dan vogelbach cubsPerhaps the worst kept secret this rumor season is that the Chicago Cubs covet one of the three Yankee power relievers – with a particular affinity for Andrew Miller. A possibly-related, and also poorly-kept secret is that Dan Vogelbach’s path to Chicago is firmly blocked by All-Star Anthony Rizzo.

See some dots? Jon Morosi has explicitly connected them.

At MLB.com, among many other notes, Morosi speculates that the Cubs’ slugging first base prospect might be of particular interest to any AL club with questions at first base and/or designated hitter in the near future, adding, “the Yankees have the worst first-base production of any team in the Majors this year.” From there, Morosi notes that the Cubs have scouted the Yankees’ group of relievers in recent weeks.

So then, for the first time, there’s a legitimate Dan Vogelbach rumor, even if it is of the purely speculative flavor. But could there really be something there?



 


Dan Vogelbach has long been the most hypothetically traded Cubs prospect, despite any concrete rumors surfacing in support of that reality. While many point to Rizzo’s presence in Chicago and Vogelbach’s presence on the 40-man roster as the reasons to move a seemingly redundant asset, I think there’s a bit more to it than that.

Aside from a brief streak at the beginning of the 2015 season, Vogelbach’s value has mostly been tied to the potential lurking in his big lefty bat, as opposed to the actual production it was creating. Consider, before this season, the most power Vogelbach displayed above Low-A was a .450 SLG (.166 ISO) for the Kane County Cougars back in 2013. Some fans were not willing to bet on the breakout scouts had called for, but were willing to sell it to other teams – which, as we know, is not exactly how it works.

But Vogelbach may have just turned an important corner.

In 345 plate appearances in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League (the last stop before the Majors), Vogelbach has tapped into that power – slugging 18 doubles, 2 triples and 15 home runs en route to his largest slugging percentage (.547) and ISO (.235) since short-season ball. Indeed, his entire slash line has improved dramatically (.312/.426/.547), he’s walking like crazy (15.9%), and still rarely striking out (18.8%). He has officially achieved the offensive breakout many have expected for years.

But would that be enough for the Yankees? For one of their prime relievers?



As we know, the Yankees have reportedly set their demands for Andrew Miller very, very high – like, on top of the Cubs right field video board high. Rumors out of New York indicate that the Yankees would walk away from any Miller-to-the-Cubs deal if it wasn’t headlined by injured Cub Kyle Schwarber. And to be fair, you can justify that request. Not that the Cubs will acquiesce.

No, two and half years of Andrew Miller is not worth five years of Kyle Schwarber (in my opinion), but why wouldn’t the Yankees ask for it? For the Yankees, 2016 sure seems like a lost season, but Miller is just 31 and is unimaginably good. He also has a very affordable contract (not that that matters for the Yankees) and could pitch for theoretically competitive New York teams in 2017 and 2018. Point being, the Yankees don’t need to trade Miller (or Dellin Betances for that matter) at all, so why not ask for the moon?

But, if the Cubs are unwilling to give up the moon (Schwarber), perhaps the Yankees will accept a similar similar young slugger (Vogelbach)? Would that even be a fair swap? (The answer is going to be no, but the process of getting there can be instructive.)

At the surface, there are a lot of similarities between Kyle Schwarber and Dan Vogelbach. Both are 23-year-old, left-handed sluggers with positional questions and limited defensive abilities. Both hitters display an advanced approach at the plate, excellent zone management, and discipline well beyond on their years. So then, they may seem like pretty comparable assets … but you already know that wouldn’t be fair.



There are some very important differences between Schwarber and Vogelbach at this stage in their careers. Although they’re the same age now, Schwarber has already shown that he’s capable of handling Major League pitching and doing so at an elite level. But even before that, Schwarber showed more offensive promise in the minors. Vogelbach’s huge breakout performance at Triple-A Iowa, for example, resulted in a .423 wOBA and a 157 wRC+. While both of those are fantastic, each is lower than what Schwarber posted at the same level: .446 wOBA, 173 wRC+. Schwarber also posted better numbers at Double-A (188 wRC+ versus 140) in his first full professional season (a year in which he made the big leagues). Positionally, Schwarber offers much more versatility than Vogelbach. Although his career behind the plate may have been in question even before his season ending knee injury, Schwarber offers the potential to play both an average right and left field. Vogelbach cannot.

So while Vogelbach is certainly an exciting prospect, he’s not quite on the same level as Kyle Schwarber – the man the Yankees reportedly would want. In other words, even if the Cubs are willing to deal Vogelbach, that doesn’t mean the Yankees’ original demands have changed.

But I don’t want to pooh-pooh this idea altogether. If the Yankees are willing to trade a reliever and the Cubs are willing to move some legitimate prospect currency, Vogelbach makes as much sense as anyone. He’s a very good player, playing at the highest level of his career (just a phone call from MLB), at a position the Yankees desperately need help in the very near-term.

If they’re willing to be more reasonable (than Kyle Schwarber), Vogelbach genuinely seems like a good fit as part of a package (connect-the-dot rumors or not).

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