Posted on December 7, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
The World Series champion Chicago Cubs have a new closer after completing a one-for-one trade with the Kansas City Royals, who were the reigning world champions up to the moment that the Cubs were crowned champions. The Cubs acquired Wade Davis, sending Jorge Soler to the Royals. Reports of the trade first surfaced on Tuesday night, with the teams completing and announcing the deal Wednesday afternoon.
The Cubs were able to win the World Series with great amounts of help from closer Aroldis Chapman, who was acquired in a midseason trade with the New York Yankees. Chapman is now expected to sign a record deal for a closer in free agency, prompting the Cubs to look for a new closer. Davis had 27 saves in 30 opportunities for the Royals in 2016, posting a 1.87 ERA. He has just one year left on his contract before he reaches free agency, but he does provide the Cubs with a short-term solution at the back-end of heir bullpen as they attempt to defend their title in 2017.
Davis will no doubt be Chicago’s closer in 2017, with the likes of Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop, and Carl Edwards Jr. acting as the team’s primary setup men. Rondon served as the team’s closer last season before the acquisition of Chapman, while Edwards showed in the postseason that he’s capable of pitching in pressure situations at the end of games. This sets up the Cubs to have a strong bullpen next season to complement a powerful starting rotation.
Trading Soler also appeared to be an inevitable move for the Cubs this offseason, especially after the team signed Jon Jay last month. With Jay and Albert Almora Jr. in center field, the Cubs need to find playing time for Jason Heyward, Kyle Schwarber, and potentially Ben Zobrist in the corner outfield spots, leaving little room for Soler.
As for the Royals, they save a little over $6 million by swapping Davis for Soler, as they look to gain some payroll flexibility. The bullpen has been one of Kansas City’s biggest strengths over the past few seasons, and so the Royals remain in good shape even without Davis. With the duo of Kelvin Herrera and Joakim Soria, as well as the emergence of young lefty Matt Strahm last season, the Royals figure to have a strong bullpen again next season.
As for Soler, he had a disappointing season in 2016, but the Royals believe the 24-year will do better in the years to come. Soler is under contract for four more years before free agency, and he’ll make just $15 million over that time, making him an appealing and affordable player to take a chance on from Kansas City’s perspective.
Soler joins an outfield that includes Lorenzo Cain, Jarrod Dyson, Alex Gordon, and Paulo Orlando. At the moment, Gordon is locked into left field, with Cain, Dyson, and Orlando all capable of playing all three outfield positions. Ideally, the Royals would find room for Soler in right field, where his arm can be an asset.
It’s important to note that both Cain and Dyson are one year away from free agency, and the Royals have received trade interest from other teams for both players. If one or both were to be traded, it would be easier to free up room for Soler to play every day in right field, if that is indeed something the Royals would like to make happen.
Ultimately, this is a trade that should pay off for both sides. The Cubs received one of the better closers in the game, albeit for just one year, and all they gave up was a player who would not have a huge role in 2017. The Royals, meanwhile, trimmed some payroll, added a cost-effective player who’s under team control for four years, and set themselves up to make another trade or two that can help them to cut payroll even further. Of course, the upside is far higher for the Royals if Soler is able to bounce back in 2017 and start playing up to his potential.