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Jeimer Candelario returns to Chicago

The third baseman was traded away in 2017

Washington Nationals v New York Mets
Jeimer Candelario plays against the Mets in July
Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

In 2017 the Cubs made a move at the trade deadline for catching depth and a reliever that Al would later write up as one of the 10 worst moves of the decade for the Chicago Cubs, sending MLB ready third baseman Jeimer Candelario and prospect Isaac Paredes to the Detroit Tigers for Alex Avila and Justin Wilson. As Al wrote in 2019:

Theo & Co. were quite busy in the summer of 2017 trying to squeeze out another World Series title. It didn’t work. Avila was competent for the Cubs, then left via free agency for the Diamondbacks, for whom he was mediocre for two years. Wilson was awful in 2017 for the Cubs, better in 2018, then left in free agency for the Mets.

Meanwhile, Candelario has been a decent player for a really bad Tigers team. The key here, though, might be Paredes. He’s only 20 and hit .282./368/.416 in Double-A in 2019, and MLB Pipeline ranks him the Tigers’ fifth-best prospect. A few years down the road, Paredes could make the Cubs really regret this trade.

Four years later the Cubs were desperate for an upgrade at the hot corner to bolster their thin playoff hopes and who else was available? One Jeimer Candelario, who’s quietly put together a pretty solid season for the Washington Nationals slashing .258/.342/.481 with a wRC+ of 121 and on-pace for a career high fWAR, having already put up 3.1 fWAR through 419 plate appearances this season.

The Cubs have struggled to find an everyday third baseman since trading Kris Bryant to the San Francisco Giants in 2021. You can see some offensive stats for all of the third basemen who have tried to fill in, plus the 2021 partial year for Bryant alongside Candelario below:

Cubs 3B Since 2021

Patrick Wisdom 311 1156 71 157 163 16 9.8% 37.0% .257 .278 .212 .299 .470 .329 109 3.9
Kris Bryant 93 374 18 58 51 4 10.4% 23.8% .236 .314 .267 .358 .503 .368 131 2.6
Nick Madrigal 115 406 1 44 24 11 5.4% 10.6% .057 .292 .260 .319 .317 .287 81 1.0
Zach McKinstry 47 171 4 17 12 7 7.6% 28.1% .155 .272 .206 .272 .361 .279 78 0.9
Matt Duffy 97 322 5 45 30 8 7.8% 19.6% .093 .351 .287 .357 .381 .327 104 0.9
Miles Mastrobuoni 43 113 1 14 4 10 10.6% 23.0% .061 .278 .212 .297 .273 .263 62 0.0
David Bote 138 454 12 47 47 1 7.3% 26.0% .143 .270 .216 .287 .359 .284 78 -0.1
Edwin Rios 18 34 1 3 2 0 14.7% 47.1% .143 .091 .071 .235 .214 .220 33 -0.3
Jonathan Villar 46 166 2 19 15 6 6.6% 25.3% .105 .288 .222 .271 .327 .263 68 -0.8
Jeimer Candelario 372 1512 45 181 170 6 8.50% 22.0% .177 .299 .250 .324 .428 .326 108 6.9
Select Offensive Stats FanGraphs

Candelario represents a clear upgrade from the Cubs situation at third base for the last few seasons. As Josh noted in the piece breaking the trade, he’s a switch hitter who has superior splits against righties, slashing .271/.352/.523 with a wRC+ of 134. That could pair nicely with Patrick Wisdom, who has superior career numbers against lefties (although his splits are more even in the small sample size of 2023).

This was not a cheap acquisition for the Chicago Cubs, who gave up two intriguing prospects in DJ Herz and Kevin Made, from Josh’s write-up:

Herz, 22, was the Cubs’ eighth-round pick in the 2019 draft. He has a low-90s fastball with good movement, a devastating change and a good curve. However, he has a very funky delivery tha on the positive side, makes it very difficult for hitters to pick up the spin. On the negative side, it also makes it difficult to throw strikes. This year in Double-A Tennessee, Herz struck out 80 and walked 37 over 59 innings. He has an ERA of 3.97. He was the Cubs’ 19th-best prospect according to Baseball America. He was the 16th-ranked prospect by MLB Pipeline

Made, 20, is a slick-fielding shortstop who has struggled to hit in High-A over the past two seasons. This year, Made is hitting .240/.328/.355 with three home runs and three steals. Most of his value comes from his glove, although he’s young enough that he could still learn to hit for average, at least. He is improved this year over last. Made was left off Baseball America’s midseason Top 30 update, although he was the 21st-ranked Cubs prospect at the beginning of the season. MLB Pipeline ranks him as the 14th-best Cubs prospect.

While numbers like 14th and 16th probably don’t sound like the Cubs gave up all that much, FanGraphs had both Herz and Made as one of the many 40+ future value guys in the Cubs farm system. As a reminder, that projects somewhere from a guy who could be useful off the bench to a possible less-impactful everyday regular. These numbers are imperfect — for reference Candelario was a 50 FV grade prospect when he was traded to Detroit in 2017 and Paredes was a 40 FV grade prospect. You can see all of the Cubs’ 2017 prospect rankings, per FanGraphs, here.

Candelario undoubtedly helps the Cubs at a position where they have struggled to replace the value the traded away in 2021. He also probably makes Wisdom a better option, and a platoon of Wisdom and Candelario is very intriguing to me. Either way, you could feel the vibes shift at the Friendly Confines on Monday night as the team committed to buying this season. It’s refreshing to be writing up this side of a trade for the first time in a couple of seasons.