Coming off a 97-win season, the Cubs aren’t messing around. After adding John Lackey and Ben Zobrist over the past week, the club has reportedly agreed to an eight-year, $184 million contract with free agent outfielder Jason Heyward. But they aren’t stopping there.
According to FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi, the Cubs are discussing trades for starting pitching. Specifically, they have talked to the Padres about Tyson Ross and the Indians about Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar. These aren’t new names, but the Heyward signing could make the possibility more likely.
The Cubs currently project to have Heyward in center field, with Jorge Soler in right field and Kyle Schwarber in left. However, any trade for a starter would almost certainly involve someone like Soler or Javier Baez. Assuming the Cubs were to deal Soler, they could put Heyward in right field and either re-sign Dexter Fowler or pursue another free agent like Denard Span.
It’s worth noting that the Cubs were also reportedly talking to the Rays about a trade earlier this week, possibly targeting Alex Cobb, though it’s unclear if that’s still a possibility. Those discussions came before the Zobrist signing.
On Sunday, we heard from former Ray and current Giants third baseman Evan Longoria. The Rays recently traded pitcher Jake Odorizzi to the Twins for a prospect and designated All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense outside of a cost-cutting perspective. Longoria said, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”
Today, we’re hearing from a current Ray: center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who is set to enter his fifth full season with the club. Via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, Kiermaier said, “I am 100 percent frustrated and very upset with the moves. No beating around the bush. It’s one of those things that makes you scratch your head, you don’t know the reasoning why. And then you see the team’s explanation and still it’s just like, okay, well, so be it.”
Longoria — formerly the face of the franchise — was traded to the Giants in December and the Rays continued to subtract with their recent moves involving Odorizzi and Dickerson. Odorizzi has a career 3.83 ERA in what has been a solid, if unspectacular, career. Dickerson put up an All-Star season, posting an .815 OPS with 27 home runs in 150 games. Moving either player was not done to fix a positional log jam. In fact, with Odorizzi out of the picture, the Rays are planning to use a four-man starting rotation for the first six-plus weeks of the season, Topkin reported on Sunday. Dickerson’s ouster simply opens the door for Mallex Smith, who posted a .684 OPS last year, to start every day in the outfield.
The Rays got markedly worse after going 80-82 last season. They saved a few million bucks jettisoning Odorizzi and Dickerson. And Rays ownership still wants the public to foot most of the bill for their new stadium.
When it was just one small market team pinching pennies, it was fine. But now that more than half of the league has adopted penny-pinching principles popularized by Moneyball and Sabermetrics (with the Rays among the chief offenders), the game of baseball has become markedly less fan- and player-friendly. This offseason has been less about players signing contracts and changing teams in trades — which helps build excitement and intrigue for the coming year — and more about front offices doing math problems concerning the $197 million competitive balance tax threshold and other self-imposed monetary restraints. Fun. Kiermaier is right to be upset and he’s very likely not alone in feeling that way.