite defensive CFer, perhaps the best in the game today.  He won a  Gold Glove in 2015.  He also hits LH, which is another attribute the Cubs seem to be focusing on.  The Rays may want to sell high here but it is more likely they will hang on to him.

If not, there’s also Desmond Jennings.  He’s a lesser defender — excellent in LF and a good, but not great CFer.  On the flip side, he also has more offensive potential, though he had a poor season and hasn’t yet played up to his ability.  At age 29, the likelihood of him becoming the player some thought he could be has diminished.  He’d probably be less costly, however.

One other option is Mikie Mahtook who played some CF, though he was slightly below average there and like Jennings, plays better on the corners.  He did have a strong offensive showing, though he had just 115 PAs.  Mahtook batted .295/.351/.619 with 9 HRs, posting a .411 wOBA and 168 RC+.  Again, those numbers were in a very small sample size and Mahtook’s minor league history showed no indication of that type of power.  The Steamer projection for 2016 is much less optimistic.  I mention Mahtook because he was a player the Cubs liked prior to the 2011 draft, though that was the previous  front office, of course.  Mahtook would be better as a depth option, however, than a full-time starter.

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    The gamble on upside approach is what I thought Theo or Hoyer was alluding to when they said a player of similar age, experience, and production.

    What is the likelihood any of the mentioned starters above become TOR starters in a couple of years? Do any have 4 - 5 of control left like Soler?

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    In reply to johnsmithcubfan:

    Any chance a prospect list gets done this yr? Thanks.

  • In reply to johnsmithcubfan:

    I have been talking to scouts/coaches/instructors and compiling information. It will be sometime after the winter meetings when things slow down. We're going to have great stuff for you on that this year.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    this sounds like a pipe dream on the Rays part. You haven't indicated who we might be giving up. But if the starter offered by
    the Rays isn't at LEAST Odorizzi, this sounds like a waste of time

  • In reply to menny:

    I only indicated who they're interested in. I don't think they'd trade Soler for a package that is essentially depth. I am not making any trade packages. I rarely if ever do that.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    "I am not making any trade packages. I rarely if ever do that." And for that, bless you John. Any chance that can become Cubs Den policy?

    On a separate note, this article is a great start to the Winter Meetings. Can't wait to see what else you come up with over the next few days!

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Looking forward to that! I'm still excited about the farm even now that the Cubs are good at the major league level. I wasn't sure how that would work until now. This blog is largely responsible for that extra enjoyment I get. Thanks John.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Thanks, thought maybe time was a little more constrained due the Arizona blog this year. Thanks.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Seeing how great it always is, very excited to hear it could somehow even be better. Your work is outstanding!

  • In reply to johnsmithcubfan:

    my friend's step-aunt makes $70 an hour on the computer . She has been without a job for 5 months but last month her pay was $18819 just working on the computer for a few hours. look at here
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  • Might want to correct third paragraph.

  • In reply to Hubbs16:

    Thanks, There were a couple of errors there.

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    There's another side to this: it seems like the Cubs are shopping Soler and there's some interest. If the Rays want Soler and Miller is on the table for him (who knows?), what are the Rays willing to offer to convince the Cubs that they should get Soler?

  • As much as I would really like to see Kiermaier in CF at Wrigley, I think it seems more likely that this Cubs front office wouldn't pay the extra cost when Desmond Jennings would probably do just fine. In Wrigley his defense would probably be above average and on the road he would be average.

    However, Kiermaier in CF would certainly make the burden of Schwarber/Soler maybe Bryant maybe Baez in the OF much easier to bare, so maybe there is something there.

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    I find the idea of Matt Moore intriguing. He could be gotten for relatively little prospect wise. And he was a very good pitcher pre-injury. A buy low option for the 4 or 5th starter spot. Maybe add in a reliever too. And they wouldn't need to trade Soler to do it. Last year wasn't there a rumor the Rays really liked Baez as well as Soler? Side note, Archer is so good. Too bad that is such a great contract Tampa has no reason to trade him.

  • In reply to Sean Holland:

    Yes, Moore and McGee are the 2 guys that are intriguing. For me, Keirmaier is Almora, but with much less offensive potential. Moore for Baez straight up is high risk for high risk and is trading from depth for both teams.

  • In reply to ericccs:

    Moore is much higher risk. Pitching is always risky. When said pitcher has recently had TJ surgery? Even more so. There is no way the Cubs give up a young player already on the MLB roster for that kind of risk. Baez had success in his limited trip back to the majors. His defense and baser inning makes his floor higher than what people give it credit.

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    In reply to cubbie steve:

    Plus I am pretty sure Moore is a FA next winter. I would love to see them take a flier on him as long it's nobody off the MLB roster

  • I don't see Soler or Baez going anywhere for second tier people. They want first tier, they give up first tier.

  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    Would think the Cubs would only consider Castro and/or prospects in such a package. Just reporting the Rays interest, but don't see a package there worthy of a Soler headlined return.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Yea, I figured you thought that way. I'm even skeptical of Castro, but he is likely someone they wouldn't mind moving for useful pieces.

  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    Castro's salary is a bit much for the Rays. They are dirt poor. They'll want younger bats

  • In reply to ericccs:

    good point

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    In reply to ericccs:

    I would think Torres may be the more attractive target for the Rays

  • In reply to Steve Fowler:

    They're not getting Torres. Not for what they'll be making available.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I completely agree and it goes along with the flow chart concept. There may be a reasonable trade for Soler or Baez but if you go for a number 4 starter with them you are shut out on the possibility of something clearly better down the road. If the better option does not present itself, you go with what you have and keep evaluating.

  • In reply to Cphil:

    There is also the value equation to consider. Are the talents on each side of the trade balancing out in terms of value? I don't think the Cubs can even "break-even" on a trade for a number 4 starter if you are still talking Soler or Baez. This FO will not compromise much for a smaller need like a BOR. They will insist on the trade being value for value for a need like number 4 starter.

  • Agreed! A trade with TB will be minor. McGee and Jennings for prospects maybe. Baez or Soler part of a bigger trade for top arm like Carrasco.

  • In reply to DeuceBaseman:

    I guess I'm guilty of dis respecting Soler, but i don't see him being as valuable as everyone else in Cubdom. Controllable for a long time for cheap? Yes. Potential? Heck yes. Injury prone? Yes. A frightening defender? Yes. A questionable base runner? Yes. Great eye at the plate especially for a power hitter? Yes. Had a nice run at the end of the season? Yes.

    Apparently Theo thinks of him highly as well since the rumor was that Soler straight up for Shelby Miller was a no go for the Cubs.

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    In reply to cubfever7:

    Holds runners? Yes

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    In reply to DeuceBaseman:

    Have the Cubs ever came out and said this or is this all media speculation like the Baez for Syndergard rumors? The Cubs said they were looking for someone of similar major league production, service time, etc. How does Carrasco fit that profile?

  • So if we wanted to do one stop shopping and get Moore, McGee and Kiermeier, what would be a fair return for the Rays? If it took both Baez and Soler I'd say no but one of them plus 2 prospects like maybe Happ and Vogelbach? Man trading either of those guys is just so dangerous.

  • In reply to TheMightyGin:

    Not sure Kiermeier is anything we don't already have considering Almora. That wouldn't get either from me. Soler or Baez in the deal says we get elite potential back in return. I don't see anything like that from the rays.

  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    I really like how McGee fits our pen. And Moore certainly has the upside potential to justify dealing one of those guys, albeit with a ton of risk.

  • In reply to TheMightyGin:

    I would have to really like Moore to make that deal work. Have not followed his rehab though. Even then I think Castro would be the best guy I'd give up for a reliever plus a rehab lottery ticket. I might add on to that but not from the elite bat category.

  • Dodgers could be acquiring Aroldis Chapman rosenthal said they're talking to the reds about prospects.Jansen and Chapman is SCARY

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    In reply to bolla:

    Right ? Whose the closer ? Kenley has been a very underrated closer when healthy.

    Regardless, becomes a 7 inning game on non Kershaw starts

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    Even if the Dodgers get it done, it'll somehow blow up in their face. They'll have a Papelbon/Storen situation in the bullpen to go along with the Puig circus in the clubhouse. Does anyone else get the feeling that disaster would be imminent?

  • In reply to bolla:

    That would be a big get for the Dodgers. But that would be quite a payroll hit assuming they can sign Chapman to an extension. It would worry me but with SF and now AZ taking their number two TOR they could struggle making the playoffs.

  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    I agree. To me the scary thing about the Dodgers was that in a 3 game series you could face Kershaw and Greinke. Now without Greinke, the Dodgers may be the third best team in their division.

    Seems to be that Friedman is trying to remold an awkwardly assembled team. Getting Chapman to go with Jansen signals to me that they are trying to take the Royals approach. Make every game as short as possible, that way it doesn't matter who your starter is, they will only have to go through the opposing lineup twice and be done.

  • In reply to nukee:

    Dodgers seem to be stockpiling high draft picks (Greinke, Kendrick, and Funkhouser in 2016... possibly Chapman, and Jansen in 2017

  • In reply to SaberToothedMetric:

    Friedman spent years building with the Rays. The Rays are highly dependent on building cheap talent through their organization. The Dodgers experiment of trying to spend more than everyone didn't work. It appears Friedman is taking a new approach of just putting all of the Dodgers resources into building a powerhouse of a farm system. Give it 2-3 years and the Dodgers could have the best farm system in baseball on top of the most money to spend. That is very scary

  • In reply to nukee:

    That's definitely happening in LA, with the stockpiled early draft picks and the massive IFA/Cuban spending. The new front office has added a brain to the already brawny organization. It is scary...

  • We already have several guys who have great velocity and nasty movement. Locating the ball seems to be a problem at times. Rondon, Strop and Grimm. could all be top closers if that problem could be solved. Also if Doug Dascenzo can make Javier Baez into a center fielder, why isn't he working with Soler and Schwarber (and Coghlan too)? Get them all down to Puerto Rico or is someone working with CS on his catching. One last thing. We are still not able to score a runner on third with less than 2 out. Is Mailee the right guy ?

  • In reply to TL Lyon:

    In terms of location, Mariano Rivera was the best closer of all time and he basically threw one pitch in the low 90s. So, you can say with better control a lot of people would be top closers.

    I am sure Soler and Schwarber are working on their OF defense. The reason you hear about Javy getting OF coaching is because he isn't an OFer.

    Is Mallee the right guy is a tough question. In order to answer that you need to first think about how important scoring a runner from third with less than two outs. Obviously it is very valuable. However, how much of that ability is luck and timing? How much of that ability is about assembling the right types of players? And then, how much of that ability falls on the instruction of the hitting coach?

    Let's just say that Mallee is the one who is not teaching the right mindset regarding scoring runners from 3rd <2 outs. Is there a coach out there who will teach it better, while not sacrificing the value Mallee provides in other aspects of hitting?

  • In reply to nukee:

    Mallee was working with 5 rookies in 2015. It wouldn't be hard to predict that we would have a tough time with a runner on 3rd and less than 2 outs. Let's be fair to the man.

  • In reply to TL Lyon:

    Coghlan was at least average and hustled every second of every game. He clearly has worked at getting better. Schwarber was OK (though his breaks on balls over his head seam a little tentative), and in the playoffs and then the roof caved in. Soler is hard to watch. Seems indifferent at best in the field. And what seems strange is he runs the bases like a deer (maybe more like an elk), but his breaks on balls in the outfield make him look like he has rheumatoid arthritis.

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    In reply to TL Lyon:

    Contact hittter(s) that could hit for average: Grace, D. Lee maybe Mckiney or Contreras? Castro on a positive year. So much emphasis on OBP what about contact hitters that can hit for average and advance runners?

  • Kiermaier = Barney

  • In reply to Oneear:

    That isn't really fair. Barney never hit for power or draw walks. KK actually can hit a couple homeruns and keep a defense more honest.

  • In reply to nukee:

    His glove glove year barney hit 7 HR last year KK hit 10. KK doesn't walk.

  • In reply to Oneear:

    KK is marginally better offensively. And better denfensiley too, but like Barney he would leave a huge hole in the line-up.

  • Peter gammons said the other day on the score that lackey and alex gordon were the cubs free agent targets and gordon would play rf if signed,which makes me think soler being moved for a cost controlled pitcher is a legit possibility that could happen this week if the cubs get the deal they're looking for.

  • In reply to bolla:

    Signing Gordon only makes sense if they are going to try and put him in CF. Too pricey for a RF.

  • In reply to bolla:

    Let's make an assumption: the Cubs max payroll in 2016 for the 40-man roster is $140M.

    Coming into this weekend, the 36 guys on the current 40 man roster were estimated to make $119M, which also includes the money the Cubs still owe 2 guys not on the 40 man roster, namely Edwin Jackson and Gerardo Concepcion. That figure is also based on contracts and arb. estimates.

    So, I think the Cubs had $21M to spend coming into the offseason. Now, they have spent $16M of it on John Lackey. So, per my estimate they have $5M left. Alex Gordon is rumored to be looking for $15-20M AAV, so either the Cubs need to clear $10-15M of space or ownership needs to add $10-15M to the budget, which I believe is next to impossible for all the reasons Mike Moody has shared with us here on how the Trib/Ricketts family trust deal was constructed.

    I just don't see how the Cubs can sign Gordon (forget for a second if it even makes sense for baseball reasons) unless they trade:
    - Montero
    - Hammel
    - Wood and Coghlan
    - Castro and Coghlan
    - Wood and Soler
    - Castro and Soler

  • In reply to hoopscubs:

    The best payroll breakdown I've seen had it at $110M before Lackey. I think the opening day payroll will be near $150M, leaving the Cubs with nearly $25M to spend if they don't make any trades.

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    KK is a great defender but last year had an OBP of .298 and we're looking for a TOO and he doesn't do that. I love his bat and speed and maybe we can use him like Mark Ballanger with the Orioles back in the day--lousy hitter but a constant GG fielder.

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    In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    darwin barney in CF. If we want a glove-only CF, we're told Almora's defense is MLB ready now.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    Exactly. Buying just to buy is dumb

  • "Open bidding could get him to five years and north of $75 million."

    - Joel Sherman speculates

    Can't see Theo going for that.

  • In reply to Oneear:

    RE: Gordon

  • In reply to Oneear:

    I would think that Heyward will get an opt out that would essentially give him a similarly lengthed deal.

  • I wouldn't offer Soler to them unless Archer was also included. McGee would be a solid pick-up

  • Keirmaier is an excellent fit for us. LH, outstanding defender, young and very affordable, and with potential to improve some as a hitter as he gains experience and maturity.

    I also think Matt Moore is a high value piece who is who I would target from their pitching staff. LH, quality experience though young and affordable, and his last 6 starts a year ago after he returned from triple A were outstanding! I love his stuff, his demeanor, and we know that Maddon will know him well.

    So, that let's say we target those 2 specific targets. What package from us would Tampa want in return? Depending on the prospect price, I would definitely listen. I would assume that they would ask for Soler or Baez as a center piece to a deal......and as long as it could be limited to one or the other and not both, I think I am willing to do that.

    Imagine a scenario where we trade Soler and a couple of far away pieces for Moore and Keirmaier, then somehow obtained Alex Gordon as a free agent to play RF.....a scenario which apparently we are entertaining. That would drastically improve our contact rates at the plate, and even more drastically improve our OF defense.

    To add a Gordon (replacing Soler in this scenario), we would likely need to move one of either Hammel or Montero or Castro, just to move their salary. Any of those players would have a somewhat limited market, and would also cause us some discomfort in having to move them.....yet it could be done.

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