NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The last two world champions, the Chicago Cubs and Kansas City Royals, made an old-fashioned baseball trade -- one major league talent for another. Both Jorge Soler and Wade Davis provide some risk to their new teams, but both fill a need as well.
In the Cubs' case, they took their fourth or maybe even fifth outfielder and turned him into a closer. Meanwhile, the Royals get Soler’s upside under team control at a reasonable rate.
In the American League, Soler can be a designated hitter. His ability to stay healthy appears somewhat tied to staying off his feet. Plus, he’s a minus defender who wasn’t exactly showing many signs of improvement.
Chicago’s risk mostly comes down to trading for a closer who's entering the final year of his contract. Davis will be a free agent after the 2017 season. He spent time on the disabled list last season, but the Cubs feel he’s back to being 100 percent after a strong September.
The trade really comes down to the multiple years of control with Soler versus the one year for Davis. If you’re a Cubs fan, ask yourself this: Who’s likely to have a bigger impact on the team in 2017 -- a part-time outfielder or the closer on the reigning world champions? We know Davis is going to see a lot of action; we can’t say the same about Soler, who simply was passed up by Kyle Schwarber and Albert Almora Jr.
Yes, Soler has potential, but did the Cubs trade away a possible superstar? Highly doubtful. Soler’s game has enough warts that have prevented him from getting to the next level. He reached base nine straight times in the 2015 postseason, but how long is he going to live off of that handful of games?
Soler’s fate may have been sealed on opening night, when Schwarber started in left field against the Angels while Soler was the designated hitter. Joe Maddon chose a converted catcher to play defense over a guy who has played outfield his entire career.
So even if there are some injury concerns with Davis, the trade is still worth the risk. The Cubs can go back into the market at any time to bolster their bullpen if needed. The bottom line is, Soler won’t be missed in Chicago -- no matter what he does in Kansas City -- while Davis is likely to be a huge part of the Cubs' run to repeat as champions.