Updated: Dec 4, 2019
The Cubs have been very forthcoming in expressing their desire to be open to trades this offseason. They have finally realized that this team needs a bit of a shakedown and the best way to do that is by being willing to trade some of your most valuable assets.
If you look at where this team has found their biggest holes the past two years, both offensively and defensively, it’s been at Center Field and Second Base. Since Dexter Fowler left, the Cubs have struggled to find his replacement both as an excellent fielder and an everyday leadoff hitter. In 2016, the Cubs relied on Ben Zobrist at Second and in return, he was named World Series MVP. But those days are long gone for him and the Cubs are finally free of his contract (12.5 mil per year).
The past two years, Maddon had tried to fill those holes by a committee approach. At least five different Cubs made an appearance in Center last year, and at least six tried to fill that same-type of void at second base, but none were true answers to the problem.
Option 1: Whit Merrifield
(2B/OF, Kansas City Royals)
Cubs get: Whit Merrifield (CF)
Royals get: Ian Happ (IF/OF), Nico Hoerner (SS), Albert Almora (CF), Cory Abbott (RHP - AA)
It’s unlikely the Royals would move off of Whit Merrifield for anything less than that, and still, it’s a great deal for both sides. The Royals have said they’re not trading Merrifield for anything less than 3-4 MLB ready players.
Why it makes sense for the Cubs:
I’m struggling to find reasons why this doesn’t make sense for the Cubs. Merrifield is a second baseman/utility-outfielder who also hits leadoff. The Cubs have struggled tremendously over the last two years in finding ways to generate runs without hitting home runs. Merrifield’s ability to get on base (.348) and hit well above average (.302), make him a perfect fit for the Cubs. He just completed his first year of a 4 year/$16.25 million extension with a 5th-year club option in 2023. Merrifield also swiped 20 bags last season, the Cubs as a team stole 45. This is a Cinderella slipper type of fit for the Cubs, it’s just going to be a matter of how they’ll have to give up.
Why it makes sense for the Royals:
After a 59-win season, we all know the Royals are nowhere near being ready to compete for a World Series again. That’s why there’s no better time for them to trade their star second-baseman than right now. Ian Happ gives them flexibility as a utility infielder/outfielder and could help to replace Alex Gordon in LF as he’s now a free agent. Almora (.236 / 12 HR / 32 RBI) is a replacement for Billy Hamilton (.218 / 22 SB / 15 RBI) in CF and both Happ and Almora are under team control for the next 3-4 years, respectively, and are extremely cheap. The juice of the deal comes with getting Nico Hoerner and Cory Abbott. Hoerner showed everyone the type of player he will be by hitting .282 with 3 HR, and 17 RBIs in 20 games at the end of the year. But it wasn’t just his numbers that provided a spark, he immediately came into a team that was struggling and found a way to uplift the locker room. The Cubs are SUPER high on Hoerner and they’ll only move him for the right price. Merrifield is that price. Hoerner can make an immediate impact on the Royals and potentially work in as their starting 2B, replacing Merrifield. Couple Hoerner and Adalberto Mondesi (.263 / 62 RBI / 43 SB in 102 GP) and you have a great young duo in the middle infield that is under team control until at least 2024. The other player, Cory Abbott, fits the mold of what the Royals are looking for. He is an MLB ready pitcher who performed extremely well last year in Double-A Tennessee last year putting up a 3.01 ERA in 146.2 innings, striking out 166 and holding opposing batters to a .210 BA. He’s projected to hit the majors in 2020 as he’s breezed through the minors since the Cubs drafted him in the second round.
Option 2: Mookie Betts
(CF/RF, Boston Red Sox)
Cubs get: Mookie Betts (CF)
Red Sox get: Willson Contreras (C), Kyle Schwarber (DH/OF), Albert Almora (CF), prospects
A down year by his standards, Betts hit .295, 29 HR, 80 RBI, .391 OBP, and 16 SB. A pretty unbelievable year, but a step backward by comparison to his 2018 campaign where he slashed .346/.438/.640, joined the 30-30 club with 32 HRs and 30 SB, and took home MVP honors. So why would the Red Sox trade him? As it stands, Betts is set to hit free agency at the end of this upcoming season after his final year of arbitration is completed where he is set to make 27.7 million.
Why it makes sense for the Cubs:
In terms of getting a long-term solution to their Center Field-leadoff problem in the trade market, Betts might not be the answer, but, in any sport, it’s not often that you’re able to trade for a top-5 player at a fraction of the cost. Because of Betts’ contract status, any team that trades for him will no doubt be getting him for dimes (not pennies) on the dollar.
The past few years, the Cubs have been hindered by bad contracts and haven’t been able to spend in free agency the way they’ve wanted to. Getting Betts would be a one-year 1-year contract hit, allowing them to still spend this free agency if they choose to without fear of future hit towards the “cap”. It brings the Cubs to immediate contenders by killing two birds with one stone and gives them the freedom to replace the holes with the talent they still have.
Why it makes sense for the Red Sox:
The Red Sox have a new GM, Chaim Bloom, after firing Dave Dombrowski towards the end of last season. They are by no means in a rebuild after having a down year, but they have holes that need to be filled. They now have one at first base after losing Mitch Moreland to FA. In this scenario, Christian Vazquez would now move to 1B making Contreras their starting catcher. This allows Vazquez to be available to catch on Contreras’ off days, or in case of an injury.
Schwarber, coming off his best statistical year (2019- .260 / 38 HR / 92 RBI), would remain in the outfield as well as a lefty DH (meant to be) on certain days that JD Martinez plays the field, and Almora and Jackie Bradley would now split time in CF. This would give Alex Cora both a righty and lefty hitter in Center to switch based on matchups. This deal gives the Red Sox TONS of versatility in three MLB players under team control for 2-3 years, potential prospects to boost their farm system for the long-term, and helps them stay contenders in the tough AL East.
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