Mailbag: Cubs fire sale, free agent shortstops next year, Kluber, and a Lindor proposal

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Happy Friday, everyone. It’s been a few weeks since our last mailbag, so apologies for the delay. We have a few good questions to address today. But before that: if you’d like to be considered for a future edition, please email viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com with your questions. We plan to choose our favorites each week. Now to the mailbag.

Sam asks: With Theo leaving the Cubs, it really feels like they’re about to tear everything down. What Cubs players make sense for the Yankees to target in the trade market? Adding Schwarber’s left-handed power is very appealing.

Yup, a selloff certainly seems to be coming. Schwarber feels like someone the Yankees would pursue, especially since the team was connected to him in the past. That said, I don’t like the fit in spite of his undeniable power from the left side. Even though he absolutely crushes the ball, he’s another low-contact bat (28 percent career strikeout rate) and is without a position. Statcast had him in the 2nd and 23rd percentiles in Outs Above Average and Outfielder Jump this season. With Giancarlo Stanton parked at DH, there’s really no place for Schwarber.

There are a bunch of other players on the Cubs I’m interested in, though. Javy Báez would be cool as a Francisco Lindor/DJ LeMahieu fallback. He had an oddly bad 2020 (57 wRC+) after hitting .286/.321/.544 (123 wRC+) from 2018 through 2019. One thing remained steady: his elite defense, which would unequivocally help the Yanks.

I’d also love to bring in Yu Darvish, who I mentioned yesterday in our news and notes post. The 34 year-old has been dominant since mid-2019 and can probably be had for very little because his contract goes through 2023. I’d bet that the Yanks would be able to get the Cubs to take Adam Ottavino’s deal as part of a trade too.

Kyle Hendricks would be a terrific addition too, but far more costly than Darvish in terms of player cost. He’s also signed through 2023 but about $8 million cheaper annually. He may not have the nasty stuff Darvish has, but he has elite command and generates a ton of soft contact, which I think could age well. Hendricks is soon-to-be 31, by the way.

Last but not necessarily least, Ian Happ intrigues me too. He’s a switch-hitter with pop and can play every position save for shortstop, catcher, and pitcher. His defense isn’t anything special, perhaps even a tad below average, but he won’t embarrass himself either. Happ’s under team control for three more seasons and is first time arbitration eligible this winter. MLB Trade Rumors projects a $2.5 million or $4.6 million arbitration salary, depending on the projection method. That’s more than reasonable so it may be difficult to pry Happ away.

You might have noticed I didn’t mention Kris Bryant, who’s also an impending free agent after 2021. It’s nothing against him, it’s just that there isn’t much of a fit unless the Yankees reshuffle things at third base or in the outfield.

Richard asks: If the Yankees do not sign DJ and they get a stopgap for 2021, what free agent shortstops do you think they’d pursue next offseason out of Lindor, Báez, Story, Correa, and Seager? Who would you prefer?

Here’s my order of preference:

  1. Francisco Lindor
  2. Corey Seager
  3. Trevor Story
  4. Javy Báez 
  5. Literally anyone other than Carlos Correa

Sorry, hard pass on Houston’s shortstop for obvious reasons. You probably noticed that I have two lefties at the top (well, Lindor is a switch-hitter but you get the idea). Lindor beats out Seager on defense alone, even if Seager’s bat is better. There’s a good chance Seager moves off shortstop in the not so distant future, whereas Lindor isn’t moving off anytime soon. Next, I go Story over Báez because of Story’s bat. Both are very good defenders, with Báez having the edge on Story there, but I do worry about Báez’s swing-and-miss tendencies.

Richard also sks: Do you see the Yankees going after Corey Kluber?

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Sure, I can see that. But I also think Kluber would be the second or third starting pitcher the team would add this offseason. If the Yankees signed Kluber and did nothing else to the rotation, I’d be concerned.

Kluber, 34, has made eight starts since the 2018 season ended. Just one of those came in 2020. And he did not pitch well before his injury in 2019, for what it’s worth. Kluber had a 5.80 ERA and 4.06 FIP in 35 2/3 innings before he was struck by a line drive that fractured his throwing arm. Even though he was on track to return in that August, he was shut down because of abdominal tightness and didn’t pitch again.

This year, after Texas acquired the righty, Kluber lasted just one inning in his first start. He left with shoulder tightness, which was later determined to be a torn teres major muscle. Kluber didn’t return again and the Rangers declined his 2021 option.

Now, Kluber was one of the best pitchers in the league for a long time. He possessed a 2.96 ERA from 2013 through 2018 and took home two Cy Young Awards (2014 and 2017). He was also a top-three finisher in 2018, so Kluber does have some recent success. It’s just hard for me to bank on someone who’s barely pitched in two years, is 34, and is coming off a shoulder injury. I’d grab him on an incentive-laden one year contract, but that’s it.

Jack Asks: How about Gleyber Torres for Lindor, straight up (contingent on Lindor signing an extension). The Yankees get the SS they desperately need, balance is brought to the lineup, and Cleveland gets a better piece than I’m sure they could get from anyone else who they can control for as they continue to try to win (and save money). 

Gleyber for Lindor is way, way, way too much straight up. Cleveland would be absolutely ecstatic to get four years of Torres in return for one year of Lindor, not to mention how much money the team would save.

I know it’s difficult to imagine a trade for Lindor not being painful, but Cleveland does not have much leverage here. As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, there are a number of good to great free agent shortstops hitting the market this year and next, Cleveland has signaled its desire to cut costs, and recent trades for one-year rentals have not netted much (see: Mookie Betts). You can also just look at the packages that Cleveland got for Trevor Bauer and Mike Clevinger in recent seasons. All that info is in the trade target post linked earlier in this paragraph, so no need to expand further.

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4 Comments

  1. DanGer

    Seriously?? Fans have already turned on Torres?? Like … really?

    Gleyber 2018-2020 (age 21-23)
    271/.340/.493, 309 G, 302 H, 65 HR, 50 2B, 1 3B, 112 BB, 122 OPS+, 6.4 bWAR

    Lindor 2018-2020 (age 24-26)
    .277/.343/.502, 361 game, 414 H, 78 HR, 95 2B, 4 2B, 130 BB, 122 OPS+, 13.6 bWAR

    Gleyber if he played same # games as Lindor
    353 H, 76 HR, 23 2B, 1 3B, 131 BB, 7.5 bWAR

    Lindor is the better player but he’s also the older, more expensive, & FA next year.

    • Mungo

      It’s probably more fair to say in this case that “a fan” has soured on Torres, as opposed to fans.

      Agreed. Trading him for a single year of Lindor is crazy. Torres is one of the most valuable properties in the game. The abbreviated season hasn’t changed that. If the Yankees were put a for sale sign on him, they’d get a significant return. One year of Lindor would be just the beginning. Signing him to an extension is not part of the trade value. It’s a separate transaction that they could do anyway without trading Torres.

  2. Darvish would get more than 3/$63M if he were a free agent, so I have no idea why they would have to take on Ottavino’s contract in a deal.

  3. dzb

    I tried to come up with some trade ideas for Lindor using baseballtradevalues.com, but their values don’t make total sense to me. They have Lindor at 36.2, which feels very high for one season of control at his salary (that is about what they value Severino or J Dominguez). (though note they have Torres at 73, which really emphasizes that last mailbag question). They have Andujar as almost worthless. Based on their valuation, I don’t see a clear path to a Lindor trade, but I imagine Andujar could actually be a big piece, regardless of that valuation. Him, plus a pitcher like Loaisiga and a player like Tauchman, plus an extra like King. But those four come up with a value of half of Lindor. (okay, that is a light haul, but not nearly as awful as the values suggest)

    They also have Gary as the fifth most valuable catcher in the system (well behind Higgy and Wells), which presumably reflects his arbitration salary.

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