For about three full years now, the Cubs and Rays have been intertwined around the rumor mill, as the former is always looking for the sort of pitching depth held by the latter, and the latter is always looking for the sort of cost-controlled young offense held by the former.
And that’s without mentioning the fact that the Cubs have the former Rays manager and bench coach (and could soon have their former pitching coach, too).
But despite the obvious on-paper fit, the two teams haven’t been able to put anything together. Maybe that’ll change this winter.
- At MLB Trade Rumors, Mark Polishuk covers the Rays offseason outlook, while mentioning that starters Jake Odorizzi and Chris Archer, as well as closer Alex Colome, could be available via trade this winter. Given that the Cubs have obvious needs both in the rotation and bullpen, this is, again, a pretty obvious match. Of course, there are caveats to each of these players.
- Colome, for example, was a very good reliever again in 2017, but wasn’t nearly as dominant as he was the year prior. Most notably, his strikeout rate plummeted from 31.4% in 2016 to just 20.6% in 2017 (and his walk rate climbed from 6.6% to 8.2%). Concerningly, the 2017 numbers are much closer to his career marks than the ones he put up in his breakout 2016 season, his first as a full-time reliever. Even still, Colome would probably cost a fair bit to acquire, given that he’s only just now reaching arbitration.
- Archer is the dream scenario (the Cubs have reportedly discussed him before, of course), but it’ll be hard to pry him away from the Rays, because his extremely team-friendly contract is exactly what the they need, and makes him enormously valuable. And while Odorizzi is certainly obtainable, he’s something of a buy-low candidate after a very rough season in 2017, and bad trends that carried over from 2016. Again, it sure seems like there should be a fit somewhere, but there has been for a while and nothing has happened. We’ll keep tabs.
- With Jon Jay on his way to free agency (he could always return, but we can’t count on that), the Cubs will probably look to add some true outfield depth this winter. One such option is free agent (and Chicagoan), Curtis Granderson. Granderson, 37, was an above average hitter for the Mets and Dodgers this season (105 wRC+) and played all three outfield positions well enough. And, of course, he’s another quality clubhouse veteran with tons of experience. The Cubs like that. There’s clearly a superficial fit here.
- Granderson’s year was a really hard one to dissect, though. He had a very cold start and finish to the season, but was downright dominant at the plate for the meaty part of the year. In the 293 PAs from May 3 until August 15 (when he was traded to the Dodgers), Granderson slashed .266/.382/.570 with 17 HRs and a 15.4% walk rate. That’s good for a 148 wRC+, which, for reference, would’ve have been the 8th best wRC+ in all of baseball this year. It’s hard to know what you’d get from Granderson, even in a complementary role. But certainly, if he were willing to take a Minor League deal with a modest big league split, which seems at least plausible, the Cubs should absolutely have interest.
- Pitching is going to get the bulk of the focus this offseason for obvious reasons, but, in addition to finding a complementary outfielder, the Cubs may consider a more substantial upgrade at one of the three outfield spots after the overall production out there this season was quite poor. Although the Cubs were loosely tied to the impending Giancarlo Stanton sweepstakes, I still consider them to be an outsider in that particular race. With that said, the Marlins could be preparing to tear the roster down to the studs (reports have them angling for a sub $90M payroll in 2018), so anything is possible. And on that front … while there’s nothing specifically connecting the two, Marcell Ozuna is projected to make upwards of $11 million (via arbitration) in 2018, so maybe he’s the sort of non-Giancarlo Stanton name the Cubs could target? It’s all very theoretical, but when basically everyone is available, someone will fit. Ozuna did just wrap up a breakout season, though, so the Cubs would be buying high if they bought at all. And that assumes the Marlins are willing to move the soon-to-be 27-year-old at all.
- The alternative option in the outfield is Christian Yelich, who wasn’t quite the bat in 2017 that he was the two years before, but was sufficiently productive overall that he was worth 4.5 WAR for the second season in a row. The problem there is that he’s set to make just $7 million in 2018 and is a year younger than Ozuna, so you’d figure the Marlins would be even less inclined to deal him.
- Stanton, by the way, was on with Jimmy Kimmel, and said he’ll be meeting with Marlins ownership after the World Series. He was even (semi-jokingly) asked about potential trade destinations. Stanton, who has no-trade rights, certainly knows which way the wind is blowing, and it’ll be fascinating to follow his story this offseason.
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.