Trade season is in full swing and with less than a week until the July 31 non-waiver deadline, trade chatter is at its peak. Major players have been dealt including Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel, Joakim Soria, Huston Street, and Kendrys Morales More names figure to switch teams.
Here at BCB, we're primarily interested in the Cubs. As I mentioned in post addressing the final movable pieces on the roster, we are overwhelmingly unlikely to move Anthony Rizzo or Jake Arrieta and a Starlin Castro deal appears just as unlikely. We're done with our blockbusters.
So what about the other pieces on the roster? We've talked about which guys might find themselves thrust into a pennant race in the coming days, so today I'm going to put on my general manager hat and throw out a handful of trade proposals involving multiple bit parts. Enjoy!
Chicago Cubs trade starting pitcher Edwin Jackson, outfielder Justin Ruggiano and $7 million to Seattle Mariners for outfielder Tyler O'Neill and starting pitcher Zack Littell
The Mariners recently gave Tom Wilhelmsen a spot start, the 30-year-old reliever's first-ever major-league start. They have enough starting pitchers in their system, but they've been beset by injuries, including a recent arm injury of unknown severity to 2014 revelation Roenis Elias. Their outfield consists of Michael Saunders, Dustin Ackley, and a bundle of replacement-level fodder. Seattle is in a three-way dogfight with the Blue Jays and Yankees for the second wild card spot, and having gone all-in on 2014, they cannot afford to waste starts or outfield plate appearances. The Cubs owe Jackson roughly $26 million through 2016, so this would leave the Mariners on the hook for just $19 million over that span. It's a worthwhile buy-low risk for them, especially in a world where Jason Vargas makes $8 million per year.
The pieces coming back to the Cubs are not terribly exciting, but there's reason for optimism with each. Littell was Seattle's 11th-round pick in 2013 out of a North Carolina high school. He has a solid 6-3, 190-pound frame, and he has issued just four walks in 37.2 short-season innings this year. He's been hit plenty. He's a project. O'Neill is the more interesting project. A 2013 third round selection from Canada, O'Neill already has an injury history with a high school hernia and a broken hand this year sustained when he punched a concrete wall after striking out. In addition to his temper, O'Neill has struggled with strikeouts in general and he doesn't offer much on the basepaths. But a .261/.341/.462 batting line from a 19-year-old in the Midwest League is nothing to sneeze at. O'Neill is an impressively strong athlete who could bring a legitimate right-handed power bat. It's just going to take quite a while to get there.
Chicago Cubs trade starting pitcher Travis Wood and outfielder Justin Ruggiano to Seattle Mariners for starting pitcher Edwin Diaz and outfielder Tyler O'Neill
This looks sneaky similar to the Jackson deal for a reason. A starting pitcher still makes sense for Seattle, and Wood's fly ball tendencies would be welcome at Safeco. Ruggiano still makes sense. O'Neill is still attractive. The big change is that the Cubs wouldn't have to kick any money into the deal and Diaz is a substantially better prospect than Littell. 2014 marks the fourth straight year that Wood's FIP has been either equal to or worse than Edwin Jackson's, so it's not as if the Cubs are dealing a star. Wood figures to cost something around $6 million or more in arbitration next year before jumping to approximately $9 million in 2016. If the Mariners think they can get his walk rate back down a full walk per nine innings as he had been in the past, he'd be a good pickup for them while the Cubs would enjoy adding two solid prospects for what should be a fourth outfielder and fifth starter about a year from now.
Chicago Cubs trade starting pitcher Edwin Jackson, outfielder Justin Ruggiano, infielder Luis Valbuena, and third baseman Christian Villanueva to New York Yankees for outfielder Mason Williams, starting pitcher Ty Hensley, and shortstop Abiatal Avelino
This kind of trade never happens and it won't happen this year either. The Cubs make a salary dump of Jackson to a team in need of short-term starting pitching, and they include Ruggiano, Valbuena, and Villanueva to sweeten the pot enough to induce the Yankees to send real prospects back to Chicago. Williams was among the top prospects in the system as recently as a year ago, but he has followed a very poor 2013 with an horrific 2014 in which he has produced a .207/.279/.276 line at Double-A. Williams turns 23 within a month, so this is a real change-of-scenery deal in the hope that a fresh start can jumpstart his career. Hensley was the Yankees' first-round-pick in 2012, but his injury history is alarming. His draft bonus was reduced by 25% due to a shoulder injury and his missed all of 2013 for hip labrum surgery. He recently returned to the mound and has completely dominated Rookie League bats, but it's rare that teenagers miss an entire year of development and reach their ceilings. Avelino received a $175,000 bonus out of the Dominican Republic in 2011. He has made it to full-season ball as a 19-year-old on the strength of superb batting averages, even if his walk rates are middling and his power is non-existent.
This is a tough package to stomach as the Cubs would effectively take salary relief and three very unlikely lottery tickets for the four players listed. Yet Villanueva appears unlikely to reach Chicago given the number of superior prospects in front of him, Valbuena is about to be made redundant, Ruggiano is best suited as a reserve, and Jackson's contract has become a serious burden. Three unlikely lottery tickets and $11 million of payroll space in 2015 and 2016 gets the job done in my eyes, especially if the Cubs are serious about going after a couple of big-ticket targets this winter like Jon Lester and Russell Martin.
Chicago Cubs trade shortstop Starlin Castro and starting pitcher Tyler Skulina to Washington Nationals for starting pitcher Lucas Giolito, starting pitcher A.J. Cole, and outfielder Michael Taylor
The Nationals claim to want a young, cost-controlled shortstop in lieu of extending Ian Desmond. Well, acquiring Castro would give them exactly that player while freeing them up to move Desmond before the deadline or this winter. In return for entering into this blockbuster deal, the Cubs acquire the highest ceiling arm in the minors in Giolito, a huge fastball arm in Cole who will be ready to assume a mid-rotation job in 2015, and an explosive athlete with big numbers at Double-A in Taylor: home runs (21), triple slash (.312/.392/.568), and strikeouts (127 through 95 games). Taylor is a plus defender in center field, but he is also already 23 at Double-A and his exceptional 2014 offensive line is heavily propped up by an absurd .421 BABIP.
Regardless, this deal is all about Giolito. He has the biggest arsenal in the minors and the command to use it effectively. Health and time are the only things keeping him from the top of a contending rotation.
Chicago Cubs trade outfielder Justin Ruggiano and relief pitcher Wesley Wright to Atlanta Braves for catcher/third baseman Victor Caratini
It's no secret in these parts that I'm a huge fan of Caratini, a sweet-swinging, switch-hitting catcher with plus on-base skills. He basically has to stay behind the plate to keep a top-level projection, but he fits the profile well enough. This trade requires the Braves to push B.J. Upton into something of a timeshare for the rest of the season and I doubt they'll do that, even if they should. Still, for a team in such a tight race, this just makes sense.
So there you have it: Five proposals to get your blood boiling and your brain spinning in advance of the deadline. Throw out some of your own ideas in the comments. Hopefully Theo/Jed will latch on to some of them!