Even if Theo Epstein really is navigating a submarine in the race for Bryce Harper, he’s admitted that “no one hitter…is going to transform the offense.” So whether the budget limitations are fixed already or will be as the result of an unlikely — albeit still possible — coup, any additional help is probably going to come via trade.
Contrary to what some may think about the farm system, the Cubs do have a fair bit of projectable talent in the minors to get a significant deal done. They might have to include a major leaguer to swing a really significant deal, but a lot of that depends on the outlook of their trade partner. One such familiar party might just be the cost-conscious Rangers, a team with whom the Cubs are rumored to have talked about infielder Jurickson Profar.
One source says Cubs/Rangers have talked Jurickson Profar.
— TomLoxas (@TomLoxas) December 10, 2018
This lines up with a report from Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News that Profar is very much on the trading block as the rebuilding Rangers look to capitalize on his value in the wake of a Manny Machado deal. Profar will turn 26 in February and is projected to earn $3.4 million through arbitration this coming season, with one more arb-eligible year before hitting free agency after 2020.
Grant wrote that Profar could be had for “merely the price of a couple of pitching prospects,” and later tweeted that a rival exec believed the price would be high. Or at least that it’d be higher than for Rangers outfielder Nomar Mazara.
This does run counter my intuition, though, because I think Mazara still needs to have a standout stretch of baseball for Rangers to realize his max value. https://t.co/vxidRvupWg
— Evan Grant (@Evan_P_Grant) December 10, 2018
The Cubs having interest makes sense on several levels, not the least of which is that they’ve got some middle-infield issues to address. Addison Russell is set to return in May after serving the remainder of his 40-game domestic violence suspension, but the Cubs could easily bridge that gap with a combination of Ben Zobrist and David Bote if they were so inclined.
So actively pursuing Profar, a versatile defender who logged at least 79 innings at all four infield positions last season, would signal a desire to move away from Russell. The prospect cost alone would mean they’re not seeking a bench player, and his projected salary is only about $1 million less than Russell’s, so the Cubs would likely need to make a subsequent change-of-scenery move for their troubled shortstop.
Profar’s career .240/.321/.381 slash line doesn’t jump of the page, but his .708 OPS is actually four points higher than Russell’s. And though Profar is almost a year older, missing all of 2014 and ’15 with shoulder issues means he’s actually a little behind Russell in terms of overall development. So the .793 OPS he posted in 2018, which included an .826 mark over the last four months, is a sign that he’s still growing.
Rangers GM Jon Daniels is understandably reluctant to move a young, cheap player like Profar, but he also knows there’s value in getting a return that could help his club down the road. And with the frequency at which the Cubs and Rangers do business — they’ve already swapped a hitting coach, an assistant GM, and a pitcher this offseason — it’s worth paying attention to rumors like this.
There are sure to be other teams involved too, particularly, as Grant notes, those that come up empty in the pursuit of Manny Machado. So even if it’s not Profar, expect the Cubs to be in on similar types of players and situations this winter.