Yesterday, a Reds beat reported (Zach Buchanan) wrote that the San Diego Padres have “real interest” in signing free agent shortstop Zach Cozart, but implied that they could turn to the trade market if a deal wasn’t going to happen.
I took a leap and reminded you that the Cubs have two quality Major League shortstops (Addison Russell and Javy Baez), both of whom would certainly be available in the right trade, but added that there’s really no one on the Padres big league roster worth pursuing at that level of price tag.
Since then, however, Jeff Passan has thrown a little bit of gas on the mostly-speculative fire:
Sources: The San Diego Padres continue to be one of the more active teams at the Winter Meetings. There's traction to their talks with Eric Hosmer, and they're seeking a young, under-control shortstop. One match to keep an eye on: The Chicago Cubs.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 12, 2017
Despite the direct connection to the Cubs, I stand by what I said yesterday. And, in fact, I’m not certain Passan isn’t just connecting the same dots I did (in other words, perhaps there’s not actually a conversation going on behind the scenes right now; maybe he just also sees the same one-sided fit).
After all, if you think back a couple years, the Padres used to have their eye firmly trained on Javy Baez (in the Tyson Ross and Craig Kimbrel rumor-era), and like I said, there’s no reason to believe he’s not “available” for a killer return. So to that end, yeah, sure, keep your eyes on the Cubs, but what would they even get back that would justify losing such a key player?
The Padres ‘best starting pitcher last season (who’s still on the roster) is 34-year-old former Cub by the name of Clayton Richard (4.23 FIP, 2.3 WAR). The Cubs are 100% not trading Javy Baez for him. Heh.
The Padres do have reliever Brad Hand under team control (via arbitration) for the next two seasons, but despite how great he was last season (2.16 ERA, 3.03 FIP, 1.7 WAR), is that really all you want to get out of Javy Baez right now? Of course not.
But hey, maybe the Cubs will get creative.
After all, the Padres do have a strong farm system, with a variety of intriguing prospects. For example, the organization’s top two prospects are recent first-round draft pick starting pitchers (Mackenzie Gore and Cal Quantrill), both of whom are currently top 40 prospects according to MLB Pipeline.
The former is ranked 25th overall and was drafted third overall last summer … but is still just 18 years old and has only pitched in rookie ball. The latter is ranked 38th by MLB Pipeline and was taken 8th overall in 2016 … but has already had Tommy John surgery.
These are two really interesting arms, without a doubt, but would they, alone, be enough to get something done *for the Cubs right now?* Next season is going to be yet another competitive one for the Cubs, so a Major-Leaguer-for-low-level-prospect trade might not make a ton of sense. Maybe you could start putting together Hand and the pitching prospects in some combination to get the ball rolling, and/or swap in some other prospects … or maybe you talk about the Cubs spinning off prospects to pick up another starting pitcher from another team … but now we’re getting WAY further down the road than this rumor seems to be.
So, in the end, we’ll just do what Passan suggests and keep our eyes on the Cubs as they maneuver through the winter meetings. It’s also worth keeping an eye on the rest of the Padres’ maneuvering, since they’ve been attached to Eric Hosmer and have already traded for Chase Headley and Bryan Mitchell. Perhaps they’re looking to compete right away, and make this offseason like the one from a few years ago when they went absolutely nuts.
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.