Monday, June 15, 2015

By Robert Cunningham, Staff Writer - 

One of the biggest concerns for the Angels so far this season has been the team’s poor offensive performance against right-handed pitching, where they are hitting a collective .680 OPS.

Part of that issue stems from the fact that the team is running a .274 BABIP versus RHP which should normalize and regress to the mean as the season progresses, in turn improving the OPS number.

However BABIP issues are not the entirety of the problem. To further help improve team hitting versus RHP the Angels should consider trading for one or more hitters that excel against righties.

One player that they should seriously consider trading for is Cubs AA prospect left-handed hitter Kyle Schwarber.

If you don’t know who Kyle Schwarber is he has been one of the top hitters in the Minors since the Cubs picked him in the 1st round (4th overall) in 2014.

Over 525 plate appearances to date, Schwarber has slashed .336/.435/.615 matched with a .279 ISO and 30 home runs. Kyle is widely considered one of the top 5 offensive players in the Minor Leagues.

So the question you might be asking at this point is why would the Cubs consider giving up such a potentially talented hitter?

The answer is maybe they will and maybe they won’t, it’s not entirely clear or as simple as it seems.

One important complicating factor is what position Schwarber would play in the Majors.

Kyle has played catcher and left field in the past and the Cubs are currently experimenting with him in a backstop role.

The problem with playing catcher is three-fold: 1) Backstop’s go through a lot of wear and tear on their legs which eventually impacts their hitting in a negative manner, 2) Learning catcher skills takes time, and 3) Playing catcher is not an everyday activity which would make inserting his bat in the lineup more difficult on a daily basis.

Schwarber could go back to playing left field but reports are that his defense is at best average and more likely he would be a below average, fringe defense type of player in the outfield.

The positional question combined with the fact that the Cubs play in the National League with no designated hitter compounds the difficulty of finding a regular everyday spot for Kyle in the Cubs lineup.

Also, when you examine Chicago’s organizational depth at this point in time, it appears that their starting pitching depth isn’t as strong as they would like it to be. Every team in baseball understands the need for deep depth in the rotation and you have to believe that this is a concern for the Cub’s front office.

One other recent, interesting development is that the Cubs have started playing Javier Baez at 3B.

Baez at 3B would likely be a defensive upgrade over Bryant. Kris could move to LF to keep his powerful bat in the lineup and likely provide average to above average defense in the corner.

The Baez move might simply be to showcase his positional versatility in a possible trade of him, as well, but it would seem more logical for the Cubs to move Bryant to LF and retain Baez who has also been smashing the ball in AAA this year.

Based on Chicago’s other areas of need and their difficulty in finding Schwarber a positional home it is possible the Cubs are listening to offers that would bring back one or more starting pitchers in return, particularly from American League teams who can carry a DH.

Notably this would also move Kyle out of the National League where he could more likely come back to hurt the team that drafted him.

It seems the stars may have aligned for these two teams as the Angels have pitching that the Cubs might be interested in and the Angels need a left-handed middle of the order bat like Schwarber.

The Angels are in a better position to place Kyle on their roster and in their lineup utilizing the DH position, primarily, while allowing Schwarber to continue developing his skills at catcher, left field, or possibly first base.

His bat should provide immediate help for the Angels against RHP as Kyle has a Minor League slash line of .353/.450/.647, over 388 plate appearances, against them. Schwarber, versus LHP, carries a .291/.394/.530 line across 137 PA’s.

To be clear jumping to the Majors would be a challenge for Kyle and a risk for the Angels. However the potential opportunity to get a bat like Schwarber’s might be too good for the Angels to pass up.

So what would the Cubs ask for in return?

If they want quantity over quality, then we’d likely have to send two starting LHP’s like Tyler Deloach and Nate Smith as well as RHP Cam Bedrosian and a lower-level OF prospect like Nataneal Delgado.

However if they demand more quality, then you’d likely see one of Nick Tropeano, Chris Ellis, or Sean Newcomb, along with one of Tyler Deloach or Nate Smith, and Cam Bedrosian.

It is also possible that the Cubs may not like one or more of the pieces we have to offer.

There is an alternate solution to that problem as well and that would be to trade someone like C.J. Wilson or Hector Santiago to acquire one or more prospects that the Cubs do want.

Wilson is the most likely candidate as Jerry is probably willing to eat some or all of C.J.’s 2015 salary to potentially net the Angels a decent prospect or two. If other Angel’s farm system prospects are included in a larger package it could potentially bring more.

Andrew Heaney is ready to take over Wilson’s rotation spot. His Steamer Rest of Season projections are very similar to C.J.’s to date and Heaney has some upside beyond that in the long term.

Moving most if not all of Wilson’s salary in trade is probably one of Jerry Dipoto’s top goals either now or in the offseason anyway so if C.J. is traded to help us get the bat or bats we need the Angels will be able to replace Wilson with Heaney.

The Cubs are currently projected to claim the 2nd Wild Card spot based on end of season projections. If that holds, as they approach the trade deadline, it seems increasingly likely Chicago will try to bolster their 5-man rotation, bullpen and pitching depth and Schwarber is a prime trade chip for them to do so.

Acquiring Kyle Schwarber would increase payroll, at best, by $500K.
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