SF Giants: Chicago Cubs a Potential Trade Partner?
By Jeff Young
Since the SF Giants “bought” a prospect in Will Wilson last offseason, fans have been wondering when a deal like this might happen again.
Given the lost revenues due to the COVID-19 pandemic, teams are looking to cut costs are any corner, but this could be an opportunistic time for the SF Giants to buy.
Following the Yu Darvish trade, the Chicago Cubs are signaling their desire to reduce payroll. If they are not going to compete next season, then one contract no longer makes sense – Craig Kimbrell. The veteran closer signed a three-year, $43 million contract in the middle of 2019. This includes a $16 million team option for 2022 with a $1 million buyout.
At this point, it is all but certain that the Cubs will buyout Kimbrel’s option if he remains with the club. The 32-year-old has struggled to the tune of 6.00 ERA with 15 saves in 19 opportunities since inking that deal.
Earlier in his career, Kimbrel was an extraordinarily reliable closer for Atlanta Braves, San Diego Padres, and Boston Red Sox. However, some concerning trends have taken place in recent years. For starters, he has struggled badly with control as he has walked 14.5 percent of the batters he has faced since 2019 and he posted the lower (12.9 percent) swinging strike rate of his career in 2020.
On top of this, the Cubs are at a crossroads with the competitive window. Kris Bryant, Javy Baez, and Anthony Rizzo are set to become free agents after 2021. In theory, they could re-sign all three but that is going to be a tough task, which means that the window is closing or has closed.
In that case, it does not make sense to shell out $16 million for a closer next season. The Giants went through this with the Mark Melancon contract where it no longer made sense to have a closer on a lucrative contract if they were rebuilding.
That said, the Giants are proving to be one of the few aggressive teams this winter. Between Jason Vosler ($575,000), Anthony DeSclafani ($6 million), John Brebbia ($800,00), Alex Wood ($3 million), Matt Wisler ($1.15 million), Curt Casali ($1.5 million), and Kevin Gausman ($18.9 million), San Francisco has spent roughly $32 million on free-agent contracts for 2021.
Based on the spending, they may be in a position to take on another contract. As they did with the remainder of Zack Cozart’s three-year, $38 million contract, which netted them Will Wilson, there might be a real opportunity to pursue a similar trade this winter with the Cubs.
The Giants took on nearly $13 million in future salary for Cozart and would take on $17 million with Kimbrel depending on if the Cubs pitched in cash. However, let’s assume that they do not. What would that type of trade look like:
Similar to Wilson last winter, Ed Howard was a first-round pick in the most recent draft. Since the Giants are taking on an additional $4 million in salary, 19-year-old infielder prospect Rafael Morel is a bit of a wild card who has a lot of development to realize, but he sweetens the deal.
On the other hand, the Cubs would get a potential utility player in Ryan Howard and a wild card of their own in Jose Marte.
Howard was potentially in the mix when the Giants were picking at no. 13 in 2020 but slipped to the Cubs at no. 16. He would be the centerpiece of the deal, and both teams would exchange intriguing prospects with some potential to become a role player at the major league level while the Cubs also shed payroll.
In Kimbrel, he could remain with the Giants or they could cut him loose just as they did with Cozart following the trade. This all depends on where the Cubs plan to approach 201. If they are not looking to compete and want to cut payroll, the SF Giants could be a willing partner.