In case you’re just joining the Cubs’ regularly scheduled program already in progress, well, you haven’t really missed much. A restrictive baseball operations budget has limited the front office’s ability to sign free agents and reduced leverage when it comes to trades. Theo Epstein recently discussed those matters on 670 The Score, lamenting how a confluence of several factors has handcuffed the team to a greater extent than initially expected.
“When you have some critical players coming off down years, that’s not a time when there is a tremendous amount of flexibility if you don’t have a lot of buffer with your payroll,” Epstein said. “You can talk about reshuffling and there’s certainly a lot of deals we’ve conceived of that move some money and bring back some money, but there’s offseasons when you’re set up to be really active and offseasons where you’ve gotta work really hard to make even the smallest pieces fit.”
What it may take is for another team to approach the Cubs with a desire for one of those players, which is where the Padres come in. Wil Myers is being moved back to the outfield for 2019 after having spent much of the last three seasons at the corner infield spots, which gives San Diego an opening at third base.
And as Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune wrote Saturday, “acquiring [a third baseman] has been the primary focus of their offseason – especially over the past several weeks after they came to an internal consensus that Myers is better served (and better used) as an outfielder.” That search has led to the Pads looking at free agent Mike Moustakas and considering a trade for the Phillies’ Maikel Franco, but the preference is for someone younger.
Acee listed David Bote one of the players for whom the Padres have explored a deal, though he’s not alone in that mix. Just how serious the talks for Bote were or are we don’t know, though it stands to reason that the Cubs weren’t blown away by any offers. Whether it’s a matter of overvaluing their own young talent or being legitimately low-balled, if there was an offer at all, the Cubs have long been reluctant to move players who’ve broken through to the big league level.
But Bote is in somewhat of a different category from guys like Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ, and Albert Almora Jr. He was drafted in the 18th round in 2012 and didn’t have a clear path to the majors, toiling on the farm for parts of seven seasons before finally getting to the bigs last season. So there may not be that same sentimental attachment to Bote that seems to be the case with several of his teammates.
At the same time, Bote’s defensive prowess at multiple positions combines with a bat that has shown plenty of pop — which resulted from a change in plate approach in 2017 — to provide a great deal of value. So now it’s just a matter of whether that value is greatest as a super-sub in Chicago or as a trade chip. And that will further be determined by what a team like the Padres would be willing to part with in exchange for the soon-to-be 26-year-old utilityman.
Based on what we’ve seen from the Cubs thus far this offseason, it’s easy to picture them standing pat on Bote. Some of that may also be a result of how other teams view his value, which took a hit as the season wore on and major-league pitchers got a book on him. As much as Bote produced some incredible high notes with huge home runs, he was very susceptible to high fastballs and closed the season hitting .198/.269/.359 with a wRC+ of 69 over August and September (145 PAs).
If the Cubs do end up moving Bote, which I doubt they will, let’s just hope they at least wait until after Cubs Convention to announce it. Not only does he deserve to be feted by the fans for his exploits last season, but I just got my new #EveryBoteIn shirt and would hate to have to wear it ironically so soon.