Should the Cubs hold Soler and Baez?

For most of the offseason, Jorge Soler and Javier Baez have not been able to go a week without seeing their names tied up in trade rumors. The outfielder and middle infielder for the Chicago Cubs have been linked (or at least speculated about) in talks to starting pitchers like Shelby Miller, Carlos Carrasco, and Tyson Ross, as well as closer Ken Giles.

Now that two of those potential fits on the Cubs’ pitching staff are off the table, will the rumors begin to die down? Should the Cubs sit on their hands the rest of the winter and keep the pair of 23-year-old players?

At this point in their careers, Soler and Baez should still be labeled as prospects. Baez has played in only 80 games to date, while Soler has played 45 more. Baez struggled mightily in his debut season, 2014, striking out 95 times in 52 games. He was back towards the end of the 2015 season and handled big-league pitching much better this time around, striking out only 24 times in 28 games and batting .289. Baez could really be trending upward, but the Cubs just blocked him at second base for the foreseeable future with Ben Zobrist.

Soler got much more action with the big club in 2015, and he posted a respectable .262/.324/.399 line with 10 home runs. A strikeout total of 121 in 101 games is a bit troubling, but no more troubling than the high strikeout totals of fellow rookies Kris Bryant and Joc Pederson. In the playoffs, Soler hit three more home runs. On a per-162 basis for his career, Soler’s power numbers project to 19 home runs and 87 RBIs. Not bad for a player just starting a nine-year, $30 million contract. The Cubs may find themselves hard-pressed to squeeze 19 and 87 out of their $23 million man, Jason Heyward.

Both young players would seem attractive on the trade market, and Baez will not be giving the Cubs his full value being used as a bench player. By the middle of Zobrist’s four-year deal, however, Baez should be the better offensive player. The super utility man’s versatility will not really be a huge asset to the Cubs. His defensive value is already declining, and Chicago does not really have room for, or a need for him in the outfield. Obviously, you do not turn down Zobrist when he so clearly wants a reunion with Joe Maddon, but he will be 35 in May. Baez could be the better player in less than a year. If there is an injury in the outfield, and Zobrist is forced to change mitts, Baez is a far superior option than any other bench player currently on the roster. The only problem for the Cubs is that Baez will see his value as a trade piece will only continue to decline while he sits on the bench.

It will be difficult to trade Soler without an assurance that a capable replacement can be signed on the free-agent market. Alex Gordon is still out there, and would seem to be an excellent fit for the Cubs. He is a Midwest boy, and played with Zobrist in Kansas City. Signing on to help end the lengthy Cubs’ World Series drought has seemingly become the thing that all the cool kids are doing. If the Cubs want Gordon, they should be able to get him.

Baez is the more easily tradable player. He’s blocked at second base and shortstop, and will not figure into the starting lineup in 2016. It’s possible, but far from probable, the team could try him in the outfield if Soler is traded and a replacement cannot be signed. A trade for a starter like Ross or Carrasco could not be built around only Baez, but the Cubs do have a handful of minor-league prospects who could sweeten the deal.

The Cleveland Indians should be viewed as the better potential fit for the Cubs right now. They clearly have a need in the outfield, especially with Michael Brantley‘s injury. A one-off swap of Soler for Carrasco might not be feasible, but it may only take one or two more prospects to make the trade click. As for Ross, it may be more difficult to pry him away from the San Diego Padres. Most of the pieces acquired in the Craig Kimbrel trade play the same positions as the top prospects the Cubs have available to offer. Soler may not be that valuable to the Padres, as they already have a glut of outfielders.

The Cubs could also elect to sit on their hands and continue hoarding under-25 offensive talent. The New York Mets built their World Series core around young, controllable pitching. The Cubs are doing the same with young, controllable hitting. The real reason Chicago lost the NLCS was not because Kyle Hendricks and Jason Hammel were in the rotation, it was because the young hitters were simply overwhelmed by Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard.

The 2015 season was not supposed to be the Cubs’ time to shine, and it eventually caught up to them. Carlos Carrasco is not going to be the difference between winning and losing a World Series, but seeing Jorge Soler turn into another 30-homer threat in an already loaded lineup may very well be just that. Soler was, after all, the only young hitter who did not come crumbling down as the World Series run came crashing down against the Mets. The Cubs have gotten this far with their young hitters, and it may be wisest to see it through to the end.

22 Responses

  1. Anthony

    Agree. Agree. Agree. Why does everyone want to blow this thing up so quickly? If they have money to spend on another center fielder than I’d rather see them just keep Soler/Baez and sign someone like Scott Kazmir.

    • ed

      Soler is the real deal being Cuban and being ahead of others.
      Hang onto him and teach him about the bigs.

  2. Sonny Wright

    DO NOT TRADE SOLER—If you do people will stop talking about the Lou Brock trade.

      • Sonny Wright

        The thing to remember about the Carter for Sutcliff was the Red Baron went 16-1 but the morons running the Cubs gave him no help.

  3. Montu Masters

    Cubs should offer Soler, Baez, Hendricks, and a couple other prospects (like Corey Black and Marco Hernandez or Gleyber Torres) for Jose Fernandez and Marcel Ozuna. Jose will give you 3 awesome years, then he’s a FA (Boras clients don’t sign extensions). Ozuna can play CF very well, and offers a similar upside as Soler (less HR’s/yr).Heyward goes over to RF where he belongs…….and Ozuna will be under team control for another 4 years……

    • Sonny Wright

      Montu,are you a scout for the Marlins? You are willing to trade our future for a CF with a possible “clubhouse attitude.” and an excellent SP who may or maynot be effective 1-3 yrs. subtract Soler or Baez and then it sounds like a plan.

      • Michael Rice

        Don’t forget, we get only three years of that pitcher.

        I don’t think Baez will ever hit enough to play CF on a regular basis. I think he stays as the move around guy or gets dealt.

        I’m in no rush to move Heyward out of Cf, either. He has played well there in, albeit in limited time.

        Hendricks does nothing to that deal. He is a throw in. Honestly, I could see them asking that much for just Fernandez.

      • Sonny Wright

        the more i think about it, i was wrong. Proven talent trumps potential.

      • Montu Masters

        Sonny….I do live in So. Florida, and have seen the Marlins play a lot, but I’m not “officially a scout”…LOL. I am also a huge Cub Fan. Cubs Management is talking about trading Soler and another piece to the Indians for a guy like Carrasco….then signing another CF so Heyward can move back to RF. They are also talking about trading Baez and another piece or two for Jake Ordozzi, or playing Baez in CF. Clearly, Fernandez is a much better pitcher than either of the two that I mentioned. Ozuna has a huge upside, at a very reasonable cost for the next 3-4 years. I like Soler a lot, but IF they are going to trade him anyway, I’d like the Cubs to get the best pitcher they can for the next 3-4 years, until the guys in the minors are truly ready to contribute (Lackey will be gone…..and possibly Arrieta too). If C.J. and Pierce can reach their potential, and the guys like Mejia and Jokisch can also develop steadily, the Cubs will be ok when they all leave (and the budget will be stable as well). You’re not even getting just Fernandez for Hendricks and a package of minor league guys.

  4. DancingInPDX

    As much as I like Soler’s potential, the signing of Heyward is a foreshadowing of Soler’s departure just as the trade for Russell signaled the end of Castro’s tenure as a Cub. Baez is being sent to Winter ball next month to learn to play CF. Baez is smart, insanely athletic, fast and has a cannon for an arm – you can bet he knows that CF could be his if he learns the position quickly and the Cubs don’t find an alternative before opening day. Then just like Josh suggests, Baez could then take over 2B in conjunction with Zobrist’s decline and Almora’s readiness. And that’s just one scenario in which Soler becomes the odd-man out.

    Meanwhile the Cubs rotation is good, very good even, but it’s not the juggernaut starting 5 that we have the potential to create, and that you can bet Epstein wants to create. 4 of our starting 5 are over 30 and have a ton of mileage on their arms. If we expect many years of deep playoff runs, which will add more innings to those arms, we will need to get younger. What’s more Hammel’s contract expires next year and both Arrieta’s and Lackey’s the year after – we need to get younger now while we still have negotiation strength.

    Soler is going to be traded, perhaps next week, perhaps not until the trade deadline, but it’s going to happen. Let’s just hope it’s for a young SP that completes the best rotation in the league.

    • Michael Rice

      Or Heyward plays CF.

      Actually, the trade for Russell did no such thing. Castro stinking for the entire summer and the availability of Zobrist did it.

      Bryant played CF, too. It means nothing, but that Maddon loves his versatility.

      He just signed one of those over thirty guys, so your reasoning makes no sense. As well, we have Edwards and Johnson in the minors and pitching is ALWYAS available in the FA market.

      Yeah, let’s get younger and still have no offense.

      If he gets traded it will be only after Baez proves he can BOTH hit and field in the OF. I wouldn’t hold your breath.

      Also, you forget, Soler alone is not bringing that mega rotation you want.

      • DancingInPDX

        Well first I never suggested Soler alone would bring us a top, young SP. We have plenty of additional position player assets in the minors to sweeten the pot. Second, the Baez scenario, as I said, was just one possible scenario. Another is Soler gets traded to Atlanta for Incarte, who had a better oWAR that Soler, was second in the league in DRS (ahead of Heyward), gives us a true leadoff hitter, and would allow Heyward to move back to RF. As for “still have no offense” – huh? Soler was dead last on our team in oWAR among the starters – even Addison Russell was more productive at the plate, as a SS. Don’t get me wrong, Soler is likely to be very good, but it’s not his loss would be some sort of tragedy for our offense. Whether any of us thinks it’s a good idea of not, he doesn’t fit the style of team Epstein is trying to create – he’s going to be traded.

  5. JJ Samson

    Exactly correct. I am getting sick of all the people insisting we need more defense, or better WAR guys. We need more offense. We had the third best pitching in the NL last year, and were 16th in offense in the majors, Keep Soler and Baez.

    • Sonny Wright

      JJ, to me too much time is spent thinking long ball. Don’t think i dismiss home runs i love em (when Cubs hit them) But small ball is what wins ball games. That has always been the Cubs problem “wait for the 3 run homer.”

      • JJ Samson

        Sonny – I get your point. But I honestly don’t think small ball will play in Wrigley the way it does some other places. Unless you feel Soler or Baez aren’t going to make it, the only way I’d trade them is for young pitching. Difference of opinion I guess.

      • Sonny Wright

        I think i phrased that wrong. What i meant was you aren’t always get that homer, you need more guys who will choke up on the bat and go for that game tying hit instead of swinging from the heels.

  6. Michael Rice

    You forgot to mention that those 24 strike outs in 28 games encompassed only 76 at bats and 80 plate appearances.

    That equates to 190 strikeouts over 600 at bats. That’s atrocious. That without addressing that he hit ONE home run in those 76 at bats.

    I’ll save you the math. That equals out to 8 home runs in 600 at bats, if we round up.

    SOler would hit over 197 whiffs in 600 at bats, but be at almost 20 home runs.

    They both have insane strike out rates, right now. Saying Baez is trending up, though,while losing power to do so, is misleading.

    The Cubs don’t need to go get any older players. Gordon is almost 32, coming off an injury and his 162 game averages aren’t a lot better than what SOler has done in his two years, with the exception of OBP

    This team got to the NLCS with Soler playing. They improved at 2B and have improved both the pen and rotation, as well as CF.

    Leave it alone. A few years down the road you may need more pitching and should have a surplus of OFs if McKinney and Almora progress

  7. drew

    I’d be willing to trade soler, but the market suggests the seller is crazy. That Arizona/Atlanta trade sets a precedent that we have to give a king’s ransom to get a “guy.” Every trade rumor I hear seems a little too unreasonable. Baez is much more important now too. I’d imagine the market will be much more favorable and things will open up as other teams are becoming eliminated. I’m very willing to start this season and roll with what we have. Soler is still only 23 and massively strong. His ceiling has yet to be recognized

  8. Bowl Pool Commish

    Neither Baez nor Soler is getting traded for pitching right away because the market is too hot. With Price and Greinke signed for $200K+ and Shelby Miller traded for a king’s ransom, we would either have to overpay for a decent cost-controlled pitcher today, or accept less than we should reasonably expect. I don’t see EpstHoyer doing that. Nothing, if anything, is going to be done before January at the very least. I wouldn’t be surprised if we went to Mesa with both Baez and Soler and came back light one or both of them and with an extra pitcher and center fielder.


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