You can never have enough starting pitching. It sounds like Yu Darvish is hopeful to be back by August, but will he be the guy the Cubs thought they were getting when they paid him $126 million in the offseason? Tyler Chatwood is still walking nearly a batter per inning. Mike Montgomery is starting to come back down to earth after getting off to a hot start as a starter, owning an ERA of 6.00 in his last four starts. Jose Quintana and Kyle Hendricks looked sharp in their last outings, but is it realistic to believe they’ve turned the corner after one good outing in one of the best pitchers’ ballparks in all of baseball? These next few weeks will be critical in determining what the Cubs end of doing at the trade deadline, but if they are to look at acquiring a starter, here are three trades that might make sense come deadline time.
SP Nathan Eovaldi for SP Thomas Hatch and 3B Jason Vosler: Eovaldi is as polarizing of a trade candidate as any this trade deadline. After tearing his flexor tendon and undergoing his second Tommy John surgery of his career in August 2016, it looked like Eovaldi’s career may have been coming to an end. Eovaldi missed all of 2017 recovering and made his first appearance for the Rays on May 30, throwing six no-hit innings. In eight starts this season, Eovaldi owns a 3.35 ERA with a 0.807 WHIP, but with an unsustainably low BABIP of .198. Eovaldi could potentially be an effective member in the back end of the bullpen too, as he has a four-pitch mix, with an average fastball velocity of 97.4 miles per hour this year. Eovaldi is only 28, but he’ll be a free agent at the end of the year, so he shouldn’t cost too much to acquire. In Hatch, the Cubs would be losing their first selection in the 2016 draft, even though he was the 104th overall selection that year. Hatch is 6-4 with a 3.82 ERA in Double-A this year and has the potential to be a back of the rotation type starter. Vosler is having the best year of minor league career, as he owns an .816 OPS with 15 homers between Double-A and Triple-A. The 25-year-old is a third baseman by trade, but it’s his bat that’ll carry him to the majors, even if he lands at first base or as a DH.
SP J.A. Happ for SP Jen-Ho Tseng and C P.J. Higgins: For whatever reason, the Cubs are said to be linked to Happ, with the Blue Jays eyeing David Bote, Mark Zagunis, and Jen-Ho Tseng. The 35-year-old southpaw is the lone All-Star representative for the Jays this year, even though he sports a 4.44 ERA and an ERA+ of 95. Happ will be a free agent at season’s end, and even though he’s in the twilight of his career, Happ’s average fastball velocity is nearly one mile an hour above his career norms. While Happ may not be a monumental upgrade over Tyler Chatwood, like Eovaldi, he could prove to be a valuable member in the bullpen. Happ is striking out nearly 10 batters per nine innings this season, and against lefties, he’s holding batters to a .508 OPS with only four extra base hits in 78 at-bats. If nothing else, Happ would be an improvement over Brian Duensing, and could act as the long man out of the pen if Mike Montgomery continues to start in the rotation. I don’t really buy the Cubs interest in Happ, as that Jays are rumored to be asking for too much, and he would only be an incremental upgrade over the current pitching staff. With that being said, if Theo and Co. can get him for Tseng, plus another lower level prospect, I think Happ would be a welcomed upgrade over Duensing and the revolving relievers on the Des Moines/Chicago express.
SP Chris Archer for OF Ian Happ, C Victor Caratini, and SP Alex Lange: The man that has seemingly been linked with the Cubs for the past two seasons, is this the year he finally makes it to the North Side? As most of you are aware, Archer is on one of the most team friendly deals in all of baseball, one that will pay him just under $28 million over the next three seasons via two team options that will take him through his age-32 season. That’s more than $10 million cheaper than what the Cubs paid for Tyler Chatwood this past offseason. Archer’s ERA is 4.41 this year, but he owns a FIP of 3.78, and the batting average on balls in play against him is .332, more than .030 points higher than his career average. Additionally, Archer got off to a rough start to the season, surrendering 18 runs in his first four starts, which is a large culprit for his inflated ERA. Prior to missing a month due to an abdominal injury in June, Archer posted a 2.91 ERA in nine starts, looking like the former top-of-the-rotation pitcher he once was. With the emergence of Blake Snell as the new ace of the Tampa Bay pitching staff, it’s beginning to look like this may finally be the year that the Rays deal Archer.
Losing Ian Happ would be a tough blow to the Cubs, but that would virtually guarantee Albert Almora Jr. a starting job in center field every day, and with the infield set for the foreseeable future, Happ might be the one Cubs player that would be the easiest to let go of. While Happ isn’t hitting for power at the same clip that he did as a rookie, he has an incredibly high walk rate of 16.3 percent, behind only Mike Trout, Carlos Santana, Bryce Harper, Joey Votto, and Kyle Schwarber. But then there are the strikeouts. With a strikeout rate of 36.3 percent, Happ leads the majors in that category. Happ also has an astonishingly high BABIP of .402, which also happens to be the highest in baseball. Happ has a hard contact rate of 43.3 percent which ranks in the top 30 in the majors, so that partially explains his BABIP. But a BABIP over .400 is more than an anomaly, it’s dumb luck. Happ’s mix of power from both sides of the plate, along with his positional versatility makes him the centerpiece in this deal, even with his warts.
Victor Caratini is the secondary piece in this deal, and while he may not be traded for Archer, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Caratini in a different uniform next month. The Rays have an All-Star catcher in Wilson Ramos, but he’s a free agent at the end of the year. Since the Rays are always looking to trim payroll, it’s highly unlikely that they try to resign Ramos when he hits the market this winter. Enter Caratini. The switch-hitting catcher broke out as a legitimate catching prospect in 2017, batting .342/.393/.558 in Triple-A with 10 home runs and 27 doubles, while throwing out 27 percent of would-be stealers. Caratini could slide in as the backup to Ramos for the rest of 2018, then would be penciled in as the starting catcher for the Rays in 2019. Miguel Amaya’s emergence in South Bend this season makes Caratini expendable in a trade for a starting pitcher. Alex Lange is the final piece going to the Rays in this trade; the 30th overall pick in the 2017 draft, Lange has a 3.52 ERA in Advanced-A, with the ceiling of a mid-rotation starter, and the floor of a shutdown reliever out of the bullpen with his power curve.
The Cubs have an incredibly talented roster, but that doesn’t mean they can afford to stand pat at the trade deadline this year. The Brewers are undoubtedly going to make a move for an impact player in the next few weeks, and whether it’s Jacob DeGrom, Manny Machado, or someone else, the Cubs will need to do something by July 31.
Of these proposed trades, which one would you like to see the Cubs pull off?
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None of the above