Javier Baez is ready for the start of Spring Training and he’s probably looking forward to his name being out of the trade rumors. The Cubs and Rays stay in contact and talk on a regular basis as the two teams figure to matchup on a deal at some point.
Reports have suggested the Rays are interested in Javier Baez and/or Jorge Soler as being the headliner of any trade with the Cubs. It was believed around the Winter Meetings that the Rays preferred Baez over Soler due to Matt Silverman’s needs at the big league level.
Marc Topkin reported Silverman all but set the Rays’ roster by signing Steve Pearce unless “there is a consummation of long ongoing trade talks with the Cubs or Rockies.” Topkin indicated the Rays like Javier Baez more than Jorge Soler and Corey Dickerson more than Charlie Blackmon. And one of those trades could include Jake McGee or a starter going to Chicago or Denver.
Bruce Levine reported Monday the Cubs are not done tweaking the roster. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer would like to add more pitching. The Cubs are focused on LHP Jake McGee and RHP Jake Odorizzi and possibly OF Desmond Jennings, if Soler is included in a package for pitching from the Rays.
During his show on Saturday morning, Levine reported the Cubs and Rays could end up making a six to seven player deal.
As Levine pointed out Monday, trading Javier Baez and/or Jorge Soler could create issues with the big league team. Baez figures to play a big role for Joe Maddon due to his ability to play shortstop, second and third base. Baez will continue to work as an outfielder in Spring Training to give Maddon as much flexibility as possible on his bench. Plus, Baez provides the Cubs with a true shortstop to backup Addison Russell in the event he misses significant time during the upcoming season. And moving Soler would make the Cubs a little left-handed and remove a power bat from what is currently a balanced lineup on paper.
With pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training in three weeks, it will be interesting to see if the Rays make a deal with the Cubs or Rockies … or one of the other teams (Cardinals, Dodgers) they’ve been connected to this off-season.
Dexter Fowler has not signed yet and a team doesn’t appear to be close to a deal with the centerfielder. Fowler was linked to the Giants, Mets, Nationals and Marlins early in the off-season. But those teams went in different directions.
According to Anthony Castrovince, the five best fits for Dexter Fowler are the White Sox, Angels, Cardinals, Rangers and Cubs. Castrovince thinks the Orioles “could still use a corner-outfield upgrade.” Fowler is attached to draft pick compensation after rejecting the Cubs’ qualifying offer and the Orioles do not want to forfeit their first round pick to sign a player this off-season. The Astros, Nationals and possibly the A’s could also be a fit for Fowler, according to Castrovince.
The White Sox could play Fowler in center, move Adam Eaton to right field and have a one-two punch at the top of their lineup with Fowler and Eaton. Signing Fowler would cost the Southsiders the compensation pick they received for Jeff Samardzija signing with the Giants.
Jon Heyman and Jim Bowden think Fowler would make sense for the Angels in left field. Fowler would give the Angels a leadoff hitter and a left-handed bat in the lineup. Castrovince pointed out Fowler could move to left and improve the Angels’ outfield defense. The Angels have been reluctant to exceed the $189 million luxury tax threshold and signing Fowler would push them past the mark, plus the Angels would have to surrender their first round pick … and in the process keep from adding talent to a rather weak farm system.
The Cardinals decided to stick with an outfield mix of Stephen Piscotty, Randal Grichuk and Tommy Pham, along with Matt Holliday in left field, after Jason Heyward signed with the Cubs. The Cardinals could use a leadoff hitter, according to Castrovince, that would allow Mike Matheny to move Matt Carpenter down in the lineup. The Cardinals would have to forfeit its first round pick to sign Fowler, which is likely an issue for John Mozeliak.
The Cardinals have not signed a player attached to draft pick compensation and will probably keep all of their early picks as the front office waits for Commissioner Rob Manfred to hand out his punishment for Chris Correa stealing information from the Astros.
As for the Rangers, Castrovince acknowledged they are “not a perfect fit for Fowler on paper, but they could definitely stand to improve their outfield outlook.”
There have been rumblings the Cubs could re-sign Fowler if Jorge Soler is used in a deal to acquire pitching. The Cubs appear set in center field, for now, with Jason Heyward, and it’s difficult to see Fowler returning to the Cubs on a short-term deal without guaranteed playing time. Fowler would fit back at the top of Maddon’s lineup, but the Cubs’ interest in Fowler appears more media driven at this point.
Ken Rosenthal explained Fowler, along with Ian Desmond, Yovani Gallardo and Howie Kendrick “remain available, mostly because they’re attached to draft picks.” Rosenthal made a case for all four players as to why teams should forfeit the picks to sign them.
The Cubs are planning to get their second round pick back when Fowler signs with a team. Jason McLeod said as much during the Convention. The big question, which team will eventually step up and sign Fowler to a contract?