The one player the Cubs should consider trading Kyle Schwarber for

Kyle Schwarber just wrapped up a historic postseason for the Chicago Cubs. With his five home runs (in just eight games) Schwarber is now the franchise leader for postseason home runs. That’s in a career, not just a single postseason. Admittedly, there has not been a ton of postseason baseball played by the North Siders, but still. Schwarber’s five bombs also make him the all-time leader in postseason home runs for a player age 22 and younger, as he broke Miguel Cabrera‘s old record. All told, the 2015 postseason was a smashing success for the catcher/outfielder who was drafted in 2014.

There’s just one little issue, however.

Schwarber played the outfield in all of his postseason appearances, and to say it was an adventure is putting it lightly. The best that can be said of Schwarber’s play in the outfield is that…well…he wasn’t quite Hanley Ramirez bad. Schwarber misplayed, bobbled, and took terrible routes to balls on multiple occasions.


Credit: Elsa / Getty Images North America

Behind the plate, in his primary position, Schwarber is not much better. What’s more, for the Cubs to really get the most out of Schwarber’s bat, they’ll want him to play left or right field, not subject his body to a beating behind the dish. The Cubs also already have a decent catcher in Miguel Montero who has been with the club for only one year.

Still, if the Cubs have to go with Schwarber in the outfield, he will produce more runs than his defense allows. The rookie hit 21 home runs in 259 total at-bats (counting the postseason). Schwarber, who had only 621 total minor league plate appearances, easily projects as a 40-plus home run hitter, especially in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field. How crazy would it be, then, that the Cubs would consider trading Schwarber away?

Not that crazy, in my opinion.

Schwarber is a DH trapped in the National League. He is never going to be anything more than a below-average to average outfielder. That’s still something the Cubs could live with, but their lineup already oozes power potential at nearly every other spot — Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, Addison Russell, Jorge Soler. You get the picture.

If the Cubs do want to pursue a trade of Schwarber (not something I really see happening), there is one, and only one player that seems like an excellent fit — Oakland’s Sonny Gray.

If the Cubs have one weakness, it is their starting rotation. Kyle Hendricks and Jason Hammel would not be anyone’s first choice to match up with the aces of the New York Mets — a team that will be contending for the World Series for quite some time. The Cubs are set at the top of their rotation with Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta. The rotation falls off considerably after that duo. Turning Schwarber into a bonafide ace in Gray is something the Cubs should consider if the trade presents itself.

Would the Athletics be willing to make such a trade? That’s just as up-in-the-air as the Cubs’ desire to trade Schwarber.

Under Billy Beane, the Athletics have really only had one truly elite, MVP-type, pure All-Star slugger — Jason Giambi (no, I’m not counting end-of-career Mike Piazza and Frank Thomas, or Carlos Pena, Brandon Moss, or Josh Reddick. It took a trade to Toronto to turn Josh Donaldson into an MVP-type player. Miguel Tejada won the MVP, but he does not fit the pure slugger bill). Their lineup this season was a cast of spare parts, and the team slumped to a 68-94 record only a year removed from going all in and trading for Jeff Samardzija, Jon Lester, and Jason Hammel. Beane’s got his work cut out in rebuilding this iteration of Moneyball. Gray has four more years of team control, but it’s difficult to envision Oakland actually being any good for more than the last year of that control. Contending in the AL West is only going to become more difficult as the Houston Astros are for real, the Texas Rangers are back up and running, the Los Angeles Angels will always have money, and the Seattle Mariners have Jerry Dipoto running things. If Beane is being serious with himself, he will realize there is very little reason to hold onto Gray for anything other than a trade chip.

Schwarber would give the Athletics six more years of team control. Those two extra years for Beane to figure things out would be huge. Before Schwarber would reach free agency, the Athletics should be back in contention if there really is any Beane magic. The Athletics could probably get another piece out of the Cubs in a Schwarber-for-Gray trade. A one-for-one swap is probably not going to happen. How would Starlin Castro look as a member of the Athletics? The Cubs will probably be looking to trade their mercurial infielder as well. I’m not saying Castro fits in perfectly in Oakland, but the Athletics and Cubs could work out a three team trade (something along the lines of the San Diego Padres-Tampa Bay Rays-Washington Nationals swap last offseason) to move Castro and a few other prospects around to make a Gray-Schwarber swap happen.

This trade is still a pipe dream. I would say there is less than a five-percent chance the Cubs trade Schwarber, but there is at least one player who Theo Epstein and the front office should consider dealing their slugger for. Sonny Gray would have a huge impact on the Cubs chances of not only getting to the World Series, but also unseating the St. Louis Cardinals and avoiding the Wild Card game going forward. Additionally, the Cubs have an outstanding chance of signing David Price this winter.

Arrieta, Lester, Gray, and Price? Wow. It’s a longshot, but how great would that rotation be? Fire up the hot stove.

13 Responses

  1. Ian Coy

    The A’s never had an All-Star slugger under Beane except Giambi…and Frank Thomas, Miguel Tejada, Eric Chavez, Jermaine Dye, Jack Cust, Josh Donaldson, Yoenis Cespedes, Brandon Moss, Chris Carter, Nick Swisher, Matt Holliday (though he didn’t hit too many for them, unfortunately) and the player they traded for him, Carlos Gonzalez, Josh Willingham, Josh Reddick (sometimes), and Carlos Pena. That’s just off the top of my head ;)

    *Some of those guys didn’t make an all-star team, didn’t check to see if they all did*

    • Joshua Sadlock

      All those names you rattled off are great, but Giambi is still the only real 45+ HR and high average threat (however medically assisted he was). Schwarber’s ceiling is way higher than any of the other guys Beane has been forced to plug in. I’ll admit, I did forget how good Chavez was early on in his career.

  2. Mickey Koke

    Tyson Ross would make sense also. Flyball/ratio, K ratio, and he’s only touching the surface of his ceiling and the cubs want Ross.

    • Joshua Sadlock

      Ross is an interesting name. If the Cubs did that deal, they could probably hold onto Castro for another trade and maybe even squeeze a prospect out of the Padres.

    • Jordan Applegren

      You can get Ross for Baez or Castro though. Silly to even think about trading Schwarber.

      • Mickey Koke

        I think it’d take more than Baez for Ross. I don’t even think Castro is on the Padres radar from what I’ve heard. I’m not suggesting KS.

  3. gbudell

    I agree with the idea .. Schwarber has no position. On the other hand, losing home runs that land on top of the right field scoreboard makes me sad. Cubs fans are savvy enough to know the team needs pitching and Gray is good enough to justify the swap. I just hate to lose a beast who will be the next MLB player to hit a 500 foot home run. Maybe send him to the fall league with a fielding coach and go out and buy Price? Good post.

  4. Michael Mullins

    Holy Pipe dream Batman. Schwarber and Castro for Gray? If Billy Beane was offered that trade not only does he do it but the immediate production of MoneyBall 2 will begin

  5. Jordan Applegren

    Keep Schwarber. I can’t believe this is even a discussion. He’s a once in a generation hitting talent, you don’t trade that away, even for pitching.

  6. Aaron Sapoznik

    Sonny Gray would be a great addition to the Cubs future rotation but would hardly be the only pitcher Kyle Schwarber could be traded for.

    The White Sox are another A.L. team that would certainly benefit from a hitter of Schwarber’s talent and have a pitcher even more accomplished than Gray, one who would also be considered the equal of any of this off-seasons elite free agent options (Price, Cueto, Greinke) at a fraction of their financial cost…Chris Sale. GM Rick Hahn just might be amicable to trading his young ace if presented with a package that included a talent like Schwarber.

    Chris Sale will turn 27 by opening day and is controllable through 2019 at $47.15M that includes both the 2018 and 2019 team options being picked up. These dollars are a fraction of the value that impending free agent aces Johnny Cueto (29), David Price (30) and Zack Greinke (32) will receive this off-season. Neither pitcher will require forfeiture of a compensatory draft pick from their signing team as prospective FA’s.

    The White Sox would be looking for MLB ready core players at 3B, C and/or corner OF. Schwarber might fit the bill at one of the latter two positions, or as a DH if need be. Clearly the White Sox would require additional compensation beyond Schwarber, but the Cubs do have other young options that might be intriguing to their city rivals who could also potentially solve their 3B problem (Javier Baez?). An even bigger blockbuster might be feasible which could include the likes of Kris Bryant, Carlos Rodon or Carson Fulmer, who were all in play as potential amateur selections for both clubs (along with Schwarber) in the past 3 June Drafts.

    Since we’re dreaming here, why not consider all scenarios…especially ones that might benefit both Chicago teams, each of whom I have been rooting for since the early 1960’s.

  7. Aaron Sapoznik

    As stated, former A’s Josh Donaldson turned into an MVP caliber player after departing Oakland. But how many former or alleged Oakland ‘ace’ hurlers in the recent past actually remained so once leaving the ‘pitcher friendly’ dimensions of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum?

    I’d be wary of trading for an Oakland ‘ace’ pitcher. How many remained so once departing?

    Tim Hudson…probably.

    Dan Haren…perhaps.

    Mark Mulder…maybe, for one season.

    Sonny Gray may fit the bill as a long term ace pitcher, but he may also turn into some version of Barry Zito, Rich Harden, Brett Anderson, Joe Blanton, Justin Duchscehrer, Dallas Braden, Trevor Cahill or Jarrod Parker…all of whom had some success as A’s top of the rotation starters, but for one reason or another (including health), never quite lived up to their ‘ace’ labels or potential…there or elsewhere.

  8. nmmatt

    The Cubs aren’t trading Schwarber for Gray. Schwarber has MVP type power and has proven it in the post season. He’s a key piece of what Epstein is building in Chicago, so he’s not trading him for a good pitcher who may pan out to be an Ace to 3rd SP level. The Cubs are certainly not swapping Castro and Schwarber to get Gray in return. Only an incompetent GM who desperately overreacts to 4 games would consider that. Fortunately the Cubs are much better managed than that. I don’t think they are looking to trade for an Ace, because that would cost too much. It’s possible they sign another ace through free agency, but they aren’t breaking up what Epstein hopes becomes the best lineup in baseball. If they do trade for starting pitching it will be in exchange for some prospects or possibly one of Castro/Baez. Epstein is correct that starting pitching is dropping in cost relative to young hitters with a lot of upside – so any trade he does will reflect this.


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