Cubs New Ideas Might Mesh With Atlanta Braves’ Needs


October 20, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy (28) scores a run in the seventh inning against Chicago Cubs catcher Miguel Montero (47) in game three of the NLCS at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Speculation That Chicago Cubs Want to Free Payroll to Pursue Jason Heyward – Could Work With Atlanta Braves to Do It

Last night, Chicago Sun-Times writer Gordon Wittenmyer was making his own attempt to interpret GM-speak in advance of baseball’s Winter Meetings, which get under way this morning in Nashville.  In this case, it was team President Theo Epstein, who told him that the Cubs are looking “equally through trade and free agent avenues” to finish building themselves a playoff contending team in 2016.

Wittenmyer’s first angle:  so who gets traded?

Possibility #1 was Starlin Castro, but he has recently been told that he won’t be traded.  Possibility “1A” is Jorge Soler.

It was the next ‘possibility’ that piqued my interest:

"Another possibility is catcher Miguel Montero ($14 million each of the next two years) as a means to free up payroll if the Cubs venture into the deep end of the pool in talks for big-ticket outfielder Jason Heyward. Epstein said last month that hadn’t been discussed, but a source in recent days said it’s now considered a possibility."

All Right, Follow the Money With Me

  • The Cubs just added $16 million in payroll for each of the next 2 years (John Lackey)
  • Miguel Montero is due $14 million for each of the next 2 years
  • Starlin Castro is is the midst of a 7 year deal that runs through 2020 with a club option that year.  In 2016, he’ll get $7,857,143.
  • Jorge Soler is scheduled to receive $3.66 million – his contract runs through 2020.
  • Jayson Heyward?  Maybe 10 years at $20million each.

Wittenmyer still mentions that the “likeliest” to be traded is Jorge Soler – and he then mentioned the Braves specifically in that context.

It is known that Atlanta would like to get another Catcher.  Over the weekend, we heard news that they were showing some interest in Tyler Flowers.  Despite reports to the contrary, the Braves are in a position to talk on some salary if it helps to meet their goals.  Right now I have a projected Opening Day payroll at $83.275 million.

Montero is actually not an ideal fit for Atlanta; at 31½ years old, his best days seem to have passed.  However, he could be a means to an end:  that being to get the player they actually want (Soler).  If nothing else, Montero’s contract has limited scope – 2016 and 2017… plus he’s still an above-average defender.

So if the Cubs truly want Heyward, then – once again – having a ready-to-go deal in place with the Braves makes sense for all considered.  In this case, the notion that Montero could be included represents a bit of a surprise.  But between Soler, Castro, and Montero, that’s $25.5 million that could be freed up.

There’s More Going On Than Just This

The Cubs are getting very busy, it seems:

  • Marc Topkin, the Rays and Cubs are talking about Javier Baez in a trade for “pitching”… probably one of their starters, but Topkin wasn’t sure.
  • Tommy Stokke reports that the Cubs are also “in” on Ben Zobrist… if they ignore what Wittenmyer reminded them of above and trade Starlin Castro someplace.  “Zobrist decision could come Wednesday”.

The scenarios are getting a bit to odd to even try to put together a plausible trade scenario, but if the Braves want Jorge Soler, it might come at the cost of taking Miguel Montero.

Atlanta would likely have to send Christian Bethancourt back in any such deal, which would certainly help the Cubs financially, but then the Braves would have to decide how to handle Nick Markakis.  The Cubs would like him, but probably not his contract.  They would like Teheran’s deal – $3.3million in 2016, and under control through 2019, whereas Shelby Miller‘s arbitration numbers may ratchet up a lot more quickly (~$5 million this next season for arbitration year #1).

Meanwhile, if the Cubs/Rays are discussing Baez and pitching, then the Braves could help out there as well… especially if there is interest from their side in trying to sign both Heyward and Zobrist – which would require a major salary dump on their part (that would be a shock).  But I expect that seeing the Cubs go after just one or the other is still more likely.

Regardless, it seems that every other rumor coming from the Chicago Cubs involves something that the Braves could help them with.  The variations seem endless.  I would almost be surprised if they didn’t get together for some kind of deal this week.

Next: ...Or Maybe Arizona for Shelby Miller

And all of this before the Opryland Hotel finishes serving breakfast on this – the first day of Winter Meetings.