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.
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.