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
- When it comes to potential offseason trades, anything is on the table, which makes sense considering trading one of Kris Bryant, Javier Báez, Willson Contreras, or Rizzo would also open up a hole on the team’s roster.
- That basically echoes what Epstein said at the close of last week’s GM Meetings in Scottsdale, AZ.
- If we are to assume that the Cubs are going to keep Albert Almora, Jr., where does the outfielder find his niche with next season’s team? He realistically has no everyday position.
- Jim Callis of MLB.com takes a look at the current state of the Cubs’ farm system.
- Matt Snyder of CBS Sports looks at how Bryant would fit with each of the remaining 29 teams in baseball. Other than staying put, the Dodgers seem to be the best logical fit for the slugging third baseman. I stopped doing a proposed theoretical KB trade, but I’ll take a stab at this one. Bryant to the Dodgers for Dustin May, Kelbert Ruiz, and Miguel Vargas would seem like a strong foundation for a trade. That said, I think you have to go in asking for Gavin Lux.
The Bryants are expecting their first child, a baby boy! Congratulations!
We can't wait to meet him. ? https://t.co/akwvNvyloI
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) November 19, 2019
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.
These 10 players signed one-year contracts last winter and could parlay strong 2019 seasons into multi-year deals this winter.
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.
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.
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.
 On one hand, you have a government that has exempt @MiLB players from fair treatment under the law. On the other, you now have a Congress that officially stands with @MiLB players & communities against the proposed @MLB overhaul of 42 teams #BREAKING #standwithmilb pic.twitter.com/vMYgLHwOYN
— More Than Baseball (@mtb_org) November 20, 2019
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?