I’m not sure you were aware of this, but the Cubs have been in search of…wait for it…controllable pitching. Shocker, right? I’ll give you a moment to compose yourself after digesting that spicy little nugget of knowledge. All joking aside, this has been a pretty obvious white whale for a front office that has failed to get much of anything from their homegrown pitching prospects over the last half-decade.
That’s why they threw a ton of money at Jon Lester and it’s why they parted with the top two minor leaguers in the system for Jose Quintana last year. And it’s why, with another hole yet to fill in the rotation, the Cubs have continued to scour the landscape for more young arms to help offset the rapidly increasing cost of their position-player talent.
We’ve heard about Chris Archer ad nauseam and there have been whispers about Gerrit Cole. There was even a rumor last season that the Cubs had approached the Tigers about a swap involving Kyle Schwarber for either Daniel Norris or Michael Fulmer (though that came via Jim Bowden, so take that for what it’s worth).
Those are all pretty big names and have been somewhat public knowledge, but Ken Rosenthal shared another possibility in the “Around the horn” section of his latest piece for The Athletic (subscription required/recommended):
The Padres balked at the Cubs’ asking price for infielder Javier Baez at the winter meetings, moving on to other pursuits, sources say. The Cubs likely would have wanted a controllable starter such as Luis Perdomo or Dinelson Lamet for Baez, who would have solved the Padres’ need for a long-term shortstop (though a top prospect such as Luis Urias or Fernando Tatis Jr. might prove the answer).
It sounds like the Padres initiated the talks in an attempt to fill their void at short, so it’s not like the Cubs were necessarily shopping Javy. This isn’t the first time the two teams have talked about him in exchange for a young pitcher, though, as they were reportedly on the verge of trade centered around Tyson Ross at the 2015 deadline. I’d say the Cubs are probably happy with the way that worked out.
I don’t want to get into too much on the two names Rosenthal mentions here, since he’s merely speculating as to who the Cubs might have asked for. But I do think it bears a quick review just the same.
Perdomo is a 24-year-old (25 in May) righty who came up through the Cardinals organization and has spent the last two seasons in San Diego. He’s got four more years of control, which is nice, and he’s got a big-time sinker that he uses to generate a ton of ground balls. We’re talking just over 60 percent in 310 career innings, so it’s no fluke. That would be great at Wrigley.
Less great is the fact that he has allowed home runs on 23 percent of the fly balls he allows when pitching away from cavernous Petco Park. Then again, you’ll often see higher HR/FB numbers with extreme ground ball pitchers simply because they give up so few flies in general. Perdomo is a pitch-to-contact guy who isn’t going to miss a ton of bats but who could really blossom if he dials in the control.
Lamet is a 25-year-old righty (26 in July) who has posted big-time strikeout numbers and still has six years of control. He racked up nearly 11 K/9 in 114.1 innings as a rookie, which is in keeping with what he put up on the farm. Pretty much a fastball/slider guy, Lamet uses his mid-90’s gas to set up the breaking stuff and generate whiffs.
Had he pitched enough innings to qualify, his overall slider value of 12.3 runs saved would have ranked 10th in MLB, right in line with Carlos Martinez (12.5), Patrick Corbin (12.5), Carlos Carrasco (12.3), and Dylan Bundy (12.2). More innings would likely have pushed him much higher in the rankings. To wit, his per-100 pitch value of 1.58 would have ranked 8th, ahead of Martinez (1.49) and Luis Severino (1.55). Not too shabby.
With little more than cursory knowledge of the two pitchers in question, I’d prefer to cast my lot with Lamet. But it’s really a moot point since nothing is happening on that front. What we can take away from this, though, is that the Cubs are willing to part with Javy Baez for the right return. We can also surmise that said return is going to have to be pretty high, as it should be.
So how about it, dear reader, would you trade Javy for either of the two Padres pitchers mentioned if you were in the Cubs front office? If not, what would you need to get back in return for the talented-but-sometimes-frustrating infielder?