As the offense continues to slump and the left field and center field situation suddenly in flux, the Cubs are on the lookout for an upgrade at either position. One name currently circling around the rumor mill is Will Venable, whose left-handed bat and career .257 average against righties could be a nice addition. Let’s take a look at what it may cost to acquire him.
Will Venable has been a player that has flown under the radar in his eight-year career, all with the Padres. He does a lot of things well, but has mostly filled a role as a versatile fourth outfielder who can start as needed. He owns a career .252/.317/.414 line and is considered an above average fielder at all three outfield positions. He has a nice mix of power and speed averaging 10 home runs and 15 stolen bases per season in his career. This year an injury to Wil Myers has pressed Venable into full time duty in center field and he has batted .259/.329/.410 with six home runs, 22 RBI and six stolen bases. Petco Park is notorious for being unforgiving to hitters and Venable is no exception batting .284 on the road along with five of his six home runs. It stands to reason that should the Cubs acquire him that he could benefit greatly from leaving Petco and return to the hitter who slugged 22 home runs in 2013.
At 32 and becoming a free agent next year, the trade value for Venable may be lower than that of the four years younger Gerardo Parra, who was previously profiled in this series. So keeping his age in perspective, the first trade to analyze would be of a former teammate of his and current Cubs’ outfielder Chris Denorfia.
The 34-year old Denorfia was also headed for free agency when he was traded to the Seattle Mariners from the San Diego Padres last year for OF Abraham Almonte and RHP Stephen Kohlscheen. Almonte was a top 20 prospect and spent much of the season as Seattle’s center fielder, but struggled batting just .198. He had six years of control left and could be a valuable switch hitting bench bat with some speed. Kohlscheen was not a ranked prospect, but performed well in relief to the tune of a 2.70 ERA at the time of the trade split between Double- and Triple-A.
Another familiar name, Alejandro De Aza was traded from the Chicago White Sox to the Baltimore Orioles for RHP Mark Blackmar and RHP Miguel Chalas at the waiver deadline last year. De Aza has mostly been a center fielder and leadoff hitter in his career, but has similar power and speed numbers to Venable. De Aza was a little younger than him at 30 at the time of his deal and had two years of control left, but a waiver deadline signals that De Aza didn’t have much value on the market. Neither pitcher acquired was a ranked prospect within the Orioles system, but the White Sox have had one of the worst systems in baseball over the past few years and the additions gave them a little more depth in which to work with.
The last player we will analyze is Justin Ruggiano who has been traded twice over the past two years. Like Venable, he can play all three outfield positions, fill a starting spot if needed and has a nice platoon split. The first trade he was a part of sent him from the Miami Marlins to the Cubs for OF Brian Bogusevic. As a member of the Marlins, Ruggiano hit 31 home runs and stole 29 bases over two years and he helped fill a depth role for a rebuilding Cubs team who needed bodies. Bogusevic was a minor league signing who hit well in limited at bats during the year before and the swap was essentially two controllable bats with similar potential for each other. The second trade sent Ruggiano from the Cubs to the Seattle Mariners for RHP Matt Brazis. Brazis was a top 25 prospect for Seattle and a relief prospect with a good fastball, but relied on a fair amount of deception to get hitters out.
In all three trades, the return for 30-plus outfielders is minimal at best even with ones with some amount of team control left. Venable may command a little better return if the seller’s market doesn’t pick up, but even if it doesn’t, it’s hard to ask for a lot for a 32-year old outfielder who hasn’t been a consistent starter in his career. With the Cubs having such a highly ranked system, the Padres may be content with a low ranked player with potential or an unranked player with a lot of control close to the majors. Names that fit in either category include Mike Olt, Junior Lake, Matt Szczur, Christian Villanueva, Paul Blackburn, Ivan Pineyro or Corey Black.
With Dexter Fowler and Chris Coghlan not very consistent this year, a player like Will Venable could make a lot of sense. Venable’s skillset is very similar to both Fowler and Coghlan and he is a much better defender. If the Cubs can acquire him for a low return and no other high impact bats are available, he might make too much sense to not pull the trigger on a deal.
• Follow Chris on Twitter: @TheChrisKulawik
Player Acquisition Cost Reports:
- RHP Tyler Clippard
- INF/OF Ben Zobrist
- RHP Jonathan Papelbon
- LHP Cole Hamels
- LHP Oliver Perez
- LHP Scott Kazmir
- RHP Sonny Gray
- LHP Steven Matz
- RHP Tom Koehler
- OF Gerardo Parra
- RHP Dan Haren