The Rundown: Schwarber Trade Nonsense, Rule 5 Deadline Today, Bryants Expecting First Child

While the debate as to whether to move one of the Cubs’ core four has been a hot topic so far this offseason, outfielder Kyle Schwarber has been subject to speculative trade proposals ever since he was promoted in 2015. While most of the suggestions have been casual at best, some of that chatter intensified after Theo Epstein acquired Nicholas Castellanos at the 2019 trade deadline. Schwarber became many people’s odd man out if signing the offense-first Castellanos, who also became an immediate fan favorite, meant that the Cubs had to shore up their outfield defense elsewhere.

After a scorching final two months of the season, the topic seemed to make even more sense. Epstein would be selling high on Schwarber, who set a number of career highs this season, including homers (38), RBI (92), slugging percentage (.531), OPS (.871) and doubles (29). His 151 wRC+ in the second half nearly matched Castellanos and Anthony Rizzo. Call it a hot streak if you like, but Schwarber has quietly become one of the Cubs’ more impactful hitters.

As he enters his age-27 season, Schwarber has improved offensively and in the field every year since his gruesome knee injury in the third game of the 2016 season. He continues to be a work in progress and, though trajectory is rarely linear, seems poised for a breakout season in 2020. Schwarber hit the ball on the ground less in 2019 than ever before and in turn increased his line-drive percentage. He had a career-best .809 OPS against left-handers in the second half last season and could be a 40-homer beast next season.

If signing Castellanos is something the front office hopes to accomplish this winter, something they’re reportedly not apt to do, trading Schwarber would negate any value attached to keeping Nicky Two Bags for the next four seasons. The Cubs would lose a little defensively by forcing Jason Heyward into center to accommodate the two sluggers at the corners. But if you’re outpacing your opponents by 50-60 runs on the season with that lineup combination, picking up a stalwart defensive replacement for the late innings would seem to be the better option. A cheap free agent like Billy Hamilton would easily solve that problem.

Cubs News & Notes

On Deck

The Bryants are expecting their first child, a baby boy! Congratulations!

Wednesday Stove

The Braves continue to strengthen their bullpen, and yesterday re-signed free agent Chris Martin to a two-year deal worth $14 million. Martin was acquired from the Rangers for Kolby Allard at last season’s trade deadline.

Atlanta is also said to “have some interest” in Cardinals’ free agent outfielder Marcell Ozuna.

These 10 players signed one-year contracts last winter and could parlay strong 2019 seasons into multi-year deals this winter.

The Orioles may be looking to trade starting pitcher Dylan Bundy.

The Angels may be exploring the possibility of signing both Gerrit Cole and Zack Wheeler.

I missed this earlier in the week, but the Padres have deemed young starters Chris Paddack and MacKenzie Gore virtually untouchable in any potential trade talks.

San Diego is, however, expected to increase payroll this offseason, though MLB Network insider Joel Sherman said he would be surprised if the club is willing to do so to the extent necessary to land someone like Stephen Strasburg.

Strasburg could re-sign with the Nationals (or another team) ahead of next month’s Winter Meetings.

The presence of top prospect Carter Kieboom make it more likely the Nationals will part ways with free agent third baseman Anthony Rendon.

MiLB.com has awarded the Rays as its minor league franchise of the year.

The minor league site is also keeping a running total of players added to each team’s 40-man roster.

Today is the deadline for Rule 5 Draft protection.

Commissioner Rob Manfred is on record as stating that allegations that the Astros illegally used electronic technology to steal signs will be thoroughly investigated. With a proposal in hand to eliminate a number of minor league franchises, that is known as the tail wagging the dog.

Here’s the latest on the Houston allegations.

Christian Yelich will adorn the cover of MLB-sponsored video game RBI Baseball ’20 wearing the new logo unveiled by the Brewers Monday evening.

Suspended Pirates’ reliever Felipe Vázquez will face 21 additional charges stemming from his arrest in September for solicitation of a minor.

Extra Innings

Though the United States Congress has helped MLB suppress minor league salaries, it remains unified in firm opposition to the proposal by Manfred to purge 42 minor league affiliates.

They Said It

  • “I think we’re like every team — to one extent or another, we’re trying to balance an immediate future vs. a longer-term future. It’s a bit of a transition for us, but it doesn’t mean you rule anything out, even if it’s something short-term. But you try to strike that right balance.” – Theo Epstein
  • “As we think about what we’re gonna do [and] have conversations the whole winter, there’s a big picture element to it where I think we’re not gonna be entirely married to this position or that position — making moves that make sense both long-term and short-term.” – Jed Hoyer

Wednesday Walk Up Song

Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler. Big voice, big mood. Doesn’t it seem like this could easily be a Meat Loaf song?

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