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November 11, 2013

One Move

National League Central

by Craig Goldstein


This is the fourth installment in the One Move series. If you'd like to check out any of the previous editions in this series, you can find them here: AL Central, NL West, AL East.

Chicago Cubs
The Move: Trade for David Price
Originally, there was a detailed trade offer above. Upon further review, however, I don’t want this to be about whether the offer was good enough. The Cubs have the pieces to make the move, and while the Rays asking price might be too expensive for it to be a worthwhile move, there seems to be a middle ground that could work for both teams. I’m advising the Cubs to make this trade under the condition that it would fall in that middle ground. This means no, it will not consist of Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, and Albert Almora. It also means that, no, it will not consist of Christian Villanueva, Kyle Hendricks, and Mike Olt. Instead, imagine a scenario that makes it hard for either team to pull the trigger immediately but in the end makes both organizations better.

The rationale for such a move from the Cubs perspective is layered. It’s unlikely that they’ll compete with the Cardinals, Pirates and Reds in their division for 2014, which makes the move less effective as you lose a year of Price’s prime, and you’re absolutely paying for that year. The reason you make this move though, is the increasingly rare opportunity to acquire elite pitching on the open market. It’s reasonable to suggest that whichever team does trade for Price will also work hard to extend him, meaning you acquire him now or you acquire him never. The Cubs are Mariana Trench level deep in hitting prospects, with multiple elite bats to boot. What they lack are impact arms, and while acquiring C.J. Edwards in the Matt Garza deal was a step in that direction, they still need more.

Price gives Chicago a front-end option for their rotation and would allow them to field a competitive team in 2015, depending on the progress of some of their remaining prospects. It’s certainly an aggressive move, but one that would represent to the league and fans both that ownership and management is ready for this team to compete in the near term. While this might not seem like the best reasoning, this is an ownership group that has been criticized for their lack of spending in one of the country’s largest markets. With a new TV deal on the horizon though, the front office has the chance to acquire an impact arm who isn’t yet on the wrong side of 30. Finding pitchers that have established themselves as elite rightfully costs a pretty penny. Even getting the chance to acquire such arms is rare and for a team that could be competitive in the next few years, acquiring (and extending) such an arm would be a coup.

Cincinnati Reds
The Move: Re-sign Shin-Soo Choo
It’s not exciting and it’s not necessarily the first move you think of for one of the smaller markets in baseball, especially in wake of Choo’s contract demands. He fits the Reds current plan perfectly though, and given how quickly windows of contention shut it’s a move they should make. Billy Hamilton is one of the most exciting prospects in baseball, but a top-of-the-order option he is not. His presence could shift Choo to a corner outfield spot, which is more befitting of his defensive abilities. Hamilton could likely use more minor league seasoning, and in the meantime Choo can fake it in center field while Ryan Ludwick mans left.

The money is obviously a concern here, but as mentioned in my previous article, every team in baseball is seeing a boost thanks to new national television contracts. Also helping here is the likely departure of Bronson Arroyo, who was not tendered a qualifying offer. The Reds payroll currently sits at $79.35 million before taking into account arbitration cases. Last year it sat at $106.855 million, so there should be room to add a contract in the general range that Choo is seeking. While there are plenty of concerns about Choo’s inability to hit left-handed pitching, this would be a move with the short term in mind, giving the Reds another crack at St. Louis—a team they actually bested in third-order wins last season.

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Minor League Update: A... (11/11)
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