I never get to keep my large adult sons.
After a day of everyone assuring us it was going to be done, with a sprinkling of other names thrown in just to get everyone’s dander up, the curtain finally came down on Jorge Soler’s Cub career. He’s going to Kansas City for Wade Davis.
Let’s start with Davis. If he’s anything like he was in 2014 and 2015, then this might go down as something of a steal. Sure, it’s only for one year as he walks after the year, or he will if he replicates his halcyon days because he’ll be looking for Chapman/Jansen money. But if he’s getting the last out at the end of October or early November, you aren’t going to give a shit. This is a pitcher who struck out over a third of the hitters he saw over two years, and walked less than 10%. It also came with a sub-1.00 WHIP. In terms of fWAR, which can be admittedly wonky for pitchers, he was the 9th best reliever in 2015 and second best reliever in 2014.
So there’s a dominant force still within him, leaving the rest of the arms in the pen, which vary from pretty good to really good, to come up with six to nine outs most days. Sounds good to me.
Ah, but what of last year, and possibly other concerns. Flexor strains tend to lead to much bigger problems that are solved by surgery, and we won’t know if an offseason of recuperation is enough to offset that pattern. Davis got hurt in July, missed all of August. When he came back in September, he struck out everyone in sight, striking out 36%. He walked barely anyone, but it was only over 9.2 innings. Hard to draw conclusions from that. But when he got hit, he got hit harder than he had before in KC. Hitters slugged .385 in that same September. The line-drive rate was 25%. According to BrooksBaseball, he didn’t suffer from a lack of movement or velocity when he came back, so maybe just one of those things? However, there is a little concern that after he came back, his release point dropped pretty significantly, suggesting that something was barking. Here’s his release point from the past three years:
There’s some risk, there’s a big reward. You can’t really argue.
Now to Soler. You won’t find a bigger Soler fan than me, but even I know it’s time. After Schwarber’s injury in the third game of the season, Soler had a chance to grab a full-time job with both hands. Instead, it was Baez who carved himself a bigger and bigger role, shifting Bryant and then Zobrist out to left over Soler more and more.
What was so enticing and infuriating about Soler is there would be a three-week stretch where all he would do is walk and hit the ball hard enough to change the molecular structure of the baseball. Like August of ’16 where he had a 157 wRC+ and slugged over .600. He looked like he was doing that in June, and then he got hurt. Just like August last year when he hit well, and then got hurt. Or last year’s playoffs. It was just enough to make you believe, and would be snuffed out quickly enough that you could never be sure.
Well, Schwarber isn’t hurt now, and the Cubs still have to solve how to get Schwarber, Zobrist, and Baez enough ABs, and they won’t be doing War Bear and Baez any favors by making them sit too much. There just isn’t room.
In three years, I really have little doubt that Soler will have mashed in KC and Davis will have been long gone from the Northside. It was so tantalizing at the end of 2014, when he came up and just hit. Homer in his first AB, that homer in St. Louis that still hasn’t landed, that arm. But the arm was all he had in the field. He looks a lot like a DH, and can really only play left where the Cubs already have 15 guys to do so.
If Davis stays healthy and isn’t on the decline just yet, it’s worth it. The Cubs could have the same bullpen they had planned to have after acquiring Chapman this year, before Strop and Rondon got hurt. They’ll have a more developed Edwards Jr. to augment it. They probably still need one more lefty arm, to go with Scrabble II and to replace Duensing after he’s DFA’d in May. But again, Grimm, Rondon, Edwards, Strop, (maybe Pierce Johnson?) trying to cobble together six outs works for me.
It’s a good deal. We’ll just have to use the Baez as Mystique photoshop more often.