Yesterday Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal said the Padres are listening to offers on their top 3 starters Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy. Then he followed it up listing possible suitors. Among those the most interesting to me is the Chicago Cubs. Despite the fact that the Cubs won 73 games last year, they’re suddenly the trendy pick to make a run to the top in 2015. With Joe Maddon in the fold, top prospects getting closer to the majors and a lot of free agent money, they could be a strong force, if they make some moves to acquire some proven major league talent to supplement their young core.
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This is where the Padres come in. The Cubs leaders in starts in 2014 were Travis Wood, Edwin Jackson, Jake Arrieta, Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. Samardzjia and Hammel were shipped to Oakland in July and Wood and Jackson had ERAs of 5.03 and 6.38 respectively. While Arrieta was fantastic last year, he’s got a short track record of success and can’t carry a staff by himself. Jacob Turner, Dan Straily and Felix Doubront all figure to be in the rotation mix, but they don’t instill any more confidence than Wood and Jackson.
Any of the Padres big 3 would provide an immediate upgrade to their rotation, and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if they were aggressively pursuing a deal. We know what the Cubs want, but what could they give up as a return? While I don’t think the Padres would be able get Anthony Rizzo back, there’s value to be obtained. With a slew of infield prospects in Javier Baez, Arismendy Alcantara, Addison Russell and Kris Bryant, Starlin Castro and Luis Valbuena could be on the outs, and with openings all over the Padres infield, there seems to be a very good match.
Castro is the true prize on the Cubs roster. The 3-time All Star is under contract through 2019 with an option for 2020 at reasonable rate. He’s already played 5 full seasons where he’s put up a slash line of .284/.325/.410 and is only 24-years-old. According to Baseball Reference’s similarity scores, some players who had similar stats through their age-24 seasons were Hall of Famers Travis Jackson, Roberto Alomar and Bill Mazeroski as well Alan Trammell whose career wasn’t too shabby either. While this doesn’t prove he’s destined to be a Hall of Famer, it shows he’s at least on track to be at the very least a solid player.
Valbuena on the other hand isn’t as proven. Last season was the first time he had hit over .220 in a season since 2009 and his first year with over 100 hits. His .249/.341/.410 slash line in 2014 doesn’t jump off the page at you , but it is better than a lot of the Padres internal options. The big question that the Padres must look at if they decide to go after him is if he’s just a redundant piece with Yangervis Solarte already on the roster. Both had similar numbers last year, but nobody knows if either can sustain it. Solarte’s numbers are inflated from his crazy hot start with the Yankees, and Valbuena has a history of inconsistency.
While Valbuena isn’t a game changer, Starlin Castro can be. If the Padres want to pry a guy like him out of Chicago they’ll need to give back significant value. This means that Ian Kennedy is out of the equation. Kennedy will be a free agent at the end of the 2015 season and is the oldest of the trio. If the Cubs are going to part with their 24-year-old All-Star they’ll probably prefer a young, controllable arm. That leaves Ross and Cashner, and it’s a toss up between the 2. Cashner, the former Cub, comes with a lengthy injury history while Ross has a very short track record of success.
It may sting to part with one of the 2 young studs who we’ve seen blossom here in San Diego, but if we want to start to see a team that can consistently score more than a run or two per game, then moves like this will have to be made. Starlin Castro is the kind of impact bat that can help lift the Padres to a respectable offense, and I’d hope that A.J. Preller wouldn’t hesitate at the chance of acquiring him.