I’ll confess that I was always a little on the fence about Tampa Bay Rays lefty Matt Moore as a trade target. The rumors connecting him to the Cubs extended back into the offseason and carried through yesterday’s trade deadline, and I never really had a good sense of what he would cost in trade (and whether it would be worth it).
I simply couldn’t get a grasp on what kind of pitcher Moore was going to be after 2014 Tommy John surgery. His numbers were terrible in a partial season in 2015 after returning from surgery, and then got only marginally better this year.
Folks were quick to point to his 2.39 ERA over his last nine starts, but no one seemed to mention the 3.95 FIP or 5.01(!) xFIP. His strikeout rate in that span – the good span! – was just 18.9%, well below league average. His walk rate was 7.4%, which is near league average. Again, that’s during this good stretch of baseball to which everyone points.
Then there’s the velocity question: pre-TJS, Moore was bringing a mid-to-upper-90s fastball from the left-handed side, a true rarity in the game. Now, it’s more of a 92/93mph guy – not at all bad, but it does give you pause. (To be completely fair here, there are signs that Moore is on the upswing again, and it’s not at all impossible that he’s about to break back out. That’s part of what teams wanted to buy.)
In any case, we know that the Cubs want a controllable, younger starting pitcher – either now or in the offseason – with an eye toward bolstering the rotation in 2017 and beyond. Moore does fit that bill, so talks continued. Until they stopped.
Bruce Levine reports that although the talks with the Rays about Moore continued this past weekend, the Rays wanted Javy Baez PLUS two top prospects. For their part, says Levine, the Cubs would not part with Baez (it was a “non-starter”), and that was that.
Rightly so, I’d say, not only because that’s an enormous price to pay, but also because Baez has emerged as a tremendously valuable player. He has not only shown incredible defense, he’s shown it at three important defensive positions. He has not only shown upside in his bat, he’s shown he can do a better job controlling the strike zone and reducing the Ks.
Ultimately, Moore was dealt to the Giants for Matt Duffy (a big league infielder with similar versatility and team-control as Baez) plus two very notable prospects. It sounds like the Rays couldn’t get their desired price from the Cubs, so they got it from the Giants instead (I would have preferred Baez to Duffy, too, so I can’t blame them for trying).
Moore was the only long-term, controllable, upside starter dealt yesterday, so it’s hard to get on the Cubs’ case for not landing anyone at the deadline. If he was the market, and if the Rays wouldn’t back off their demands for Javy Baez, the Cubs very much did the right thing in passing.
And they’ll have to reassess this market in the offseason.