It’s no secret that the Cubs are lacking production from the keystone position this year. Entering the All-Star break, the Cubs rank 15th in baseball with an fWAR of 1.5 from the second base contingent of Addison Russell, David Bote, and Daniel Descalso, who have a combined slash line of .233/.323/.371. While league average doesn’t scream for a change, the front office has been hinting at a drastic change coming in the next few weeks, and this is the position that would make the most sense.
Bote has been the most productive member of the current group, posting a 0.9 fWAR with a 101 wRC+. However, Joe Maddon has been reluctant to make Bote the everyday starter at second base. He’s started just 19 games at the position this year. Setting the off-field issues aside, Addison Russell has actually been fairly productive in his limited action, accumulating an fWAR of 0.6 in just 46 games, with most of that value coming from his glove. Descalso, on the other hand, has been putrid this season, slashing .186/.285/.269 over 180 plate appearances, registering a wRC+ of 51. Of the 46 second basemen that have registered at least 150 plate appearances this year, Descalso’s -0.6 fWAR ranks 44th. Why Descalso is still on the roster for a team competing for a World Series is beyond me. Robel Garcia and his .958 OPS between Double-A and Triple-A this year is an intriguing solution, but I would be shocked if Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are betting on someone who was playing baseball in Italy last year to save the day. With Russell and Garcia both having minor league options remaining, the Cubs could decide to add a second baseman before July 31 in hopes to spark an offense that has been sputtering as of late.
Sogard is having a career year for the Blue Jays, owning a slash line of .294/.364/.478 to go along with nine home runs and a 1.8 fWAR. Sogard offers positional flexibility too, having played second base, shortstop, third base, and right field for the Blue Jays this year. The 33-year-old is set to become a free agent at the end of the year and would provide the Cubs the player they hoped to get when they signed Daniel Descalso this past offseason, a versatile left-handed bat that can play a variety of infield positions. Sogard is probably due for some regression in the second half, as his BABIP, ISO, and wRC+ are well above his career averages. With that being said, Sogard represents the type of player the front office has routinely targeted the past couple years, a veteran player on an expiring contract that won’t gut the farm system, ala Daniel Murphy and Cole Hamels. Cubs send
Trade Proposal: Cubs acquire UTIL Eric Sogard for RF Jonathan Sierra and SP Zach Mort.
Like Sogard, Kendrick is enjoying a career year well past his prime. The 35-year old former all-star is batting .327/.378/.563 this year with 12 home runs and 47 runs batted in, good for a 139 wRC+ and an fWAR of 1.6. While Kendrick is a second baseman by trade, he’s played all over the infield for the Nationals this year, splitting time at first, second, and third base. Kendrick is set to become a free agent at the end of the season and would provide the Cubs with another veteran presence that can play multiple positions in a pinch.
Trade Proposal: Cubs acquire UTIL Howie Kendrick for 1B Tyler Durna and LF Charcer Burks.
Perhaps the crowned jewel of the second base market this year, Merrifield has been on Cubs fans’ radars for the past couple years. A late bloomer as a prospect, Merrifield didn’t reach the majors until after his 27th birthday. Now 30, Merrifield has been one of the most productive middle infielders since the start of last season, accumulating a 7.5 fWAR in the process. This year, Merrifield is batting .306/.355/.495, good for a 121 wRC+ and a 2.3 fWAR. Merrifield leads Major League Baseball with 117 hits in 2019, and routinely bats out of the leadoff spot for the Kansas City Royals, something he would undoubtedly do if he were to become a Cub.
While Merrifield holds a ton of value as a player, his contract makes him even more appealing. This past off-season, Merrifield signed a four-year, $16.25 million contract with a team option in 2023. Merrifield is only set to earn $14.5 million over the next three seasons, although that number could increase up to $18.5 million based on incentives. His team option of $10.5 million doesn’t represent a massive bargain, especially considering that it would be his age-34 season in 2023, but a $750,000 buyout hardly represents an obstacle in acquiring him.
The first time All-Star led the Majors with 45 steals in 2018, and while he’s only stolen 13 bases this year, that would easily pace every player on the Cubs in that category. Merrifield is a bit of an enigma at this point in his career; he’s 30, he was never a top prospect in the minors, but he’s been wildly productive since becoming a major leaguer in 2016, and he could be the game changing addition that could propel the Cubs to the NL Central division title this year, and potentially beyond. He’s going to cost a king’s ransom due to his productivity and team-friendly contract, but this type of addition could be the shakeup the Cubs so desperately covet and would solve the leadoff hitter dilemma for the foreseeable future.
Trade Proposal: Cubs acquire 2B Whit Merrifield and C Martín Maldonado for SS Nico Hoerner, C Victor Caratini, and RHP Alex Lange.
Do the Cubs need to make a trade for a second baseman?
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