Amid the rumors of the Chicago Cubs looking to cut salary by shedding utility man Ben Zobrist’s deal, there are few members of the Cubs outside of Zobrist that the team should look into trading. Whether it be due to lack of fit, upcoming contract situation, off the field matters or other reasons, there are a few players that deserve to be included in any and all talks the team is having.
Staying away from the franchise cornerstones of Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Willson Contreras, these potential deals were kept reasonable, which is also why none of the team’s untradeable or less desirable contracts of Jason Heyward, Yu Darvish (too early to tell) and Tyler Chatwood were not involved either.
Starting with Kyle Schwarber, who is arbitration-eligible for two more seasons and therefore under club control until 2021. While listed as a left fielder, the 25-year-old fourth overall selection out of Indiana fits more into the mold of a young, slugging designated hitter best suited for the American League.
Schwarber’s defense has led to manager Joe Maddon’s lack of trust in key situations, and his high swing and a miss percentage have burned the team one too many times in the clutch when they needed it the most. Schwarber had a very compact swing and hit for power, something that clubs covet.
His cost-controlled deal that gives any club acquiring him 2019 and 2020 to assess his fit with the team is a valuable chip in the bargaining process that can make for a decent return if moved. Teams like the Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Royals and the Tampa Bay Rays, among others, would be smart to jump at.
Out of that grouping, the Rays would seem the most willing to make a deal. The Indians, fresh off bringing Carlos Santana back into the fold on a bloated contract, were looking for a roster refresh and may have accomplished all of their moves already, sans sending out All-Star Corey Kluber. The Royals are a few years away from contending, and while they could always acquire Schwarber with flipping him at the deadline to maximize their investment, they seem content with letting the youth play that is currently on their roster.
The Rays, who made more noise than expected last season, are truly lacking that power bat in the middle of their lineup that can flip the card when needed. Schwarber would bring that to the table, and the team could hide his defensive liabilities by making him their own Khris Davis or Giancarlo Stanton as a full-time DH.
The return would not need to be significant, but enough that it would help freshen up the Cubs’ system unless they attached a bigger contract with Schwarber. If looking to offload money and use Schwarber as the sweetener, a deal something like this could evolve.
Cubs receive: LHP Anthony Banda, international signing money (i.e. $50,000)
Rays receive: LF Kyle Schwarber, UT Ben Zobrist, 2020 third round draft selection
This deal helps clear money from the books for the Cubs while giving them the Rays’ 14th-best prospect in Banda, who was acquired by the Rays in the Gerardo Parra deal with Arizona and is currently recovering from Tommy John surgery.
The next player shipped out will bring with him a black eye to whatever club he would be on, as Addison Russell’s playing career could potentially be over quite soon. Dealing with off the field issues that involve domestic abuse and marital violence with his now ex-wife, Russell’s on-field performance has seemingly but wrongly taken center stage for the Cubs.
Putting his athletic performance above what is morally right to do is something abhorrent and uncalled for, and yet Theo Epstein and company continue to brush issues under the rug. While the team did come out and make a mandatory public comment about the situation, not once did it address the issue of why Russell was still being allowed to collect a paycheck and be on their roster.
If the team were to come to its senses and want to cut ties with Russell, he would not fetch much in the trade market. Any team bringing him in would need to understand the full scope of the situation and realize that any issues from his past, present and future will all be on them.
A team like the Toronto Blue Jays could view that risk as a needed one, as there currently is no starting-caliber shortstops on its roster. A deal to bring in Russell would not necessarily consist of much but would resemble something similar to this.
Cubs receive: RHP Maverik Buffo
Blue Jays receive: SS Addison Russell, $25,000
Essentially paying for Russell to go away, the Cubs receive a lottery ticket in Buffo, who is pitching at the Blue Jays A-level affiliate.
The final player that the Cubs could send out is defensive-minded but offensively-challenged backstop Victor Caratini, who at 25 barely has 100 MLB games under his belt. With Contreras firmly cemented in as the team’s catcher of the future, Caratini does have value on the market, which the Cubs could pounce on to either shore up their big-league roster or help improve the minor-league ranks.
Backing up Contreras and David Ross in 2017 and just Contreras in 2018, Caratini honed in his defensive skills by impressively handling the pitching staff. Through pitch framing and pitch blocking, Caratini was able to earn 10 starts in 2017, improving upon that number with 40 starts and 77 total appearances last season.
With swinging the bat, Caratini’s deficiencies lie in power and patience, as he hit for a .232 average in 181 at-bats, getting a hit every 42 PA’s, a pretty awful number. He also only earned 12 walks and struck out 42 times.
If the team was looking to move on and find a more suitable backup for Castillo, the Oakland Athletics would be smart to entertain a deal. Their current roster includes two 31-year-old backstops, Josh Phegley and Chris Herrmann, both who do not jump off the page.
Caratini would be a nice, youthful addition to the squad that fell to the Yankees in last year’s playoffs, and they wouldn’t need to give too many pieces to make the deal work.
By building the deal around an MLB-ready player and a minor leaguer, the Cubs could address two needs with one deal, something along these lines.
Cubs receive: SS Kevin Merrell, SP Jharel Cotton
Oakland receives: C Victor Caratini
Cotton, who had 24 starts last season and put up a 9-10, 5.65 line could be in for a change of scenery. Merrell is the A’s 16th-best prospect who currently resides in Advanced-A ball, a few years away from impacting the big-league squad.