Let me preface this article by saying that I do NOT want, nor do I expect, the Cubs to trade Kyle Schwarber. The intention of this article is to gauge whether or not Cubs fans would entertain the idea of trading him, and what type of return you would expect if the Cubs were to deal Schwarber.
Kyle Schwarber has recently been discussed as being the centerpiece of a deal involving Yankees reliever Andrew Miller, at least from the Yankees standpoint. With the Cubs acquiring lefty Mike Montgomery yesterday, it seems that the Cubs have filled their need for a lefty relief pitcher. And while the Joe Nathan experiment will likely determine whether or not the Cubs are in the market for another reliever, I think it's safe to table the Andrew Miller to the Cubs talk, for now at least.
The Cubs have repeatedly said that they won't trade Schwarber, and while Theo Epstein may not have plans to trade him, if an offer comes around that's too good to pass up, Theo could be eating his own words. You don't have to look far to find an organization breaking a promise made to a player, as former Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki was promised that he would be informed of a trade before a deal was announced, but that didn't happen when he was shipped to the Blue Jays last summer. Although I don't think the Cubs will trade Schwarber for a reliever, there is one deal that I would pull the trigger on if I were Epstein.
Trade Proposal: Cubs trade OF/C Kyle Schwarber, RHP Dylan Cease, and OF Donnie Dewees to the Rays in exchange for SP Chris Archer.
Archer hasn't been as good as he has been the past several years, but some of his struggles might be attributed to playing for the Tampa Bay Rays. Archer sports an ERA of 4.68, while having a FIP of 4.33. Archer's inflated ERA is caused by a number of factors, starting with the Rays' defense. The Rays rank 23rd in baseball with a DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) of -14, while the Cubs lead the Majors with 43 DRS. Archer also has an uncharacteristically high HR/FB ratio of 17.4%, more than 6% higher than his career average of 11%. Furthermore, Archer has been unlucky this year with balls put in play, as his BABIP of .315 is 0.025 points higher than his career norm of .290. Archer's velocity is nearly identical to last year, a year in which he finished 5th in AL Cy Young voting. Archer is controlled through 2019 at a very reasonable $19 million with options for 2020 and 2021 at $9 million and $11 million each. Adding Archer would equate to a playoff rotation of Arrieta, Lester, and Archer, one that would go toe-to-toe against any other team in the playoffs.
It's no secret that the Rays need to add a bat if they want to contend in the future, as they rank 27th in baseball with 3.88 runs per game. The Rays have a surplus of starting pitching, and have long been rumored to trade a starting pitcher. Even by trading Archer, the Rays have a potential ace in Blake Snell, and a formidable rotation in Jake Odorizzi, Matt Moore, and Drew Smyly. Adding Schwarber, a 30+ HR threat from the left side, would immediately improve a middling Rays offense. Schwarber would profile at either 1B or DH, adding a cost-controlled middle of the order bat for the Rays. Inserting Cease into a system that is renowned for developing pitching gives the Rays a pitcher that has the tools to be an ace. Dewees would give the Rays a toolsy outfielder that has the potential to be a solid Major League outfielder.
The recent emergence of Kyle Hendricks might dispel the need for a cost-controlled pitcher, but his BABIP (.245) and FIP (3.44) suggest that his ERA of 2.27, currently good for third in the National League behind Clayton Kershaw and Madison Bumgarner (!!), is due for at least a bit of regression. However, by the time Arrieta is a free agent, Jon Lester will start to decline, leaving the Cubs without an ace. As pitching contracts continue to increase in value, acquiring Archer would go a long way into being able to resign the core of young sluggers once they are due for free agency.
I love Schwarber just as much as any other Cubs fan, but there are a number of facts that can't be ignored when deciding whether or not to trade Schwarber. The first, being that Schwarber's lack of defensive skills make him a liability no matter where he plays in the field. Granted, he has the athleticism and the work ethic to become a league-average left fielder defensively, it's still a long shot to reach that title, as Schwarber posted a -0.7 dWAR in just 63 games in which he played in the field.
A second aspect to examine is Schwarber's injury. It's been reported that Schwarber's rehabilitation process is going well, but we won't know how this will effect him until he's back on the field. That level of uncertainty could scare away clubs, particularly if Schwarber hopes to continue catching.
The final facet to analyze in a Schwarber trade is that he isn't helping the Cubs this year. Adding a Andrew Miller type player would only improve the Cubs this year, as they wouldn't be trading any of the players that have contributed to a stellar season thus far. Trading Schwarber could bring the first World Series trophy back to the North Side in over 100 years, but is it worth it?