Winter meetings are in the books, but MLB trade season is still in full swing. The Cubs already made some noise and darted to the front of the 2016 World Series chase in many people's minds. Theo Epstein was able to ink deals with John Lackey, Ben Zobrist, and none other than Jason Heyward.
Epstein already looks like a mastermind, but his work might not be done just yet. The Cubs are eyeing the addition of another proven arm to bolster their starting rotation and rumors are that Cleveland's Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar are two of the prime targets. However, starting pitching hasn't come cheap this offseason, so the Cubs are going to have to pay quite the price if they hope to strike a deal.
The man most likely to be a part of that deal is OF Jorge Soler. The 23-year old appeared in 101 games last season for the Cubs hitting .262 with 10 home runs and 47 RBIs. Soler isn't garnering all of the attention though, teammate Javier Baez's name has been thrown around in trade talks as well. Baez posted a .289 average in only 28 games while hitting a single home run and only four RBIs. In 74 games at the AAA level, Baez tallied 13 home runs and 62 RBIs while hitting .328.
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However, the 23-year old Baez may be slightly sliding under the radar at the moment. By simply glancing at each guys' 2015 statistics in the majors it appears that Soler is the guy to target for the Indians, especially considering the Tribe's need for an outfielder who can swing it. However, Baez might be the guy to target when considering the future.
Both guys are 23 years old and have incredibly high ceilings. Soler has proven himself in the majors, whereas Baez is slightly more raw. However, Baez is working on his outfielding this season in winter ball. If Baez can prove that he can be relied on in the outfield, he may be the better option for the Indians in the long run. People don't watch minor league baseball, which is the reason there isn't more hype surrounding this kid.
In 2014 Baez had an outstanding campaign. In AAA, he blasted 25 home runs and contributed 87 RBIs for the Iowa Cubs. Not to mention his 9 home runs and 20 RBIs he posted in 52 games in the majors that year. Going back even further to 2013, Baez hit 37 home runs and racked up 111 RBIs. The kid can hit. The strikeouts have been his biggest issue, but he has been able to significantly to limit those as well. Of course people are thinking well anyone can put up those numbers in the minors-- Soler never did. His best minor league numbers were 15 home runs and 57 RBIs, although in fairness he never played as many games as Baez.
The bottom line is that Baez might indeed have a higher ceiling. He has shown he can produce incredible numbers and recently he has shown he can limit his strikeouts. If he can find a way to put it all together there is no saying just how good the kid can be. Soler on the other hand has had his share of injuries and has never been able to produce quite as eye-popping of numbers as his Chicago teammate.
If the Indians are going to give up a proven starting pitcher they may just want to take a risk and go after Baez. If he can become an everyday outfielder he fits perfectly into their lineup. Soler is seemingly a nice fit as well, but may not offer quite the offensive spark that the Indians need to escape mediocrity. The addition of a star hitter could be what puts the Indians over the hump and that's why Baez may be the guy to go after.
All that being said, if I'm in the Indians front office I'm going after both of these guys-- yes, both of them. In the same trade. Epstein and the Cubs need another guy to solidify their rotation and they may be desperate enough to pay the price for it. Just look at what the Diamondbacks gifted to the Braves for Shelby Miller. Carrasco, 28, and Salazar, 25, are both relatively young and are both coming off solid seasons posting .363 and .345 ERAs respectively in the majors last season. Each guy also showed sparks of complete dominance.
If the Cubs want one of these two talented arms, the Indians shouldn't be afraid to make them pay. Force them to send over both Soler AND Baez in return for either Carrasco or Salazar and maybe a prospect or two. The Cubs farm system is good enough that Epstein might just bite as he dreams of a World Series in Chicago.