Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Cubs Trade Proposal for World Series Winning Closer

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Who doesn’t love trade proposals? Jump in!

We’re about a week away from pitchers and catchers officially reporting to spring training, and while the Chicago Cubs have added some arms to help solidify the bullpen depth I want more. How about making a trade for World Series winning closer and one of only eight pitchers in the 400 save club, Kenley Jansen?

Drew Smyly + for Kenley Jansen

I went back the last couple years to try to find as many comparisons as possible. Guess what, not a lot of teams are trading away their veteran closers in the offseason. However, I did find a decent example that included one team dealing away a closer with one year left on his contract and the other team trading a player with a year left plus an option in his contract.

I tried getting the exact type of situation here and not just throwing out random players to make it work.

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After the 2021 season, the Chicago White Sox traded Craig Kimbrel to the Los Angeles Dodgers for outfielder A.J. Pollock. Earlier in that offseason, the White Sox exercised the reliever’s 2022 option that was worth $16 million. Meanwhile, Pollock was about to enter the final guaranteed year of his four-year, $60 million contract.

Pollock’s 2023 option was worth $13 million, which he decided to decline.

I know the White Sox didn’t use Kimbrel as their closer after their deadline trade with the Cubs, but he very much was one and that’s why the Dodgers were sold on the idea of the swap.

The Dodgers needed a closer after Kenley Jansen signed with the Atlanta Braves and the White Sox needed a player that actually played the outfield. Pollock still had a player option for the following season, while Kimbrel was set to become a free agent after 2022.

I love Adbert Alzolay. If you look at some offseason top relievers lists, then you might have noticed that he hasn’t gotten the respect he deserves following his fantastic 2023 campaign as a full-time reliever. He was great once he took over as the closer and again if he doesn’t get hurt, then the Cubs probably reach the playoffs.

But if the Cubs are able to get another proven reliever with a great track record of pitching in high-leverage situations, then you do it. Especially if it’s only a one-year commitment as it would be in 2024 with Jansen, who will be a free agent next offseason.

The Boston Red Sox have been getting killed by their fans this winter because they haven’t been very active and their starting rotation could use some help. It doesn’t appear as though the Red Sox are going to make a late offseason splash with Jordan Montgomery or Blake Snell, so how about another veteran lefty in Drew Smyly?

I know, I know, not the most exciting option and I’ll admit that this only works if Craig Breslow, who now runs the Red Sox, really loves Smyly as a starting pitcher after seeing him during his time working in the Cubs organization.

Smyly signed a two-year, $19 million deal with the Cubs in 2023. That contract also includes several incentives and an option for the 2025 season. Smyly’s base salary for 2024 is $10.5 million and he can earn $3 million more if he reaches 150 innings.

Smyly’s 2025 option is for $10 million, which includes a $2.5 million buyout.

The lefty has had a few good stretches in the starting rotation for the Cubs. In the second half of 2022, Smyly made 13 starts and posted a 3.25 ERA in 63.2 innings. He continued that solid pitching in 2023, recording a 3.38 ERA through his first 15 starts of the year. Cubs fans know that everything kinda fell apart after that and Smyly was demoted to the bullpen later in the summer.

But again, what if Breslow thinks the Red Sox can maximize Smyly’s talent, plug him into their rotation and Boston gets to save a few million dollars by trading Jansen and his $16 million to the Cubs. Or the Red Sox are willing to eat some more money in exchange for a prospect in addition to Smyly?

Or maybe that + I mentioned is Daniel Palencia? Is that too much? Not enough? Hey, trade proposals are hard.

Obviously, it wouldn’t be one of the Cubs top prospects because they’re not at the point of pushing all their chips in for a one-year closer, but a top 20-25 prospect maybe? Depends on the money picked up by the Red Sox. Maybe it becomes 15-20 range?

Last year, Jansen was still one of the most reliable closers in baseball, going 29 for 33 in save opportunities. His overall ERA of 3.63 is a bit deceiving, as it went up nearly a whole run in his final four appearances before he was shut down after going on the injured list with COVID in mid-September. The right-handed reliever was also pitching through a tight hamstring in August, but never landed on the injured list because of it.

From May 20 through Aug. 30, Jansen posted a 2.10 ERA in 30 innings, saving all 20 save chances during that time frame. Jansen is still very good and I’d love to see him in the Cubs bullpen this year.

Yet, the most likely scenario if a trade ever did go down between the Red Sox and Cubs, it would most likely be for a couple prospects because it seems like Boston is desperate to shed salary.

This was from the middle of January. Via MassLive.

In addition to shedding payroll in the trades that sent Sale to Atlanta and Verdugo to the Yankees, the Sox have expressed to some free agents that they planned to shed more money before aggressively pursuing them. The team has engaged in trade talks involving two of its higher-paid players in Masataka Yoshida and Kenley Jansen.

And this goes back to Breslow. He worked for the Cubs from 2019-23, and has been credited for being a key figure in the progress the Cubs minor league system has made in the last few years. Is there one guy he really likes in Chicago’s farm system that the Cubs may not be as high on and Breslow feels like it would a steal by simply dumping Jansen’s salary over?

We’ll see. One thing we do know is that Cubs GM Carter Hawkins did recently say in an interview on 670 The Score that the Cubs will continue to be on the lookout to get some value for their bullpen if the opportunity arises.

Via Bleacher Nation.

Is another quality reliever coming? Well, Hawkins used the word “opportunistic” when discussing the approach to adding to the bullpen from here, which is the same word I’d been using as my guess after the Hector Neris signing. It isn’t that the Cubs are definitely done in the bullpen, it’s just that they probably aren’t out there aggressively pursuing. If some great value comes along that they can’t pass up – free agency, waivers, trade – they’ll jump.

I’m just sayin, a combo of Hector Neris, Adbert Alzolay and Kenley Jansen late in games would look pretty damn good. Then you have Luke Little in there against lefties. Me likey.

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