Cubs Betting On Kyle Schwarber, Not With Him

Todd Frazier may be the Rasputin of the Home Run Derby, but when it comes to Cubs trade rumors it seems the idea of Kyle Schwarber to the Yankees just won’t die. Not that many of us in the blogging community, not to mention traditional media and Cubs leadership, haven’t tried repeatedly to put that particular concept to rest. Like Vigo the Carpathian, it’s been poisoned, shot, stabbed, hung, stretched, and disemboweled. Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein may have finally had it drawn and quartered on Tuesday.

“Our philosophy has been you want to be aggressive in the moment, but at the same time, you have to realize the idea of ‘this is the season’ or ‘going all in’ is exceptionally dangerous in our sport,” Hoyer said during a live broadcast of the Spiegel and Goff Show from Del Frisco’s Steakhouse. “So the way we look at it is the best way to win a World Series is to get to the playoffs every year with a good team and if you can do that, you hope to have that magic October.

“I think any one move is probably unlikely to shift your odds as much as people think it might shift them. So you want to be aggressive, you want to address your weaknesses, but you also want to be aware the best way to win a World Series is simply by getting there every single year.”

Hoyer was speaking specifically about Kyle Schwarber and all the talk about him being involved in a potential move for Yankees closer-cum-setup man Andrew Miller. The 6-7 strikeout artist just turned 31 in May and is signed through 2018 at a relatively modest salary of $9 million per season. He hasn’t always been the most consistent or durable pitcher in the world since he debuted with the Tigers in 2006, but it’s impossible to discount the 14.17 K/9 innings he’s notched over the last five (mostly) healthy seasons.

It’s easy to look at a bullpen like the Cubs’ — or any team, for that matter — and see how the lanky lefty would immediately elevate it to elite status. Pitching, as they say, wins championships, so having a relief corps to match what may be baseball’s best rotation seems like a recipe for a World Series title. Thing is, this has never been about taking one big swing at the first pitch they saw. In that regard, Epstein and Hoyer have run their team in a way that mirrors their hitters’ overall patient approach at the plate.

“Obviously, there are guys that we’re building around, these core foundational guys,” Epstein said. “We believe in their talent. We believe in their makeup. We believe in everything they’ve done to get us to this point and everything they’re going to do for us over the next many years. We’re going to do everything we can to win it this year, but as Jed said earlier, we want to get there every year, and we want to do it with guys you believe in, guys that we believe in. And we’re lucky enough to have that group, so to break it up, we’d be really foolish.”

It’s rare for either Epstein or Hoyer to speak in absolutes or to divulge the specific details of their plans, but they have come close to doing so when it involves Schwarber.

“We see him as an elite middle-of-the-order run-producing bat with great makeup,” Hoyer explained. “Those don’t come around very often. He was a huge catalyst of our team last year.”

Hey, Jed, you forgot to add “left-handed.” While shut-down southpaw relievers don’t come along too often, neither does the type of hitter who can plant home runs on scoreboards and who has a magnetic pull on fans and teammates alike. In his ability to both, Schwarber is a little like another slugger who’s currently involved in a season-long retirement tour. I’m not drawing a direct comparison between Schwarber and David Ortiz, but I am saying that War Bear shares some of Big Papi’s finer qualities. That’s not something you part with in exchange for a reliever, no matter how good.

The Cubs have spent the last several years developing a core of foundational players around whom they could eventually add ancillary pieces to fill in empty spots or shore up weaknesses. With most of the ice cream sundae already assembled, Epstein and Hoyer now need to find a cherry and some sprinkles to put on top. They are obviously reluctant to part with the players already making an impact at the big league level, but they can be aggressive when it comes to moving those prospects who might otherwise be cornerstones under different circumstances.

It’s all a big balancing act, knowing who to move, who to hold, when to go all in, and when to fold. When it’s all said and done, though, I’m counting on Epstein and Hoyer to follow Kenny Rogers’ advice. Well, except for the cosmetic surgery and chicken restaurants.

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