Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

shelby miller bravesMy fingers are burning today. Glad I got back from vacation.

It should go as no surprise that the Chicago Cubs are exploring multiple angles for picking up starting pitching this offseason. The free agent market is exceptionally robust. The Cubs’ tradable assets are similarly robust. The Cubs could go big and try to lock down a guy like David Price (he’s rumored to want to come to Chicago). Or they could go after another stud like Zack Greinke. Or they could explore the next tier, like the guy they’ve reportedly recently met with in Jeff Samardzija.

Or, of course, they could go after available, controllable younger starters in trade. (Indeed, they could do that in addition to exploring free agency. Why wouldn’t they?)

To that point, the teams we most frequently hear associated with the Cubs are the Indians, Padres, and Mets, all of which have positional needs to one extent or another, and all of which have intriguing young arms they could deal.

We’ve also heard a bit – dating back to to the Trade Deadline, anyway – about the Braves.

Given the team’s midseason sell-off and increasing efforts to turn big league players into minor league talent, you’ve got to figure that the Cubs would come calling to see if there’s a match involving guys like Julio Teheran or Shelby Miller. The latter, by the way, recently popped up in rumors involving the Diamondbacks – also a team with young positional talent to deal, and also looking for pitching – and now he’s popping up in connection to the Cubs:

The article referenced by Rosenthal is an interesting one from Jon Morosi, who also gets into the breadth of the Cubs’ pitching search. Not only are they considering free agent options, but Morosi reports that they’re “in the midst of active trade talks with multiple clubs” (as you’d expect).

We’ve explored some of the other tradable pitchers before, but not yet Miller, who came to the Braves by way of the Cardinals at this time last year in a trade for Jason Heyward. It was seen as a nice buy-low moment for the Braves, who gave up a year of Heyward (and Jordan Walden) for several years of Miller (and Tyrell Jenkins), who was coming off a down year.

The Braves were right, as the 25-year-old Miller looked fantastic, posting a 3.02 ERA over 205.1 innings. His FIP was solid, at 3.45, and he netted 3.4 WAR.

Miller is under control for three more years, and projects to make $4.9 million in his first go-around in arbitration (MLBTR). He would look mighty nice in the Cubs’ rotation. The valuation question is tricky, given the breakout in 2015 and the potential for quickly escalating arbitration costs. The Braves would undoubtedly seek a haul (and reportedly have done so), and Miller certainly does merit a considerable return.

On the balance, I might find the value proposition in a deal for Teheran a little more interesting (he’s controlled for longer, has as much upside, and probably would cost a little less, coming off a down year), but, either way, this is something to follow.

I mentioned earlier today with respect to the Jeff Samardzija rumors that it might serve the Cubs best, overall, if they were able to pick up a young starter in trade, sign a guy like Samardzija, and then still have money leftover to use in center field or on a guy like Alex Gordon or Ben Zobrist and/or in the bullpen. It’s also true that, if the Cubs picked up a young starter in trade – be it an arm from the Braves or one of the Indians starters or Padres starters we’ve heard about – they’d have the funds to go after a top tier starter in free agency. I’ll let you dream about a rotation that includes Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, David Price or Zack Greinke, Shelby Miller, and Kyle Hendricks or Jason Hammel. Just silly. But not impossible.

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