I've run into another Cubs trade proposal that seems worth discussing, not because I approve or disapprove of it (It's really close), but because of a few topics it brings up. The trade idea for Rowan Wick from the Mariners Fansided site brings up the importance of not only cost control for relievers, but the importance of arbitration years for relievers. As important as a deep bullpen is in MLB now, nobody made an offer for Ryne Stanek that was impressive enough for him to turn down a $1.1 million dollar offer from the Astros.
Tom Ricketts isn't the only one unwilling to invest in the product as if winning is important. The lack of Josh Hader trade discussion has me wondering if any pivot talk from the Brewers is being laughed off. Trades that might have happened 15, six, or even two years ago aren't being offered much anymore, as owners prioritize wealth retention over winning.
First, I wanted to check on Wick's MLB service time. (My thumbs-up or thumbs-down is really that close.) At 1.114 years of service time, Wick isn't eligible for arbitration this season, but he could be next season if a Super-Two, and definitely by 2023. He isn’t a free agent until 2026. He's a bargain this season, should be in 2022, and becomes less of a bargain in 2023 through 2025. That Hader is both being shopped, and not being acquired, is a tell for how important arbitration is for relievers.
As far as valuing Wick on-the-diamond, his getting shut down in late September effectively dropped the Cubs to a two-man leverage-end of the bullpen: Jeremy Jeffress and Craig Kimbrel. Realistically, that was a huge crimp in the team having a viable chance in advancing past the Marlins series. Wick has been fantastic. While relievers are notoriously unreliable as far as consistency, penciling Wick for a $10 million value in 2022 and 2023 is very tempting.
As noted in the article linked above, the writer sees the Mariners as competitive in 2021, particularly with Wick in the bullpen. Teams willing to trade 2023 and beyond value for 2021 and 2022 wins ate exactly what a team in "salary-dump mode" (Sorry — the Darvish trade was a salary-dump, regardless of what Jed Hoyer claims) ought to be looking for. Especially with a 'fragile reliever', even one still making roughly league minimum.
Thursday, the Indians salary-dumped Francisco Lindor to the Mets, along with Carlos Carrasco, for four players, two with MLB experience. One thing I didn't read in any commentary from people outside the Twitter-credentialed sorts was, "I've never seen Isaiah Greene or Josh Wolf play in a game, live or on TV, so my assessment of them should be somewhat disregarded." This week, we celebrated the nine-year anniversary of the Andrew Cashner for Anthony Rizzo trade. It’s among the 15 best-ever Cubs trades — but what was your opinion of it when it happened?
The pieces the faux Wick trade would send to the Cubs lean heavily on the "young and developable" sort, as came in the Yu Darvish trade. Had it been for more advanced players, I likely wouldn't even have bothered commenting. This seems exactly what Hoyer seeks. How do the particulars line up?
Milkar Perez is from Laon, Nicaragua, and signed for a $175,000 signing bonus in the 2018-2019 cycle. (Key assessment markers in international bonuses are in the $1,000,000, $300,000, and $100,000 ranges.) Perez was a bit moderate in demand, but did well as a third base prospect in the DSL in 2019. Independent of anything else, I like Perez as a prospect, but put a pin in that for a bit.
The second name is the buried lede. Connor Phillips is ranked 13th on MLB's updated Mariners prospect list, and was a second-round compensatory pick in June 2020. An LSU-commit, Phillips transfered to McClellan Community College in Texas to be 2020 Draft-eligible. He signed a seven-figure signing bonus.
Are the careers of Perez and Phillips worth up to three or four years of Wick? In a cost-accountancy phase of baseball where the Darvish trade is argued as anything but a salary dump, that's where we are. To start, I'll state the obvious. I haven't seen Phillips or Perez play. If I had their Hawkeye computer readings handy from September Instructs, I could give a better assessment. As of now, I plead ignorance, and roll with two nuggets to chew on.
How much do you really believe in Wick? If you think his health concerns are past tense, and he will be a legit leverage guy for a few years, oppose the trade. I'm good with that. However, if you oppose the trade, and Wick's ERA balloons, you got the trade wrong. It's really that close.
I'm slightly against this trade proposal. The key point for me is Perez. Adding talent is about adding talent, and little else. However, in Reggie Preciado, Rafael Morel, and Perez, the Cubs would (if the trade would happen) seem to have three players that are roughly similar. That's cool, but to add Perez to the mix as an improvement in the pipeline, he almost has to represent better than one of the other two. Preciado might be top ten in the pipeline by May, and set a record for bonus signings for players from Panama. Perez is good, but not that lofty. As for Morel, his bonus was a bit higher than what Perez got, his offensive numbers were slightly better (OPS .821 to .769), and Morel, who has a bit of shortstop in his profile, stole 23 bases to Perez' eight in the 2019 DSL campaign.
Perez and/or Phillips might have fantastic careers. However, to give up two very inexpensive years of Wick, I need a bit more than Phillips and Perez to be satisfied. It is close, and both add to the equation. That I don't see Perez as better than Morel or Preciado is enough to nix the offer. Would the Perez and Isaiah Campbell (Seattle's normal second-rounder in 2020) be enough? Would flipping Austin Shenton (2019 5th Round) or Tyler Keenan (2020 4th Round) for Perez be enough? Would I change my mind next week?
I don't like to buy relievers long-term. They're often one poorly-delivered pitch from being very ordinary. Nonetheless, Wick (who I grossly undervalued when the Cubs acquired him) has been a key cog for the recent Cubs bullpen. For people entirely unfamiliar with any of the potential trade pieces, I get wanting to hold onto "what you know." Holding onto the familiar a bit long (paired with some lousy and counter-productive investments by ownership) have the Cubs in a race to "least-bad team" in the NL Central in 2021. This offer was very realistic, and fun to assess.