The San Diego Padres kicked off the Winter Meetings with a bang, trading Jabari Blash to the Yankees for Chase Headley and Bryan Mitchell. A.J. Preller seems keen on improving not only the team’s 2018 roster but their roster of their future.
While the Padres may not be ready to compete now, they have a budding farm system and the cap space to make an impact when they feel their ready.
As Preller looks to turn the Padres into contenders, Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan released information on who San Diego may be targeting next.
There’s a lot to take in with that tweet. For starters, it appears as if the Padres are the front-runners to land first baseman Eric Hosmer. But fans already knew that. What is ore interesting, is the team’s interest in a “young, under-control shortstop”.
Currently it appears that top Fernando Tatis Jr. is the Padres’ shortstop of the future. While just 18, there’s a chance Tatis is ready to compete at the major league level in a year or so.
As Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune points out, the Padres may be looking for a player who could move positions once Tatis is ready.
With that in mind, the connection to the Cubs becomes even more interesting as they have a player in Javier Baez who has played second base, shortstop and third base. Over four seasons and 367 games with the Cubs, Baez has hit .255 with 47 home runs, 158 RBIs and 28 stolen bases.
Baez is also an excellent glove man who would excell at any position on the diamond. At just 24 he would be an amazing building block for the Padres to add; if the Cubs are willing to move him.
Baez is under team control until 2022 and is being paid less than $1 million this season. He is an incredible bargain and the exact type of player the Padres are looking for in this type of deal.
Outside of Baez, the other major league option would be Addison Russell. Russell has spent time at both second and short and is also under team control until 2022 while being paid under $1 million. During his three year career he has appeared in 403 games, batting .240 with 46 home runs, 192 RBIs and 11 stolen bases. He has voted to the 2016 MLB All-Star game.
While either Baez or Russell would be a fantastic haul and a building block kind of player, the Cubs would need an amazing offer to move them. Chicago may have an infield logjam, but both Russell and Baez have proven they could succeed at the MLB level, convincing the Cubs to move one could be tough.
If the Cubs were to move one of their young stars, it would likely be for reliever Brad Hand. Hand has been a hot name on the trade market due to being a lefty and the amount of success he has had over the past few seasons.
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The past two years Hand has appeared in 154 games, pitching to a 7-8 record with a 2.56 ERA and a 215/56 K/BB ratio. He has amassed 22 saves during that time and was voted to the 2017 MLB All-Star game.
Hand has been downright dominant since 2016 and has proven he could succeed as a closer. Relief pitching has become incredibly important in recently times, making Hand all the more valuable. There are not many players with his talent in the MLB, and many are not readily available for trade.
The Cubs do already have Justin Wilson on their roster and just signed Brandon Morrow to a contract, however both have flaws.
In 23 games last season for the Cubs, Wilson compiled a 5.09 ERA with a 25/19 K/BB ratio. He showed dominance during his time with the Tigers, making Chicago willing to trade top prospect Jeimer Candelario. But after struggling during his debut in Chicago, the Cubs’ brass may be worried to if he can function as the full-time closer.
Morrow had a breakout season in 2017, pitching to a 2.06 ERA over 43.2 innings. He was a favorite of Dave Roberts and was one of the better free against relief pitchers this offseason. However Morrow has just 18 saves over his 11 year career, with 10 of them coming in 2008. He has not proven he can handle the ninth inning, and therefore the Cubs may be uncomfortable putting him in that position.
Hand would give the Cubs and reliable closer who they can trust going to in the ninth. Aroldis Chapman was crucial during Chicago’s World Series run in 2016 and Wade Davis was a big part of their success in 2017. Hand would give the team another world-class closer they need to succeed.
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They key will be if Theo Epstein and company are willing to part with one of their best young stars. In Baez and Russell they have two players who they can build around and control cheaply for years to come. There’s a chance the Cubs feel uncomfortable moving two players who have already found rapid success this early in their career.
But there’s also a chance that Epstein feels urgency to succeed in the ever-improving National League. With Davis and Jake Arrieta out of the picture, they will need something to bolster their pitching staff. A stud like Hand would do the trick.
For now, this rumor remains exactly that with no word on if the two teams have talked a deal. But the San Diego Padres are looking for a young-controllable starter and there’s a chance that Javier Baez or Addison Russell is their man.
UPDATE: The Friars recently traded for Phillies shortstop Freddy Galvis making a deal for Baez or Russell seem unlikely. However Galvis is under contract for just one year, not fitting the bill of a “young-controllable shortstop”. Perhaps Baez/Russell are still on the Padres radar as they look at them as their future at second or third base.