Another offseason, another rumor involving a Cubs-Yankees trade that would include Kyle Schwarber.
It's actually the first time this winter that Schwarber's name has been mentioned in trade rumors, the longest it's ever taken to get into the weeds on the topic in an offseason. Typically, Schwarber's name is bandied about in trade rumors in October or November.
However, as The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal cautions several times in his latest column, this is not a legitimate trade discussion. Rosenthal calls it an "interesting but unlikely trade proposition" and emphasizes there probably won't ever be any momentum between the Cubs and Yankees on the matter.
But The Athletic's national baseball reporter is using Schwarber as a window into the thinking of both clubs.
From the Cubs' perspective, trading Schwarber would accomplish the same thing as a Kris Bryant deal — freeing up some budget in the short-term and also adding young talent into the organization in an effort to extend the window of contention beyond 2021. Schwarber — like Bryant, Javy Baez and Anthony Rizzo — is under team control for only two more seasons. He's set to make a projected $8 million in his second year of arbitration in 2020.
The last thing the Cubs want to do is go the way of the Tigers, who began the decade with a window of contention but ultimately fell flat after 2014 and wound up in a long rebuilding phase they're still trying to climb out of. The Tigers are the cautionary tale to all teams with a potential steep decline on the horizon, as NBC Sports Chicago's David Kaplan has pointed out several times this winter.
It would be difficult for Theo Epstein's front office to find a way to extend all four key position players beyond 2021, and the Cubs also are in dire need of long-term pitching solutions. Both Jon Lester and Jose Quintana are heading into their last guaranteed years of their respective deals and the Cubs don't have much in the way of young pitching closing in on the big leagues.
That's where a trade comes in — Epstein and Co. could deal Bryant, Schwarber or Willson Contreras and receive young, impact pitching in return. They also would get immediate salary relief, which is important given they are currently projected to be about $6 million over the luxury tax threshold in 2020.
Enter Rosenthal's proposal with the Yankees, a team that has been interested in Schwarber for a half-decade. The Bronx Bombers still live up to their nickname with arguably the most powerful lineup in baseball, but almost all of that slugging is coming from the right side. They could really use a left-handed hitter in the middle of that order.
The fit is tougher defensively, as Rosenthal points out that the Yankees already have Giancarlo Stanton locked up at DH for the next eight years. Beyond that, the Yankees could use a first baseman, but Schwarber has never played there. Left field at Yankee Stadium is more spacious than at Wrigley Field and would present another challenge for Schwarber's defense.
That's what makes this deal more of a dream scenario than an actual rumor. In theory, the Yankees have the desire to add a left-handed hitter of Schwarber's magnitude and they also have the young pitching (led by Deivi Garcia) that could entice the Cubs. There's also 24-year-old third baseman Miguel Andujar, who missed most of 2019 to injury and is currently in the midst of a roster crunch on the infield in New York. If the Cubs wound up trading Bryant, Andujar could be an immediate option to replace him at third base, though the young slugger has some serious defensive questions.
A trade with the Yankees would also open up a position in the Cubs' outfield to potentially re-sign Nicholas Castellanos to a long-term deal (as Rosenthal mentioned). But would the Cubs really want to deal Schwarber after he finally put it all together and became a complete hitter in the second half of 2019?
It's even harder to see a scenario in which the Cubs trade both Schwarber and Bryant, as they've reiterated time and time again this winter that they plan to contend in 2020 and 2021.
Don't expect a Schwarber-to-the-Yankees trade to actually happen, but it's certainly interesting fodder for the offseason rumor mill.
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