On the one hand, we’re approaching late September in a season in which the Cubs have the best record in baseball, have a great shot at advancing deep into the playoffs, and the primary focus is rightfully on what could come in October.
On the other hand, the Cubs have already clinched the NL Central, are a prohibitive favorite to lock up the top seed in the playoffs in the NL, and rumors involving one of the best pitchers in baseball are fun no matter what time of year.
So, then, I point you to Nick Cafardo’s latest column, in which he discusses, among many other things, the “buzz” that the Marlins will be listening to offers for ace Jose Fernandez this offseason. Among the teams mentioned as possible suitors: the Dodgers, Red Sox, Yankees, and Cubs.
Hey, just because they’re the biggest four teams in baseball doesn’t mean he’s wrong.
With Fernandez, 24, two years away from free agency after this season, it only makes sense that, if he’s traded, it’ll be to a large market team with an excellent farm system, with an eye toward trying to lock him down longer term. So, then, your top four most logical teams would probably be the ones Cafardo mentions.
I won’t go too deep on this just yet, because we’re a long way from hard-and-fast rumors connecting Fernandez to the Cubs, but you’ll recall, there were rumors of Fernandez being shopped last offseason. And, with another (mostly healthy) great year under his belt, with another big arbitration raise on the way, with a weak free agent class, and with him a year closer to free agency, I’d bet big on the Marlins very seriously engaging in trade talks this offseason.
Assuming that happens, yes, the Cubs will absolutely be involved.
Although Mike Montgomery was a solid addition heading into 2017 as a possibility to emerge as another controllable starting pitching option, it remains the case that the Cubs are largely bereft of immediately-ready starting pitching to supplement the rotation in an impactful way in 2017 and beyond. There is a need next year. Furthermore, Jake Arrieta and John Lackey are free agents after 2017, so there could be an even stronger need in 2018 (the projected free agent class after that year is incredible, so it might be slightly safer to bank on being able to pick up a quality arm or two that way by then).
If Fernandez is truly made available, then, the Cubs would seem to have as much incentive as any team to make a serious push. We’ll see what the early-offseason rumor mill brings on that front. The rumored price tags will be LOL-worthy.
Fernandez has made 28 starts (174.1 innings) in this, his first full season back from Tommy John surgery. He’s posted a 2.99 ERA, a 2.39 FIP, and a 2.61 xFIP, while accumulating 5.7 WAR (second most in baseball, behind only Noah Syndergaard (6.2)). His 33.9% K rate as a starter is downright silly, and he pairs it with a 7.8% walk rate, making the spread between his K rate and BB rate the best in baseball (a whopping 26.2% – that would be an excellent strikeout rate, alone!). The injury concern will always be there, but so far, he’s been good to go this year.
Making just $2.8 million this year thanks to the innings depression caused by the surgery, Fernandez will get a significant bump in arbitration this and next offseason. Still, because of that surgery, his figures will probably be deflated relative to other arbitration-level players with his ability (which, well, there aren’t many of them to begin with).
That is all to say, when you combine performance and contract, Fernandez is going to be an enormously attractive trade piece for not only the Cubs, but many teams throughout baseball. Want.
All right. Enough drooling. We’ll get there when we get there. Back to your regularly-scheduled playoff roster obsessing.