NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Cubs have discussed the outlines of a Shelby Miller trade with the Atlanta Braves at length, but a source close to the talks insisted the two sides weren’t at all close to a Javier Baez deal as Monday night turned into Tuesday morning at the winter meetings.
Beyond shooting down that Twitter report, multiple sources indicated the Braves have been more focused on Jorge Soler, saying Baez isn’t Atlanta’s type of player, making him a much better match for the San Diego Padres and Tyson Ross, a pitcher the Cubs have targeted at least since the July 31 deadline.
But manager Joe Maddon – whose voice resonates with Theo Epstein’s front office – sees Baez and Soler as building blocks and not trade chips.
“Anything’s possible,” Maddon said during Tuesday’s media session at the Opryland complex. “It’s part of the business. It’s part of the game. As of right now, I don’t anticipate that happening. I really don’t. But if it were to happen, it happens.”
That could obviously change before the Cubs leave Nashville, Tennessee, but Maddon opened some eyes with the way he lobbied for Baez to make last season’s Opening Day roster and used him as a September call-up and in the playoffs.
The Cubs got exposed as a flawed defensive team and swept by the New York Mets in the National League Championship Series. Maddon has repeatedly described Baez as one of the best young middle infielders he’s ever seen, and his violent swing has drawn comparisons to Gary Sheffield.
Maddon has called Soler a Vladimir Guerrero with plate discipline, the type of premium talent that would get drafted No. 1 overall if the Cuban outfielder had been born in the United States.
Soler has dealt with injuries throughout his career, but showed so much potential in October, hitting .474 with three homers, three doubles and six walks in seven playoff games.
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Baez just turned 23 and Soler will be 24 next season and the Cubs seem to understand both players have boom-or-bust potential.
“My biggest concern would be the kid, the player, (because) Javy is special,” Maddon said. “I really like him a lot personally, and really got to know Soler.
“Soler is another example of a (coaching) staff really impacting a guy in a positive way – Manny (Ramirez and) Johnny Mallee and ‘Ske’ (Eric Hinske) and Davey (Martinez). It’s really wonderful how our group worked together to get the most out of these guys.
“So, yes, of course, anything’s possible, but I really anticipate they’re going to be here.”