In what may as well be a scheduled report/rumor at this point, Bruce Levine tweeted Wednesday morning that the Cubs and Indians have discussed a trade centered around righty starter Danny Salazar. Levine noted that Cleveland is looking for left-handed hitting in return, but that “nothing close at this time.”
The Cubs and Indians have had trade talk conversations.RHP Danny Salazar has been mentioned . The Indians looking for left handed hitting in return . Nothing close at this time .
— Bruce Levine (@MLBBruceLevine) December 13, 2017
I am willing to bet your salary that the first name that popped into your head was Kyle Schwarber. Not only does he fulfill the reported ask, but he’s got some pretty obvious ties to Cleveland. Schwarber is from Ohio and actually played his first full series as a DH in Cleveland after being called up in 2015. You may recall that he tripled in his first at-bat and went on to hit his first homer in that series.
And then you’ve got that whole World Series thing. People tend to forget this, but the Cubs actually won the 2016 World Series, thanks in large part to Schwarber’s heroics. Because his surgically repaired knee wouldn’t allow him to play the field, War Bear was limited to DH duty once again.
Setting all that aside, it’s a little odd that the Indians would be looking to add another lefty to a lineup that already figures to be full of them. Their top three hitters and four of their top five hitters are either lefties or switch-hitters, while the only righties other than Edwin Encarnacion are Yandy Diaz and Roberto Perez. I suppose they could be looking for someone to platoon at DH with Diaz, but you’d think righties would be the bigger need.
In any case, the real key here is the hard-throwing, oft-injured Salazar. He’s got loads of potential and looks at times like one of the best pitchers in baseball, but he’s had a bear of a time actually remaining active. The righty missed most of 2010 and ’11 due to Tommy John surgery and has been limited in subsequent seasons by shoulder and elbow issues.
Though he did accumulate 185 innings pitched in 2015, Salazar hasn’t reached 138 IP in any other campaign. So on one hand, you’ve got a guy who routinely touches the high 90’s and who possesses what may be the nastiest changeup in the game. On the other, that same guy has a noted history of arm problems that don’t figure to just go away in light of his pitching style.
Another big factor in this is Salazar’s club control, which extends for three seasons. He’s entering his first year of arbitration and projects to earn just north of $5 million, a very reasonable salary for someone of Salazar’s immense potential.
That potential stems from a career 10.51 K/9 and a 3.56 FIP/3.42 xFIP that show he’s better than the career 3.82 ERA. Salazar isn’t afraid to work in the zone because he’s confident in his stuff and knows he can get hitters out with strikes.
But then you go back to the injury history and put Salazar’s up next to the pitchers the Cubs have already acquired this offseason. Tyler Chatwood and Brandon Morrow are not known to have the most durable arms on the planet and Drew Smyly is probably sitting out all of 2018 following TJS. While Salazar’s upside is higher than any of those, the fact that they’d have to move pieces to get him means that the risk is appreciably higher as well.
As Levine said, nothing is close at the moment. Whether they had serious intent or not, it’s in the Cubs’ best interest to at least check in on the likes of Salazar, Chris Archer, and Danny Duffy. Maybe one of the teams in question has really fallen in love with a player or two that the Cubs are actually willing to part with and a deal gets done.