Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

nate schierholtz cubsThat there headline is not how I would phrase things, even if I knew the substance to be true. If Nate Schierholtz is available, it’s because the Cubs a rebuilding team that would gladly trade any expiring contract for long-term assets.

I digress before I’ve even progressed.

The rumor implied by the headline comes via Jon Paul Morosi, who has apparently been looking into the Tigers’ outfield needs, and drops this tonight:

From the sound of the rumor, it was either Morosi or Cubs-driven, rather than Tigers-driven. The Tigers’ outfield need emerged over the past week with presumed left fielder Andy Dirks needing back surgery that could cost him three months. If the Tigers are looking to replace his lefty bat, they could do a hell of a lot worse than Schierholtz, who actually out-produced Dirks by a wide margin last year (86 OPS+ versus 107 OPS+). Schierholtz will make just $5 million in 2014, and he’s probably worth a pretty decent pitching prospect, for example.

All in all, that the Tigers could become interested in Schierholtz is unsurprising. The stated reason for Schierholtz’s availability – the emergence of Ryan Kalish – is something of a surprise. The Cubs signed Kalish, 25, to a minor league deal after he was non-tendered by the Red Sox in November. He’s been battling shoulder and neck issues for a few years now, but believes he finally had the problem cleared up by a cervical fusion surgery in August. He’s played in only a handful of Spring Training games, and it would be surprising to learn that the Cubs already have so much confidence in him that they’re ready to declare him one of the outfielders to open the season.

What little I can offer about Kalish from my in-person viewing is that he does look healthy, and he’s obviously an excellent natural athlete (and also the kind of dirtbag scrapper that fans tend to love). Does that mean he’s back to where he was three years ago, when he appeared on the verge of a long, productive big league career? I don’t think anything in Spring Training was going to tell us as much, but it’s good to hear that the Cubs’ staff is sensing good things from him.

As I’ve written in the past, Kalish does offer intriguing upside for the Cubs, even as a long-term piece, and even if he doesn’t make the team out of Spring Training. I don’t think the Cubs would shop SchierholtzĀ because of the emergence of Kalish (if that’s really happening), but it might make them more willing to capitalize on Schierholtz’s value now, rather than waiting until mid-season.

Peter Gammons, who covered Kalish closely in the past, and who maintains good relationships with the Cubs’ front office, appears to be impressed by Kalish (or, maybe more likely, is hearing good things from sources):

I guess we’ll monitor this and see if anything pops up from the Tigers’ side.

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