Well, this’ll get you up in the morning after a very short night’s sleep!
The Cubs and Indians have had trade talk conversations.RHP Danny Salazar has been mentioned . The Indians looking for left handed hitting in return . Nothing close at this time .
— Bruce Levine (@MLBBruceLevine) December 13, 2017
A trade for someone like Danny Salazar – like a trade for Danny Duffy, something the Cubs have also been connected to – would be an alternative to a thin free agent market for that caliber of starting pitcher. And the fact that these rumors persist in the face of what was thought to be advanced talks between the Cubs and Alex Cobb certainly makes you wonder about the status of those talks. Is Cobb getting so much interest elsewhere that he’s seriously considering a bigger offer from another team? Are the Cubs working to come up with alternatives in case Cobb goes elsewhere? Or are they trying to pressure him to accept a deal before they make a trade? Or are they holding him at bay while they first consider trade options? I LOVE WINTER MEETINGS WEEK.
As for Salazar, specifically, we wrote about him in late November as an attractive trade target for the Cubs:
At just 27 years old and with five solid, but shortened seasons already under his belt, Danny Salazar is a tantalizing trade target for the Cubs. He managed just 103.0 innings in 2017, but posted a 33.0%(!) K rate, a 10.0% BB rate, and allowed 2 or fewer earned runs in 9 of his final 11 starts. Not only is he an extremely talented pitcher, he comes with three more seasons of team control and has only once made a trip through arbitration (needless to say, he fits in PERFECTLY with the Cubs’ core).
Why, then, would the Indians be willing to move on? After all, they are also in the middle of a highly-competitive window. Well, according to [Anthony] Castrovince, they’re going to need to replenish their offensive production, but won’t be willing/able to do so via free agency. Instead, they’ll need to target high-impact, cost-controlled bats – something the Cubs have in spades. To be sure, Salazar had some non-structural (but still scary) elbow and shoulder issues over the past two seasons, but not every Cubs player is perfect either. Perhaps there’s a fit here if the Cubs decide they can part with one of their young positional players.
You may recall that the Cubs and Indians were connected in these kinds of talks last year, with the Cubs’ cache of controllable bats an attractive swapping point for the Indians’ cache of controllable pitching.
If, as Levine says, the talks here are about left-handed hitting, you can be assured the names the Indians would be targeting are Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ. Salazar does come with injury risks, but, given the youth, the upside, and the team control, I think the price tag would be that significant.
The other arm, unmentioned by Levine, that the two sides could conceivably be discussing is Carlos Carrasco, a rumored Cubs trade target from last year. Carrasco, who turns 31 in March, has been fantastic (when healthy) four years running for the Indians, and is coming off his best season (3.29 ERA in 200.0 innings, 3.10 FIP, 5.5 WAR). His contract pays him just $6.5 million in 2018, $8 million in 2019, and then has club options worth $9 million in 2020 and $9.5 million in 2021. Dang that’s a good contract. Even though he’s older than Salazar, his more consistent track record of top-level success, and his contract, would probably make Carrasco a pricier target (and probably less likely that the Indians deal him at all).
I think it’s safe to assume at this point that an Alex Cobb signing is not a sure thing for the Cubs, who are – at a minimum – covering their bases. The Cubs are not inclined to have Mike Montgomery as a full-time starter in 2018, much to Montgomery’s disappointment it seems, which means they will have to add another starting pitcher one way or another.
If the Cubs did something crazy like adding BOTH Cobb and a guy like Salazar, then you’d have to wonder if they maybe are thinking about a six-man rotation (many, including me, believe it could be the next step for MLB teams in the effort to keep pitchers healthy and maximize performance), or if they would try to swing Salazar in and out of the rotation, since he’s done it before.