Showing posts with label Jorge Soler. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jorge Soler. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The offseason's most lopsided trades

Wade Davis
Wade Davis is 32 for 32 in save opportunities for the Cubs this season, and that got me thinking about some of the most lopsided trades of the past offseason.

I'm came up with three of them, and two of them benefited NL Central contenders. I'm not talking about veterans-for-prospects trades here. Most baseball trades these days fall into that category, and it will be three or four years before we can fully understand who "won" those deals.

No, I'm talking about the "good, old-fashioned baseball trades" that involve major leaguers changing teams.

I uncovered three such deals, and two in particular, that were horribly one-sided.

1. Boston Red Sox trade 3B Travis Shaw to the Milwaukee Brewers for RP Tyler Thornburg

Milwaukee has been perhaps the biggest surprise in the National League this season, if not all of baseball. Did you think the Brewers would be only one game out of the second NL wild card spot on Sept. 20? Did you think the Brewers would be only 3.5 games back of the Cubs in the NL Central at this stage of the season?

Me neither.

And all Shaw has done is hit .275/.349/.523 with 30 home runs, 32 doubles and 96 RBIs. Milwaukee's rebuilding effort has been accelerated by Shaw's breakout season in the middle of its lineup.

Thornburg? Well, he hasn't thrown a pitch for the Red Sox this season. He's out for the year after undergoing surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome.

The Red Sox are leading their division despite this lopsided trade, but if they are being honest with themselves, they'd have to admit they missed Shaw for much of the season. Third base was a black hole in Boston until prospect Rafael Devers was called up from the minors to man the position.

Boston's three-game lead in the AL East might be a little bigger right now if it had kept Shaw as its third baseman to start the year.

2. Kansas City Royals trade RP Wade Davis to the Cubs for OF Jorge Soler

Simply put, the Cubs would not be in first place by 3.5 games had they not acquired Davis in the offseason. He has been outstanding, and he is the reason the Cubs are 73-1 when they take a lead into the ninth inning. You can't do better than 32 for 32, right?

The only game the Cubs lost when leading after eight wasn't Davis' fault -- Hector Rondon blew that one.

Meanwhile, in Kansas City, the Royals thought Kelvin Herrera could close games. They were wrong. Herrera has a 4.56 ERA, almost two runs higher than his career norms, and he's blown five saves and lost his job as closer here in September.

The Royals are 73-77 and have faded from playoff contention.

Soler? Injuries have limited him to 32 games, in which he has hit .151/.255/.269 with two home runs and six RBIs. Good job, good effort.

What a steal for the Cubs and what a disaster for the Royals.

3. Seattle Mariners trade OF Seth Smith to Baltimore Orioles for SP Yovani Gallardo

It isn't even that Smith is any good. He's his usual mediocre self -- .257/.341/.434 with 13 home runs and 32 RBIs in 108 games.

But it's insanity for anyone to think trading for Gallardo is a good idea. The washed-up right-hander has been a predictable disaster for the Mariners, going 5-10 with a 5.72 ERA. Mercifully, he's been removed from the Seattle rotation after a performance similar to that of James Shields throughout the year.

What do you think? Am I missing any trades that were woefully one-sided?

Thursday, January 28, 2016

White Sox, Cubs top two suitors for Dexter Fowler?

Dexter Fowler
I'm not sure I buy this NBC Sports report that says the White Sox and the Cubs "appear to be the two teams with the most interest" in Dexter Fowler.

I'm especially skeptical because the source appears to be Bruce Levine of 670 The Score. The Score isn't exactly the place I go to get intelligent baseball talk, but that's a blog for another day.

Just for grins, let's discuss the possibility of Fowler landing on either side of Chicago. I think it makes a lot of sense for him to go back to the Cubs, for whom he hit .250/.346/.411 with 17 home runs and 20 stolen bases in 156 games last year. In contrast, I don't think Fowler is the right guy for the Sox, but more on that in a minute.

First, let's look at why Fowler is a good fit for the Cubs: Well, he was their center fielder last year when they won 97 games, and they haven't replaced him with anybody else. I know what you're thinking. Didn't the Cubs sign outfielder Jason Heyward to a eight-year mega-deal worth $23 million a year?

Yes, yes, they did.

But let's think logically about Heyward's skill set. What is it that he does well that makes him worth all those millions? He's the best defensive right fielder in baseball, right? He's got three Gold Gloves in the past four years that prove that.

That being the case, why would the Cubs pay Heyward, the best defensive right fielder in baseball, $23 million to be an average or slightly above-average center fielder? Wouldn't it make much more sense to re-sign Fowler to play center field, put Heyward in right field where he belongs and trade Jorge Soler to help solidify a top-heavy pitching staff?

Yes, I think that makes a lot of sense. And unlike other teams, the Cubs wouldn't have to surrender draft pick compensation to sign Fowler. You better believe that qualifying offer has contributed to a slow market for Fowler. It's moot if he goes back to the Cubs.

As for the White Sox, one of the things that's perplexing about this report is that it calls for the Sox to sign Fowler to play center field and move Adam Eaton to right field. Huh?

I feel like Fowler would be redundant with Eaton on the Sox roster. Let's look at some numbers:

2015:
Eaton: .287/.361/.431, 14 HRs, 18 stolen bases
Fowler: .250/.346/.411, 17 HRs, 20 stolen bases

Career:
Eaton: .284/.355/.407
Fowler: .267/.363/.418

Pretty similar players, right? The Sox already have Eaton, a center fielder with some pop and some speed who can bat leadoff and get on base. Why give up a draft pick to sign Fowler, when he essentially provides the same thing?

What the Sox really need is a corner outfielder who can hit the ball over the fence. Incumbent corner outfielders Melky Cabrera and Avisail Garcia combined for only 25 home runs last season. Fowler doesn't offer a big upgrade over that, as the 17 homers he hit last year represent a career high. His career norm is 11 home runs per 162 games, which is less than what Cabrera and Garcia hit last year.

Further, there's no evidence that Fowler offers a defensive upgrade over Eaton. Let's take a look at Fowler's defensive WAR over the past five years:

2011: -0.1
2012: -0.8
2013: -0.2
2014: -1.8
2015: -1.0

Five straight years of negative defensive WAR.

Eaton's defense is a little harder to judge, based on the two years he's been a full-time player with the Sox:

2014: +1.8
2015: -1.1

Eaton was a Gold Glove finalist two years ago, then slipped defensively for unknown reasons last year. I need to see what he does this year to make a more firm judgment on what kind of defensive player he'll be over the long haul, but Fowler has a more established track record of being mediocre (at best) in center field. The Eaton we saw in 2014 is clearly superior to Fowler defensively, so I wouldn't be signing Fowler in order to move Eaton to right field.

It just doesn't make a lot of sense for the Sox to bid too high, or even bid at all, on Fowler.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Yoenis Cespedes' steal of third base: Most overlooked important play in NLCS Game 3

The Cubs played a lousy defensive game Tuesday night in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series. The New York Mets took advantage of most of their opportunities and got strong pitching from Jacob deGrom to earn a 5-2 victory at Wrigley Field. The Mets now have a 3-0 stranglehold on the best-of-seven series.

Here in Chicago, some of the postgame laments are focusing on a couple misplays in left field by Kyle Schwarber, and a wild pitch by Trevor Cahill in the top of the sixth inning that allowed New York's Yoenis Cespedes to score the go-ahead and eventual winning run. Cubs shortstop Javier Baez made an error on the first play of the game, and right fielder Jorge Soler also had a horrible misplay in the sixth inning, so there were no shortage of defensive gaffes by the Cubs.

But the most overlooked important play in the game proceeded Cahill's wild pitch. With Cespedes on second base and one out in a 2-2 game, the Cubs' middle infielders, Baez and Starlin Castro, fell asleep. They were not holding Cespedes close, and he got a huge jump on Cahill and stole third base with ease.

The Mets successfully stole third base just five times during the regular season, but this is the fourth time one of their baserunners has swiped third in the postseason. New York is being more aggressive in the playoffs. The Cubs should have caught on to that by now, but apparently not.

That stolen base put Cespedes at third with just one out, which is always crucial. As it turns out, Cahill made the big pitch he needed to get the second out. Travis d'Arnaud grounded out to third base, and Cespedes could not advance. Michael Conforto then struck out swinging on a pitch in the dirt, but the ball skipped past Cubs catcher Miguel Montero all the way to the screen. Conforto reached first safely on the dropped third strike, while Cespedes raced down the line to put the Mets up 3-2.

They tacked on two more in the seventh, with help from a Schwarber misplay, but do you think that steal of third base was crucial? You bet it was. That wild pitch means nothing if Cespedes is still standing on second base.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Report: Cubs renew contract talks with Jeff Samardzija

Turn on the baseball talk shows in Chicago, and you still hear nothing but poetry and praise for the Cubs' front office and its rebuilding plan. Many members of the media gush about the prospects the Cubs have in their system, especially third baseman Kris Bryant, who has been tearing up Double-A.

But here's the thing: Prospects are all fine and dandy, but don't you have to make progress at the major league level eventually? The Cubs have lost 90 or more games for three consecutive years, and they are on pace for another 93 losses this season. That's unacceptable for a big-market team -- at least it should be.

It's past time for the Cubs to open up the wallet and start spending to improve the major league team. The North Siders have only $31 million committed to their roster for the 2015 season (excluding arbitration raises). Given the ticket prices they charge, the Cubs should have plenty of cash on hand. And, there's not much question that money should be spent on pitching.

All these prospects we keep hearing about are position players: Bryant, Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, Albert Almora, Arismendy Alcantara, etc. Where are the pitching prospects? There aren't many worth talking about, and that's why I think the Cubs should sign their best pitcher, Jeff Samardzija, to an extension. Reports on Monday indicated the team is trying to do just that.

To this point in the season, it's been assumed Samardzija would be traded to an AL East contender midseason. Previous contract talks have gone nowhere with the right-hander, whose 2.77 ERA ranks ninth in the National League. Despite a 2-6 record, Samardzjia's other numbers are good: 82 strikeouts in 91 innings and a 1.18 WHIP. I don't know that he's an ace on a contending team, but he's probably a No. 2 starter. He's a solid, reliable pitcher who would be an asset to any organization.

Knowing that, why don't the Cubs just keep him? Sure, he's going to command six years at over $100 million. That's a lot of dough, but it's the going rate. If Homer Bailey can get six years and $105 million, then so can Samardzija. And it isn't like any of the other free agent pitching options next offseason (Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, James Shields, Justin Masterson) are going to come any cheaper.

If you're gonna pay for pitching, why not pay the guy who has been with the organization all along? Samardzija will be 30 heading into next season, but his arm doesn't have the wear and tear of many pitchers his age. He was late to the party in terms of becoming a starting pitcher. He's thrown 649 innings in the majors during his career. By way of comparison, San Francisco right-hander Matt Cain (who is three and a half months older than Samardzija) has thrown 1,779.2 innings in the majors. Projecting a pitcher's future is always guesswork, but if I had to take a guess, I'd say Samardzija's got plenty of bullets left.

Let's say the Cubs do ante up and make Samardzija a lucrative offer in the coming weeks. It will be interesting to see if he accepts. I have the sneaking suspicion that Samardzija is tired of this rebuilding plan. By the Cubs' own admission, they are at least two years and maybe three years away from fielding a team that can compete. Samardzija is in the prime of his career right now. Does he want two or three more of his best years to go to waste languishing on a rebuilding club? The way he's pitched, it's absurd he has only two wins this season.

That leads me to my next point: If the Cubs want to attract big-name free agents, they need to start winning more games. Why did Masahiro Tanaka choose the Yankees over the Cubs? It wasn't because the Cubs didn't make a representative offer. It was because Tanaka wants to win, and the Yankees field a competitive team every season.

Sure, the Cubs could flip Samardzija to the Blue Jays, Red Sox, Orioles or Yankees and get three or four prospects, but then their team would become even worse than it already is. If the Cubs trade both Samardzija and pitcher Jason Hammel, they don't have many good options to plug into those two rotation spots. They might be charting a course toward 95 or 100 losses.

Would Max Scherzer or Jon Lester want to come be a part of that? I don't think so. Who is going to take the Cubs' money, if not Samardzija? Members of the media might be swooning about Cubs prospects, but veteran players don't give a damn about Javier Baez's batting average in Triple-A. They want a chance to win, and they want it sooner rather than later.

I believe signing Samardzija for the long haul would bring the Cubs closer to a chance to win than flipping him for a package of ifs and maybes at the trade deadline.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Scott Boras recently criticized the Cubs ... were his comments fair?

We can all agree the Cubs stink at the major league level right now. They've lost 91 games or more in each of the last three seasons.

Given the circumstances, you would think the Cubs would be at least somewhat active this offseason --especially since we're talking about a big-market team that presumably has money to spend.

But, the Cubs have been fairly quiet so far. Their only free-agent acquisitions have been backup catcher George Kottaras and situational left-hander Wesley Wright. On Thursday, the Cubs traded outfielder Brian Bogusevic to the Miami Marlins for outfielder Justin Ruggiano. Bogusevic was one of three left-handed hitting outfielders on the roster (Ryan Sweeney and Nate Schierholtz are the others). The Cubs made the swap for purposes of balancing things out with the right-handed hitting Ruggiano. A sensible move, but hardly one that figures to make a major impact on the Cubs' 2014 fortunes.

The rebuilding process on the North Side is dragging on at a glacial pace. Barring some unforeseen moves in the coming months, the Cubs seem to be tracking toward another 90- to 95-loss campaign next summer.

High-profile agent Scott Boras (pictured), for one, has had enough of the Cubs' methodical ways. Boras criticized the organization at the winter meetings this week, calling the North Side rebuilding plan an "all-day sucker."

“It (a lollipop) takes a long time to dissolve,” Boras said. “The idea is it's going to take some time for them to reach the resolve to say they are going to compete on all fronts.”

Boras went on to say the Cubs are acting like a small-market team.

“It’s just with major-market teams you see a little bit different approach,” he said. “This is more of a customary small-market approach, if you will. … The Cubs have the capacity to sign any player they want at any time. The question is whether it fits their plan and it's good business.”

Obviously, the Cubs don't feel that big spending this year fits their plan. Here are the questions I would pose: Are Boras' comments fair? Has this Cubs rebuilding plan dragged on for long enough? Isn't it time for this regime to start producing at least marginally better results at the major league level?

I agree with Boras, in part, and disagree with him, in part.

I think this year's free-agent crop is weak. I don't blame the Cubs for taking a pass on giving seven years and $150 million to Jacoby Ellsbury, and if I were them, I wouldn't give untold millions to Boras client Shin-Soo Choo either. The Cubs' choice to not spend big bucks in free agency this year is smart and prudent in my book.

What I don't understand is why the Cubs haven't been more active in the trade market. They have prospects to deal, and there's a front-end starter in his prime (David Price) actively being shopped. But I've heard and read little about the Cubs being involved in those discussions. Why not? The Cubs have the dollars to sign a guy like Price to a long-term deal if they acquired him. They seem lukewarm to the idea, for whatever reason.

It's also a little strange that Jeff Samardzija is still on the team, but hasn't signed a contract extension. I think the Cubs should either sign him or deal him this offseason. I'd trade him. The Cubs could fill two or three holes by unloading Samardzija. They might even be able to get a major league ready prospect in the deal, as opposed to the Class A types and reclamation projects they've acquired in some of the other trades they've made involving pitchers.


Boras, of course, wants the Cubs to spend big in free agency. They won't, and nor should they. In that respect, I disagree with Boras. But I do agree with his point that it's kinda silly for the Cubs to just sit on the lousy roster they have now and resign themselves to another season of misery. With the talent they've accumulated in their minor leagues, plus having a movable asset in Samardzija, I think there are some possibilities for them in the trade market that would allow them to improve their team both now and for the long haul.

Why should the Cubs intentionally field another 95-loss roster in 2014? Enough is enough. It's time to at least show some incremental progress. How many more times do fans have to hear about how good Jorge Soler is supposedly going to be in five years?

I've always said, if a GM is waiting for prospects, he's waiting to get himself fired. It's time for the Cubs to add some legitimate major league talent to their roster. On that point, Boras is correct.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Jorge Soler sidelined with stress fracture in tibia

Cubs prospect Jorge Soler will be in a walking boot for the next 4-6 weeks after being diagnosed with a stress fracture in his left tibia, the team announced Thursday.

Soler, who is hitting .281 with eight home runs in 55 games, hasn't played for high-Class A Daytona since June 13 after fouling a ball off his shin.

The Cuban outfielder has had a bit of a rough go this season. He's already been benched by his manager for failing to run hard, and he also served a five-game suspension in April after approaching the opposing team's dugout while wielding a bat.

I call attention to this news for two reasons: First, it's a sad day for any organization when the status of players who are in the deep minors is more newsworthy than the activities of players currently at the major-league level. That's the case for the Cubs right now. If you listen to The Score's "Talking Baseball" program on Sunday mornings, you are likely to get extended discussion on the progress of assorted Cubs prospects, but little will be said about the current roster. That goes to show there is not much to discuss with the Cubs, at least until they trade off the handful of useful veterans they have before the July 31 deadline.

Secondly, I also point out Soler's issues to make note that you just never know with prospects. Sometimes I hear Cubs fans and even some media talking with great certainty about how Soler is a future star. Maybe he is. I don't know. The kid is only 21 years old. I do know it's much too early to make judgments on this guy. It's certainly too early to anoint him for greatness, especially since he's having a tough year. No question, it's a setback to lose at least two months of development time to an injury. Soler will play winter ball, I'm sure, but there's a real possibility his season at Daytona is over. He'll never get those at-bats back.

This turn of events is a reminder there are risks when an organization ties its future to prospects. Some guys pan out, but most guys don't. The Cubs have about ($)30 million reasons to hope Soler pulls it together, but if indeed this is the end to his 2013 campaign, it can only be described as a disappointment.