In Theo We SHOULD Trust
As the trade deadline approaches it’s fun for fans to play General Manager and claim they know best what the team needs
As the Cubs were taking a 7–2 win over the Southsiders yesterday, I was on Twitter conversing with Cubs Nation in 140 character blasts. Amongst the topics of discussion were a career first Kris Bryant ejection, bean balls, and trade rumors. One name that keeps surfacing as a Cub target is Detroit starter Justin Verlander. With Jake Arrieta and John Lackey headed to free agency at the end of the year, controllable starting pitching has been a main focus of amateur G.M.’s.
During the all-star break Theo Epstein jumped the market, set the pace, and made a rare cross town trade with the White Sox. A young, controllable left handed starter, Jose Quintana, fit perfectly in the front office Cubs way of building the defending world champions. He’s under 30, he is under 10 million dollars a year, and fits nicely in the make-up of the Cubs rotation. Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana, and Mike Montgomery would potentially be 4/5th’s of the starting staff next year. Eddie Butler is a possible 5th starter moving forward but Monty and Butler are not perhaps what the fan base would prefer.
As a result many in Cubs Nation think Theo should make a move for another controllable starter before Monday. Is that the highest priority for the current team? Looking to add a player with hyper-focus on the current campaign is short sighted. Whatever the move it should effect the next 3 seasons, not just the current one.
In building this roster, the Cubs have expended much of its top tier prospect pool. That brings up the very real possibility of having to give up a current major leaguer to consummate any big deal.
As one looks at the make-up of the current roster there are needs. A second catcher is perhaps the biggest priority.
As we witnessed last year, you can never have too much bullpen help. Wade Davis is a free agent at the end of this season. Picking up another closer or back end guy who could help bridge to the Machine is not a bad idea. A guy that could potentially step in for Davis if he walks at seasons end. I have long believed Carl Edwards, Jr. has the potential to be a closer but he’s not there yet. Adding a closer makes sense given that likelihood.
All of these thoughts lead me to why I believe trading for Justin Verlander with his huge contract and age is not the move the Cubs need to make. All things being equal, meaning the Tigers eat no Verlander salary, why would it be prudent to spend roughly sixty million for a guy who will be 35 at the start of next year. A 22 million dollar vesting option kicks in if Verlander finishes in the top 5 of the 2019 Cy Young vote for the final year of his deal.
Trading for a name is counter-intuitive to the Cubs Way. Yes, Verlander has a strong history and is a seasoned playoff performer. However there has a been a statistical regression this year. It is logical to think that will continue.
Look, I’m a 51 year old guy who is very old school in the way I look at players. The vogue evaluation tool of writers, scouts, front offices, and fans is to use advanced statistical metrics or Sabermetrics. I admit that I am not very knowledgeable in this statistical view. I often use my gut or the eye test first. Justin Verlander does not pass my eye test. Many will say that I am not being very bright using this method. I won’t apologize for my method. A full point increase in a pitchers ERA from one year to the next is significant. A look at ones age is significant if the player is 35. A look at a 25+ million dollar salary for a 35+ year old pitcher is obviously a risk. No need for advanced metrics to understand that.
So trading for Justin Verlander alone may appear to be a sexy one given his name and his past. But it in no way satisfies the roster needs of a team attempting to repeat as world champions.
When the decision was made to DFA Miguel Montero it left Wilson Contreras as the only catcher on the major league roster. Victor Caratini was brought up to fill the need for a back up catcher. However he is not playing much and should really be in Iowa playing every day to further his maturation. That makes adding a seasoned backstop to the roster is perhaps the most important move Theo should make. This is a short term fix that can be adressed long term through free agency at seasons end.
Another bullpen arm is never a bad move for a team looking to make a deep playoff run. It does not matter in that case if it is a rental. It is again a situation that can be addressed in free agency later.
I am not going to float any names to fulfill these two needs. I will trust Theo to go find those guys and I am certain another catcher and reliever will be on the roster come Monday.
So returning to the topic of Justin Verlander let me float one scenario I could accept if the Cubs went and got him. If the Detroit brain trust is willing to assume 36 million dollars over this season and the next two seasons I could be o.k. with that. It would mean the Cubs are paying roughly 40 million until the vesting option kicks in for the 2020 season. But the other requirement is that it would be a package deal.
If Theo can make a move for Justin Verlander, Alex Avila, and Justin Wilson that is a move that makes sense on many levels. It would be possible in that case that the Cubs roster hit would still take place unless the Tigers might be interested in a package that includes Jeimer Candelario, Eddie Butler, and Victor Caratini. That is a minimal roster hit and is palatable in many ways. But there would need to be more for the Tigers to agree, I am sure.
I believe Theo and Jed are willing to take risks given the window the Cubs have given themselves to win titles. But they will not mortgage the next three years in the process.
I am certain that they will make the prudent moves needed and I am more than willing to trust them to do it in a sensible way.
By the way, I would not be surprised if Justin Verlander is intentional smoke to distract the opposition. I would not be at all shocked if Sonny Gray was pitching in a Cubs uniform next week. He fits the Cubs way. Maybe I AM dreaming now. He is Theo though.
I feel better now. Perhaps I needed to defend myself. But I also think there are many fans who agree with me about Justin Verlander. At the end of the day, we are all a part of the same family and it is fun to speculate and dream. Now let’s enjoy the rest of our title defense and hope we again are screaming at Joe Buck at the end of November.
Doug Preszler is the type of person who can be a Cubs fan and an Iowa fan while living in South Dakota. He is a man who cares not for regional loyalty. He can be found on Twitter @PreszlerDoug, telling tales of the Dakotan Cubs fan’s existence.