Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Yu-less Blue Jays is an opportunity for the Cubs

Last night after almost a week of waiting, we found out that the Rangers won the bidding for rights to negotiate with Yu Darvish.

While the Cubs actually did bid on the Japanese pitcher, most people believe they never made a significant stab at getting him. He obviously was not very high up in the plans of Theo and Jed.

The fact that the Rangers did win out does have an effect on the Cubs, though.

Shortly after the trade of Mat Latos to the Reds, rumors began swirling that the Blue Jays, knowing they didn’t have the high bid for Darvish, had made a significant attempt to get Latos from the Padres.

With both Latos and now Darvish off the table, the Blue Jays may now turn their attention to Matt Garza, a pitcher who has had much success in their division.

Rumors swirled around during the weekend about the Padres and Cubs discussing a swap involving the Cubs ace, but those rumors have quieted down quite a bit now. It is generally believed that the Padres are trying to load up on prospects, not give them away. Giving up Anthony Rizzo, their top prospect, for Matt Garza would be inconsistent with how they’ve operated so far this year.

The Blue Jays, on the other hand, appear to be serious about trying to compete next season. Garza would give their rotation a very large boost.

But do the Jays have anyone of interest to give in exchange for Garza?

Well, the Cubs currently need pitching and a 1st baseman. The Blue Jays have a number of prospects at both of those positions.

At first base they have two players that are near major league ready in David Cooper and Mike McDade. Cooper is the player the Cubs would probably want to get. He had a very good year in AAA last year, almost as good as Anthony Rizzo’s (the Padres’ top prospect) season in the PCL. He might not show as much power as some would like for a first baseman (he’s hit 10-20-9 homers over the last 3 years in the minor leagues), but he gets on base. He spent some time this year up on the big league club in May when Adam Lind was hurt and again at the end of season. He struggled initially in May, but during his September call up, he had an OPS of .851. He bats and throws from the left side (and I am very high and left handed fielding first basemen). He’s 24 years old (25 in November) and looks ready to play now, but is probably blocked with the Blue Jays with Adam Lind playing first base. (But who knows…Lind was not very good last season.) I haven’t seen many scouting reports, but I think Cooper’s defensive skills are a bit lacking which may make some shy away from him and he could end up being a DH someday.

In my research, the Blue Jays have a ton of highly regarded pitchers in their system. Most of them have been drafted over the last couple years and are probably a few years off from being a ready at the major league level including Justin Nicolino, Nestor Molina, Drew Hutchison, Aaron Sanchez, Noah Syndergaard, Daniel Norris, Deck McGuire, and Asher Wojciechowski. Nestor Molina and Drew Hutchison are closest to the Major Leagues right now.

If the Cubs could snap up Cooper and a couple of these pitching prospects for Matt Garza, it would about equal what they gave up for Garza last year (or possibly be a little less). Since Garza is a year closer to free agency now, that’s a good deal. At this point, I’m not sure the Blue Jays would be willing to give up Cooper, but I don’t think the Cubs would execute the trade without him involved.

I have no concrete evidence that the Cubs and Blue Jays have any plans to talk, but we do know that Garza is on the trading block. The Blue Jays seem to be as good of a fit as anyone to trade for him.