9:05pm: The Cubs may be targeting Alex Cobb, Topkin tweets. The outstanding righty had his UCL replaced back in May and will obviously miss a good portion of the coming season. But he projects to earn just $4MM next year (an exact match for his 2015 salary) and would come with another cheap season of control thereafter.
5:45pm: Tampa Bay’s target in talks with Chicago is “definitely Baez,” Topkin tweets. He adds that the club is chatting with several other teams on deals at the moment.
Meanwhile, ESPNChicago.com’s Jesse Rogers tweets that Moore and Cobb appear to be more likely possibilities for the Cubs to pursue than is Archer, which is hardly surprising. He also says that, while relievers are “in play” in talks, the Cubs would “have to get a starter back.”
2:22am: The Cubs and Rays are in discussions about a deal that would send Javier Baez to Tampa in exchange for pitching, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. Topkin isn’t sure how developed the talks are, or if a trade is likely to happen. On Sunday, 670TheScore.com’s Bruce Levine reported that Chicago and Tampa had been in talks.
Chicago has been looking for both starting pitching and bullpen help this offseason, and the Rays are a potential fit in either department. On the relief side, Jake McGee and Brad Boxberger have drawn widespread interest from several teams looking to reinforce the back end of their bullpen, and the Cubs fit that description according to recent reports.
Tampa Bay has already dealt Nathan Karns to the Mariners but it’s possible the club could continue to trade from its starting pitching reserves. One would think that it would take one of the Rays’ more established arms (Jake Odorizzi, Matt Moore, Drew Smyly or possibly Erasmo Ramirez) to land a major power prospect like Baez, and it’s also probably safe to assume that Chris Archer continues to be unavailable in trade talks.
Baez was the ninth overall pick of the 2011 draft and a consensus top-seven prospect heading into the 2014 season. He has yet to make an impact in his brief time at the MLB level, however, as Baez has posted a .201/.252/.346 slash line and 10 homers in 309 career plate appearances, with a whopping 119 strikeouts. He struck out at a near-record rate in 2014, so while he improved in that department in 2015, Baez almost had nowhere to go but up. That propensity for swinging and missing has also been apparent at the minor league level (426 K’s in 1678 PA) but Baez has also crushed minor league pitching to the tune of an .888 OPS and 89 homers.
Baez was drafted as a shortstop but has seen time at second and third as the Cubs have tried to find him a position amidst their other top youngsters (Kris Bryant and Addison Russell) and Starlin Castro. With the Rays, Evan Longoria is locked into third and Logan Forsythe emerged at second last year, so Baez’s best fit is likely back at short, though they did just get Brad Miller from Seattle. Baez could also see some time at DH or possibly even first, even how the Rays are traditionally flexible position-wise.