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The Cubs shouldn’t trade David Bote

There’s a rumor out that the Padres are interested. Here’s why the Cubs should keep Bote.

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

This offseason, it doesn’t take much to have a story leap to the top of the Cubs’ news heap. Sunday’s story was that the Cubs and Padres might be in discussions regarding David Bote going to San Diego, potentially for a relief pitcher. I’m as bad as a source for how good a Padres reliever will do in a leverage spot in Wrigley. I’ve probably watched fewer than five at-bats against Kirby Yates in the last three years. Perhaps that’s the reason I lean against a Bote-plus for Yates trade.

Whenever pitchers like Yates are discussed in trade talks, I check to see what the response was when they were claimed on waivers. In Yates’ case, co-trade piece Craig Stammen was discussed in a rather negative fashion in this MLB Trade Rumors article. Yates and Stammen have much better numbers since the article than before. In my mind, at least some of that could be venue related.

These things are figured into the numbers, though. Yates is better now. So much so that he is now accepted as a leverage reliever. Except, I’m old enough to remember a few relievers that were supposed to be really good for the Cubs through the years, that weren’t. Some were. A decent chunk of assessing a Bote-plus for Yates trade hinges on “Will Yates be a leverage guy for the Cubs?” As I think relievers are too random, I’m not buying it, even though it could happen. Even in a majority of cases.

What I’m seeing with any trade along these lines is that the Cubs are getting a reliever for two years. How many wins do you see him being worth between 2019 and 2020 (after which he reaches free agency)? I’d put the absolute upside at five wins. It could be more. He could do a Kintzler and be terrible. As maddening as it is to the majority, I have no idea, and claim no knowledge of his future. Five wins, though, I see as a virtual apex.

If Yates comes in and gets four to five over two seasons for the Cubs, leading to post-season runs, then cool. That’s the expectation. I’d put that likelihood in about the 60 percent range. Him being a bit worse is about 20 percent, and significantly worse, about the same. In my mind, it’s a dice roll. If Tommy Hottovy and Bob Tewksbury have him at the top of the range, it’s probably a good trade whatever the Cubs give up, within reason. I’d be more than willing to eat crow, cold or hot.

Two specifics get me from buying in on the 60 percent likelihood. One is the apparent “selling David Bote on a high.” I’m currently reading “Ninety Percent Mental,” Bob Tewksbury’s book. As you read a book on an athlete, the basic pathway is to track the player’s career with vignettes along the way. Some jump forward. Some slide back. However, much of it follows a linear timeline.

Bote’s career now is less than entire season into its duration. He could wash out entirely. He could become a variant on DJ LeMahieu. He could become a Darwin Barney. About all we know now is, if he has a valid career at the MLB level, it’s barely started yet. I’m being told the Cubs would be “selling at a high.” That could be correct. Or, he could figure out how to limit swinging at what he won’t be able to hit. I’m entirely willing to say I can’t draw an expectation graph for the next two Yates seasons, or the next six for Bote. I’m not that astute.

Over the next six seasons, Bote has a much higher upside than the five wins I peak out for Yates. Yes, obviously, the leverage is far different. I’m not that naive. It could be that Yates is much better than Bote. However, six is more than two.

Another reason I struggle with the hypothetical trade is, the Cubs window includes 2019, if you buy the window premise. Addison Russell is, effectively, dead to me. If he is useful, productive, and all that, great. I don’t consider him a reliable backup at shortstop, and I certainly don’t buy him as a starter. If Javier Baez misses some time in 2019, the Cubs best in-house replacement might be Bote.

Yeah, the team could make a trade for a fill-in, but that’s the point of having cost-controlled reserves. I’m not ready for Trent Giambrone or Zack Short to face the full MLB pressure, yet. For a day or two, Daniel Descalso or Ben Zobrist could fill in. However, if Baez is out a week to a month, trading Bote exacerbates the problem. Toss in that “Bote plus” going to San Diego is sending another piece to a loaded organization. I doubt that “a middling reliever in A-Ball” will interest the Padres.

For my preference, too much can go wrong on either of three sides. If the trade happens (I doubt it), I’ll gulp and hope it works. A bit like the Aroldis Chapman or Jose Quintana (who was also an unheralded free agent at one point) trades. Quite a few of you have more faith in Yates than I do. Such is life.

Do I place too much “ownership” into Bote, as I’ve been tracking him through the system? Probably. However, the “six is greater than two” continues to flash in my “MLB is becoming a de facto cap league”-addled mind. Trading contracts that are perceived as team-friendly can be wise, if the player has already come close to his peak value. Maybe his career will be as a pure reserve. Maybe a full-season, with Giambrone, Short and Nico Hoerner on the way, will aid or hinder his trade value. I’m glad help is on the way. I’m not convinced Bote is a throwaway piece.

Trades will happen, and players with perceived future value are the ones opponents want. I’d feel a bit more comfortable if a few more arms would have been claimed off waivers, then run back through successfully. Fourteen options are better than eight, and I somewhat like the depth in Iowa already. In summary, I wouldn’t like a Bote-plus for Yates trade, but I wouldn’t throw a tirade. I’d hope it works, and still cheer for Bote. And if the Cubs-Padres game isn’t close, I might root for him to have success, anyway.