The Cubs are looking for a catcher to pair with Yan Gomes, now that Willson Contreras is a free agent and not likely to return.
The Blue Jays have two good catchers — Alejandro Kirk and Danny Jansen — and a third catcher, Gabriel Moreno, who is not only the Jays’ top prospect but a Top 10 prospect in all of MLB.
So, it would seem logical for Toronto to want to deal from strength at catching to improve elsewhere. The Cubs, needing a partner for Gomes, would seem to be a match.
This article by Kaitlyn McGrath at The Athletic examines several possible deals for one of the Jays catchers. One of them, unsurprisingly, involves the Cubs:
Chicago Cubs trade OF Ian Happ and RHP Adbert Alzolay to Blue Jays for Jansen
The Blue Jays have placed Ian Happ on their radar during the multiple trading cycles the Cubs have considered dealing him. Happ, who can become a free agent after the 2023 season, made significant changes as a switch-hitter and an outfielder to blossom into an All-Star and a Gold Glove winner this year. The Cubs are planning to explore the possibility of a long-term contract extension during Happ’s final year in the arbitration system, though their recent track record suggests he’ll be traded this summer if the team again drops out of the playoff race.
If the Cubs graded Jansen high enough as a catcher, he would make sense as a target. To bridge the gap between that timeframe and Happ’s walk year, the Cubs could include Adbert Alzolay, a talented pitcher who has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career. Right now, the Cubs view Alzolay as an asset for their bullpen, someone who can throw multiple innings and attack certain parts of a lineup. The Cubs are relatively deep in outfield prospects and young relievers.
That came from The Athletic’s Patrick Mooney, whose work you are surely familiar with. Right after that analysis, Jim Bowden of The Athletic wrote:
I would not make this trade if I were the Cubs, but if I were the Blue Jays, I would call a press conference to announce the deal if we received this offer. Happ’s versatility and switch-hitting ability combined with his .342 on-base percentage and 4.4 bWAR last season make it a no-brainer for Toronto. They could play him at second base or in left field and let him be another table setter for the middle of their lineup. Alzolay, if healthy, could provide swing-and-miss innings for the bullpen, which is an area they’ve been looking to improve. But if I’m the Cubs, I’m pursuing Moreno because I think they need to be thinking longer term than Jansen.
So, here’s what I think. First, I disagree with Bowden on where Happ could play for Toronto — he’s no longer a second baseman, and in fact is a Gold Glove-winning left fielder. He’s also in his walk year in 2023 and though Jed Hoyer has paid lip service to the idea of signing him to an extension, there’s been no news of such a contract so far this offseason.
Second, if I’m making this deal I would rather have Kirk than Jansen. First, Jansen will be 28 next April and missed a fair amount of time in 2022 with injuries. He hit well for Toronto this past season (.260/.339/.516 with 15 home runs in just 70 games) and hit a three-run homer for the Jays against the Cubs August 29 that helped Toronto win that game. He has two years of team control left.
Kirk turned 24 earlier this month and also had a good offensive season in 2022: .285/.372/.415 (134-for-470) with 14 home runs in 139 games. He also ranked as one of MLB’s top pitch framers in 2022 (via Statcast). Kirk and Jansen are roughly equivalent in throwing out base stealers. But Kirk has four years of team control remaining, and if I’m trading Happ and Alzolay, I’d want those extra years of team control. Lastly, 2022 was Jansen’s first really good offensive season and Kirk has a career .362 OBP over 755 plate appearances.
Bowden would like the Cubs to trade for Moreno but I don’t think the Jays will do that; Toronto would probably like to keep the younger guy with more team control, even though he’s got only 25 games of MLB experience.
My conclusion: If the Cubs could acquire Alejandro Kirk (and maybe an A-ball lottery ticket pitcher) for Ian Happ and Adbert Alzolay, I say go for it. That would open a hole for the Cubs in left field, but that could potentially be filled by someone like Nelson Velázquez, Christopher Morel or a free agent. Alzolay has potential as a multi-inning reliever, but as Mooney points out, the Cubs are starting to graduate a lot of good relievers from the system and have more in the pipeline.
Kirk, at 24 with four years of team control, could solve the Cubs’ catching issues for several seasons.
What would you do?
Regarding the Cubs trading for one of the Blue Jays catchers...
This poll is closed
... the Cubs should make an offer like the one in the article, Ian Happ and Adbert Alzolay for Danny Jansen
... the Cubs should offer Happ and Alzolay, but ask for Alejandro Kirk in return
... the Cubs should offer Happ and Alzolay, but ask for Gabriel Moreno in returh
... the Cubs should go for one of the Jays catchers, but I have a different trade proposal
... the Cubs should not trade for one of the Jays catchers
Something else (leave in comments)