NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – Dayton Moore, the straight-shooting general manager of the Kansas City Royals, took the unusual step of allowing the Cubs to give Wade Davis a physical exam before closing the deal for a World Series closer.
Cubs athletic trainer PJ Mainville met Davis on Wednesday in New York’s Hudson Valley, where he met his future wife near the beginning of his professional career and still keeps an offseason home. The Cubs wanted to follow up on the flexor strain in his right forearm that twice put Davis on the disabled list this year.
Information is the currency at the winter meetings and the Davis rumors buzzed around the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center from Tuesday night into Wednesday morning. By that afternoon, Moore and Cubs GM Jed Hoyer were up on stage in a huge hotel ballroom outside Washington, D.C., for the press conference announcing the Davis-for-Jorge Soler trade.
Cubs officials will now check out of this sprawling hotel on Thursday with most of the holiday shopping for the World Series champs already done, absolutely believing that Davis will be worth the risk.
“There’s nothing more we can do,” Cubs president Theo Epstein said while meeting with the Chicago media in one of the team’s suites. “At this point, we’ve pored through the medical extensively. We’ve seen all the MRIs. We’ve physically examined him ourselves.
“We’ve tracked every pitch he threw through the course of the season.”
The Cubs built their franchise around young hitters and the idea that pitching goes poof. The Cubs viewed position players as safer investments that could be cashed in for whatever pitching needs might arise in the future. For Soler’s untapped potential and inconsistent production, the Cubs are getting a two-time All-Star with a 0.84 ERA through nine career playoff series.
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At a time when big-name closers Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen are looking to shatter the record four-year, $62 million contract the San Francisco Giants just handed Mark Melancon, the Cubs are only committed to Davis for one season at $10 million.
That will seem like a bargain if the way Davis finished this season – seven straight scoreless appearances – is the indicator. The Cubs are betting that the July discomfort is a reflection of fatigue/overuse and not a precursor to Tommy John surgery.
“It’s important to look at how he came back,” Epstein said. “We spent a ton of time dissecting every pitch he threw in September, including seeing him walk off the field after his last outing.
“He threw some 93-mph cutters and really good curveballs and blew some guys away with his fastball. And he looked like vintage Wade Davis.
“We studied the whole arc of his season and his career and we’re very comfortable that it was something he dealt with midseason and is not going to be something that’s chronic.”
Davis – who had been originally groomed as a starter for the Tampa Bay Rays – already knows what it’s like to pitch for Joe Maddon and in October. The Cubs also understand the idea of a reliever with a spotless medical record is kind of like a unicorn. But if healthy, Davis can change the entire look and feel of what will be an eight-man bullpen.
“It’s just the nature of bullpens,” Epstein said. “With relievers, it’s very rare to have someone who’s just healthy year after year after year without a DL stint for something. They’re all either coming off a year in which they had a DL stint – or they’re maybe a year or two away from going on the DL for something.
“We have to be cognizant of the fact that we ride these guys pretty hard. Joe’s managerial style is to go to his guys (and) not be afraid to match up and use guys a lot. We played seven months last year – and we want to play seven months again this year.”