The Cubs boast a strong trio of young power bats in Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Kyle Schwarber. This combination led them all the way to the NLCS, and Schwarber, in particular, is coming off a postseason where he set the Cubs all-time record for postseason home runs, and he is now the all-time leader in postseason home runs from a player who is 22 years old or younger. So why would they even consider trading him away?
Well, the answer is actually quite simple. While many Cubs fans spirits soared after every monster home run, they fell just as quickly after Schwarber would bobble, drop or misplay routine fly balls in the outfield. Schwarber never played outfield in the minors, but the Cubs loved his bat, brought him up, and placed him in left field. Chicago already has a solid option at catcher, Schwarber’s natural position. Regardless, Schwarber isn’t a great defender there anyway.
He doesn’t have a defined position now, and he will probably never be an above average outfielder. In addition, the Cubs have a few solid outfield prospects in Ian Happ, Billy McKinney, Albert Almora and the recently signed Eddy Jullio Martinez in the minors.
That being said, if you ignore his defensive shortcomings, Schwarber will be a future star. Theo Epstein could decide that Schwarber’s impact bat is worth it and decide to live with his mediocre [at best] defense. Or, he could trade him.
Now, if the Cubs were to trade Schwarber, who would they trade him for, you may ask. That’s simple. The Cubs rotation isn’t very good right now. Behind Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta, they are lacking in talent. As we saw against the Mets, Kyle Hendricks, and Jason Hammel are not the guys you want to give the ball to when you are down in a postseason series. If the Cubs were to trade Schwarber, they would need to do what may seem impossible: get an elite ace who is cheap, under team control for at least 4 more years, and under 27, as well as a team that would be willing to give up such a quality asset.
Enter Sonny Gray. I’ve been on the bring Sonny Gray to Chicago bandwagon since the trade deadline, so I’m hoping Theo will get this done. Gray is 25 years old and already a legitimate ace. He went 14-7 last year with a 2.73 ERA, and a 5.8 WAR, good for 22nd in the league. He led the A’s pitching staff and made the AL all-star team. Gray isn’t arbitration eligible until 2017, and he isn’t a free agent until 2020.
A’s GM Billy Beane decided to go all-out in the hopes of winning a World Series in 2014, which included trading Cubs current shortstop Addison Russell for Jeff Samardzija, a trade that definitely paid off for Chicago. However, after the A’s famous second half collapse, they stripped the team of all major league talent, with the exception of Gray.
So why would the trade make sense for Oakland anyways? Well, since Schwarber has no above average defense to speak of, an American League team can simply put him in as a designated hitter. He can hit balls into the seats for the next 12 years in Oakland without the defensive liability.
Oakland is notorious for trading players before they get too expensive, so with a little coaxing, the Cubs may persuade Billy Beane to part with Gray, especially if a talent like Schwarber was involved. How would this trade even work? It most likely won’t be simply Schwarber for Gray. In a more likely event, the trade would involve a few low level prospects and maybe some cash, but it could be done.
Even with Gray in tow, the Cubs could still use another quality pitcher. Luckily, they have the cash to spend this offseason. Chicago has even been linked to David Price, the top starter on the market. Price struggled this October, but is still a top flight starter in baseball and any rotation would be lucky to have him. It would probably take 125-150 million dollars to bring him to the North Side, but his "Price" is worth it.
A rotation that includes of Price, Gray, Lester, and Arrieta, combined with the bats of Rizzo, Bryant, Russell, Castro, and heck even Soler, is a lethal combination, one that could ease the pain of Cubs fans everywhere, delivering multiple championships to the North Side.