Trade rumor season is officially here, and one of the most specific Cubs-connected rumors we’ve heard now involves a name we’ve discussed before.
As the reality of the Cubs payroll limitations set in over the winter, Brett began thinking out loud about the many creative ways the Cubs could add an impact bat to the lineup a cost-effective manner. And he landed on the Diamondbacks’ David Peralta as an example.
Although wrist injuries for hitters always make you nervous, Peralta bounced back with a slightly above-average season in the plate in 2017, and then a huge season in 2018: .293/.352/.516, 130 wRC+. His groundball rate dropped, his fly ball and line drive rates climbed, and his hard contact rate (48.6%) was the second highest in all of baseball, behind only Matt Carpenter (49.0%). He doesn’t strike out a lot, he takes his walks, and he crushes the ball while playing serviceable corner outfield defense.
One of the issues in acquiring Peralta *at the time* was how his presence was going to all too frequently displace guys like Ben Zobrist, Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ, Albert Almora Jr. and/or Jason Heyward. Of course, that doesn’t really apply anymore. Zobrist has been away from the team for months and Happ is still in Triple-A Iowa. Meanwhile, Almora is having the worst offensive season of his career (75 wRC+).
Needless to say, the Cubs need a bat and they no longer have to worry about displacing anyone.
So … is Peralta still available? And are the Cubs interested?
Is Peralta Still Available?
The Diamondbacks might be holding onto second place in the NL West, but they’re 13.5 games behind the Dodgers and just a game over .500 at the break. With just 1.0 game separating themselves from fourth place in the division, it’s fair to say they have no shot at winning the NL West this year. They might have a shot at a Wild Card berth, but I certainly don’t like their odds. In fact, that’s probably why they let A.J. Pollock and Patrick Corbin leave in free agency before shipping Paul Goldschmidt to the Cardinals over the offseason.
In short, I believe the Diamondbacks already know they’re going to be sellers at the deadline.
But trading Peralta comes with some unique challenges. For one, he just went on the 10-day IL on Friday for the second time this season with the same right shoulder injury that hit him earlier in the year. He missed 11 days that first time back in May, and this time around it might be longer. It’s an AC joint inflammation issue, so it’s a matter of when it calms down enough for him to perform well.
And although his season slash line is still looking pretty good .289/.352/.476, that’s down from last year and looks even worse in-between his two IL stints (117 PAs): .252/.342/.388. Obviously, some rest over the break could help revitalize him, but the Trade Deadline is just a few weeks later. He might not have *that* much time to prove that he’s back on track before a deal would need to be done.
And that’s where things get even more complicated: he isn’t a rental. Peralta, 31, is making $7 million this year, and then has one more year of team control after this season via arbitration, which means the Diamondbacks don’t *have* to trade him right now. They can hold onto him until the winter or even until next July and move him as a rental. If he gets healthy and productive in the second-half of this season or the first-half of 2020, they might even get more out of a deal. I tend to believe they’d be more willing than not to move him, but agreeing on equal value between front offices could be tough.
Are the Cubs Interested?
Well, this one is a whole lot easier to answer, because Ken Rosenthal writes in his latest rumor notes column that, yes, the Cubs are interested: “[T]he Cubs will be among the teams interested if the Diamondbacks sell and make Peralta available. Peralta would increase the Cubs’ outfield depth and bolster their lineup against right-handed pitching, and he is under club control through 2020.”
Rosenthal didn’t mention the Cubs potential competition, but it’s clear that Peralta is the kind of bat the Cubs could use right now, if he’s healthy and clicking.
Despite the injury concerns – which are real and must be monitored – and the fact that Peralta’s 130 wRC+ from last season is down to 112 wRC+ this year, there’s one thing Peralta does very well: hit right-handed pitching. This season, Peralta has been nearly unplayable against lefties (.218/.289/.310; 58 wRC+), but has demolished righties (.319/.379/.546; 136 wRC+).
Indeed, even after his first injury – when his overall production tanked a bit – he was still hitting righties very well: .308/.400/.474 (128 wRC+). Heck – his fit is almost identical to what Carlos Gonzalez would have been for the Cubs if the flyer paid off. If the Cubs already once saw fit to add a veteran, left-handed hitting corner outfielder and play him regularly against righties, you can bet they see a need. So from the actual rumor to the apparent fit … Yes. The Cubs probably are (and should be) interested.
Now, a natural third question here is, What Would a Trade Cost? But I’m not really prepared to answer that, because the health question looms so large.
Mark Polishuk (MLBTR) wonders if the Cubs might be interested in parting with Kyle Schwarber as part of a trade, surmising as you might that Peralta would most naturally slide into the lineup in left field against righties. But that doesn’t really make any sense unless it was part of a much bigger deal, including other players (perhaps on both sides). I’m not saying Schwarber is an untouchable piece at this point, but trading one left-handed-hitting left-fielder for another doesn’t really accomplish anything, right? Even if you don’t like Schwarber’s short-term potential and think Peralta’s offense helps you win more right now (which isn’t entirely unfair), the injuries should stop you from just giving up on Schwarber – to say nothing of Schwarber’s additional youth, higher ceiling, and extra team control.
As far as other general comments on the cost: Peralta is good enough to want, but not so good that a trade will necessarily require names like Miguel Amaya or Nico Hoerner or Adbert Alzolay to get something done. If the D-Backs did draw the line at those names, I’d just end the conversation there. Instead, I tend to think the Cubs do have the prospect depth thereafter to make for an enticing fit. It really all depends on how these injuries affect Peralta’s trade stock. There’s not much time between now and the break, so Peralta’s return is going to be watched very closely.
Theo Epstein said the Cubs were being proactive already on the trade market, so we’ll see if this goes anywhere. Gut says it won’t until after Peralta returns healthy.
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