As the trade deadline approaches and the likelihood of a trade for starting pitching being made by the front office, we’re starting to get a clearer picture of what the Cubs are looking for. Reports have suggested that the club is looking for a pitcher with more than a year control and some upside rather than a one-year rental. One name that fits the bill and has come up recently is Tom Koehler of the Miami Marlins, a right-hander who beat Jason Hammel last Friday. Let’s take a look at what it may take to acquire him.
Tom Koehler is certainly not the most enticing name on the market, but for what the Cubs are looking for he may be the best overall fit. The former 18th rounder relies on several different pitches to create outs. His fastball tops out about 93 mph and doesn’t generate a lot of swings and misses. To create outs he relies on a mix of the curve, slider and sinker to induce groundballs and a change that creates extreme fly balls. He sparingly uses a cutter that hits about 90 mph for strikeouts due to a lack of cutting action on it. He’s been receiving good results with this repertoire over the past two seasons and in 47 starts owns a 17-14 record with a 3.72 ERA, 1.27 WHIP and 215 strikeouts in 283.1 innings. Scouts though have suggested he may be pitching better than his abilities and some correction may be in order, as his FIP for this year stands at 4.42, while his ERA is almost a full run lower at 3.52.
One pitcher that Cubs fans are very familiar with that fits a similar profile is Travis Wood, who the team acquired from the Cincinnati Reds along with INF Ronald Torreyes and OF Dave Sappelt for left-handed reliever Sean Marshall. When obtained, the Cubs gained a starting pitcher with about five years of control. Wood has flamed out of the Cubs rotation and has been doing well in relief, but like Koehler ate innings and pitched to contact as a starter over the past three years. In his best two seasons, Wood’s ERA was also close to a full run lower than his FIP. In Marshall, the Cubs gave up their best reliever who had one year of control left and was pretty unnecessary to a team about to start a long rebuilding project. They even gained two top 25 prospects in Sappelt and Torreyes to aid in the rebuilding effort in addition to Wood.
Doug Fister has been traded a couple of times already in his career, but his first trade from the Seattle Mariners with RHP David Pauley for 3B Francisco Martinez, LHP Charlie Furbush, OF Casper Wells and RHP Chance Ruffin from the Detroit Tigers is the one we will analyze here. Fister was acquired to improve a back-end of the Detroit’s rotation during a playoff drive and for the long haul as Fister had four years of control remaining. Fister also is a groundball kind of pitcher like Koehler, but probably with a little more talent. Ruffin was the prize of the deal and a top 7 prospect with closer potential and said to have very polished stuff. Casper Wells and Francisco Martinez were top 10 prospects. Wells had some power potential and was Major League ready while Martinez was a toolsy prospect who needed time to mature. Furbush was a top 20 prospect who like Wells was close to the majors and had strikeout ability as a failed starter/possible reliever.
With the Marlins likely to be sellers due to an injury to Giancarlo Stanton, but still close to contention more Major League ready players might be more what they will be looking for. If you look at the Fister trade, the Tigers gave up a lot of players, but Wells and Furbush were ready to fill holes, so they didn’t have to necessarily give up anything of big quality. Keeping that in mind and the Cubs status of one of the top systems, a combination of players like Christian Villanueva, Junior Lake, Corey Black, Armando Rivera, Mike Olt and Dan Vogelbach might be enough to close the deal.
In both trades, the pitchers were not top flight talent, but filled a role that was needed. Tom Koehler would be a nice fit in the back of a Cubs rotation that currently has a large question mark and not a lot of depth ready in the minors. Perhaps pitching coach Chris Bosio could work some magic on Koehler like he has for Jake Arrieta and Jason Hammel as well to improve the return. If the Cubs could get away with not giving up any top flight talent to make the trade, a pitcher like Koehler could be a great fit.
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
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