Brett Lawrie was on the verge of being called up in May when a broken hand knocked him out for two months, but he’s hit .350 at Triple-A since returning in mid-July and today the Blue Jays officially added their top prospect to the roster.
There are questions about whether Lawrie can stick at third base defensively long term, but he’ll get a chance to play the hot corner for now with Jose Bautista shifting back to right field and his bat is the real draw anyway.
Lawrie, who was acquired from the Brewers for Shaun Marcum this winter, hit .353 with 18 homers and a 1.076 OPS in 69 total games at Triple-A, which is pretty damn impressive for a 21-year-old even at hitter-friendly Las Vegas in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.
He didn’t show nearly that much pop at Double-A last season, hitting .285 with eight homers in 135 games, but the 16th overall pick in the 2008 draft ranked 10th on Baseball America‘s midseason top prospect list with the only position players ahead of him being Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Manny Machado, and Jesus Montero.
To make room for Lawrie in the lineup and Bautista in the outfield the Blue Jays demoted Travis Snider to Triple-A for the second time this season. Snider was once a very highly touted prospect himself, but he’s struggled to make consistent contact or control the strike zone. So far a .249 batting average and .308 on-base percentage have offset Snider’s significant power potential, but he’s also still just 23 years old.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Cubs won’t deal Kyle Schwarber this winter, despite multiple inquires from teams around the league. Schwarber is approaching his first year of arbitration and will remain under team control for another three seasons before reaching free agency in 2022.
The decision comes on the heels of one of the strongest seasons of the 25-year-old outfielder’s short career. Over 137 games and 510 PA for the Cubs, he proved a passable defender in left field and batted .238/.356/.467 with 26 home runs, an .823 OPS, and 3.2 fWAR in 2018. He also led the National League in intentional walks, with 20, and bumped up his total walks from 59 in 2017 to 78.
Despite his marked improvements from previous years, Schwarber’s performance still left something to be desired — specifically against left-handed pitchers, who held the slugger to a paltry .224/.352/.303 with four extra-base hits across 91 PA. Still, it’s evident the Cubs feel Schwarber is capable of strengthening his splits in the years to come, and they might stand to get more value from him on the field than they would in a trade this offseason.
Of course, that’s not to say the Cubs intend to pass the Winter Meetings in total silence, especially as they’ll be seeking bullpen and catching depth in advance of their 2019 run at the division title. As club president Theo Epstein remarked last week, “We’re certainly open and active in trade talks with a lot of deals that usually don’t come to fruition. So, we may make some trades. We could make big ones that transform the roster. We may make smaller complementary ones. But there’s certain things we’d like to accomplish.”