7:45pm: Nightengale tweets that while Morel’s name has come up in discussions on Glasnow, the Cubs are reluctant to move him for a player with one year of team control. Patrick Mooney and Sahadev Sharma of the Athletic, on the other hand, write that Morel has not come up in any recent discussions about Glasnow.
3:34pm: The Cubs are one of many clubs to have known interest in Rays’ right-hander Tyler Glasnow and Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports today that Christopher Morel’s name has surfaced in those talks.
It’s unclear which club decided to make Morel part of the negotiations but it was reported last month that the Cubs were willing to make Morel part of the return in a potential Pete Alonso trade. Perhaps Morel has been squeezed out of the plan in Wrigley and the club is shopping him around to see what he could bring in return.
The tricky thing with Morel is that he has tremendous power in his bat but doesn’t have a perfect spot to fit onto the Cubs’ roster. He’s hit 42 home runs in his first 854 plate appearances, despite a 31.6% strikeout rate. His .241/.311/.471 batting line thus far translates to a wRC+ of 114. But attempts to have him line up defensively at shortstop, third base or the outfield haven’t gone well. His work at second base is passable but the Cubs have a set middle infield of Dansby Swanson and Nico Hoerner.
It was reported about a month ago that the Cubs would get Morel some first base reps in winter ball, though that wouldn’t be an ideal fit for him either since he has 99th percentile arm strength. President of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said at that time that “another team might be able to put him” at second base.
It seems as though the Cubs may feel as though the best use of the talent on their roster is to explore trades for Morel and perhaps address first base in some other way. He still has five years of club control remaining and hasn’t yet reached arbitration, which should give him plenty of appeal. It was reported earlier today that the club is discussing various contract structures with first baseman Rhys Hoskins. If they can get something done there and also flip Morel for some pitching help, perhaps that is a preferable path to paying for pitching and using Morel at first base.
That will naturally depend on how the talks proceed and whether the Rays want Morel to be the center of any Glasnow return. The Rays have a solid second baseman in Brandon Lowe. He has missed some time due to injuries in the past two seasons but has still been able to hit at an above-average rate. He’s also controlled at an affordable rate through 2024 with a couple of reasonable club options after that. The club also has Isaac Paredes and Jonathan Aranda as guys on the roster capable of playing second.
Acquiring Morel is probably not the first choice for the Rays, given their incumbent infield options. Though they are considering moving Glasnow and his $25MM salary, they have obvious rotation needs and will need to think about bringing in cheaper pitching in the event they pull the trigger on a trade. With each of Shane McClanahan, Drew Rasmussen and Jeffrey Springs set to miss most or all of the 2024 season due to elbow surgeries, the rotation isn’t in great shape. They still have Glasnow, Zach Eflin and Aaron Civale but some question marks beyond that. But Glasnow’s salary and perpetual payroll concerns in Tampa might lead them to try to balance saving money while still running out a talented roster.
The Rays are generally unafraid to make deals and could perhaps also flip Lowe for pitching in addition to acquiring Morel in a Glasnow deal, though that would require further conversations with other clubs and it might be easier if they just have an offer that involves a younger pitcher coming to them directly in a Glasnow deal. It’s also possible that the Cubs and Rays discussed larger trade scenarios involving more than just Glasnow and Morel, as clubs often consider all kinds of plausible scenarios at this time of year.
The Rays have also received interest from clubs such as the Cardinals and Reds while there are also plenty of other speculative fits. Some of those clubs may be pursuing big free agents like Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Blake Snell or Jordan Montgomery and may pivot to the trade market if they come up short there. Perhaps the Rays will wait to see if they can get a few more clubs on the line after the free agent market moves a bit more, but they could also strike quickly if they find a deal that they truly like.