Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

old stove featureI wonder if that three-team Todd Frazier trade will shake anything loose in this market that wasn’t shaken loose by the Jason Heyward or Johnny Cueto signings. There are still so many plausible trade candidates that have been untraded, and so many big-time free agents still unsigned. Maybe the Cubs aren’t going to do too much more, but the rest of the league sure is.

Then again, maybe the Cubs will do something else …

  • And it starts with Ender Inciarte. Well, that is, it starts with Inciarte if you’ve read anything about the Cubs’ outfield recently. The former Diamondback outfielder who was traded to the Braves in the Shelby Miller deal is a very popular name around baseball, with a steady stream of inquiries coming into Atlanta, according to Jerry Crasnick. The preference, per Crasnick, is that the Braves keep Inciarte, but they’re listening. Why would a rebuilding team want a young, cost-controlled, 3-win outfielder anyway, right?

  • Since that Miller trade went down, I couldn’t help myself but mention Inciarte from time to time as an attractive trade target for the Cubs, but that was mostly before the Heyward signing. Once that went down, from where I sit, the need to go out and pay a steep price to acquire a center fielder dropped. Maybe if the Cubs could work a deal involving Jorge Soler and a pitcher, and then separately work a deal for Inciarte, I could see an overall improvement to the team in both the near and long-term, but it’s a tall order to pull that all off.

  • Still, Inciarte is coming up in connection to the Cubs, even after the Heyward signing. Bruce Levine writes about it here, mentioning Soler as the possible return. I see the logic there – upgrading outfield defense significantly without necessarily sacrificing a ton of present-day offense, and doing so at the cost of Soler’s prodigious offensive upside – but there’s something in my gut that nags at me, telling me that Soler has more value, even if the Braves wouldn’t see it that way. Maybe I’m still just a Soler homer, but I really, really believe in the bat.
  • With less than two years service time, Inciarte remains under team control for five more seasons. And, although he’ll be a Super Two and will get four years of arbitration, his first go won’t even be until 2017. At age 25, you’re looking at a guy who is going to be cost-controlled for his prime years. There’s huge value there. But what about the actual performance of the player? You’re probably going to find some divergent opinions out there, based primarily on how much you buy the defensive value. For Inciarte, that ranges from “a lot” to “among the most valuable defenders in baseball,” depending on whom you ask and what metrics you examine. Offensively, he’s an extreme contact guy with speed. He’s got just enough pop to be able to use that speed for doubles and triples, but he’s not going to take many walks. Last year, he posted a .303/.338/.408 line (100 wRC+) with a 4.6% BB rate, a 10.3% K rate, and a .329 BABIP. Given his minor league track record, I think that’s about what you would have hoped for/expected out of Inciarte at the big league level. It’s a good, fine bat. But the glove and the baserunning is where his value mostly rests.

  • (Fun fact: the Phillies got Inciarte from the Diamondbacks in the Rule 5 Draft in late 2012, when he’d appeared in no games above High-A (so, clearly, teams could see the future big league caliber of his talent). He made the Opening Day roster, but was sent back to the Diamondbacks after just one game. Oops for the Phillies.)
  • More on both Soler and Inciarte here at FanGraphs.
  • Meanwhile, Ken Rosenthal writes about the Cubs in his latest column of a variety of rumors, saying that the present plan is to go with Heyward in center, and the focus is on picking up relievers via trade, and getting another starter in trade is “possible.” I see the latter for sure, though the Cubs’ bullpen is awfully crowded as is, especially if all four of Travis Wood, Clayton Richard, Trevor Cahill, and Adam Warren wind up there.
  • Also from Rosenthal, though not directly related to the Cubs:

  • The Indians have finally picked up a much-needed bat, though it’s not in the outfield:

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