It’s no secret the Cubs need a more consistent and productive offense. With the slimmest of leads atop the NL Central at the break questions abound, with no clear or practical answers. The potential rise of Robel Garcia would be a tremendous boon, his call-up a bit of an audition as the Front Office assesses team needs. With a few more weeks before the trade deadline, his sustained success would fill a huge void at the Keystone — defensive miscues and all.
Certainly, Garcia will not continue to hit a video game like .364/.462/1.091, but through four games he’s been much more than what was hoped. Where his offensive production ultimately settles remains a mystery, but if he can provide consistent power numbers (three extra base hits in 11 at bats) and walk at a decent clip (15.4%), the expected high K rate (30.8%) will be more than tolerable.
The Keystone is not the only position that needs to be addressed, however. Center Field has been downright atrocious (outside of Jason Heyward slotting over from right), with the main culprit none other than Albert Almora. While he provides excellent defense and doesn’t strike out much (14%), he’s unfortunately provided precious little value otherwise. A lack of walks (4.5%), abysmal on-base percentage (.286), and horrendous wRC+ (75) could be masked by a team with a consistently potent offense; clearly, however, that’s not the case with the current iteration of this squad.
While I’d hate to trade Almora, especially with his stock not especially high, it’s also irresponsible to rely on him as the main cog in center right now. With the Cubs scouring the trade market one interesting name has been floated as a means to shake up the outfield: David Peralta of the Diamondbacks.
Thinking Outside the Box has its Limitations
Peralta is an intriguing name for a variety of reasons, and while this rumor surfacing is a bit of a surprise it shouldn’t be altogether shocking. The Front Office has been steadfast in its commitment to this core, but Theo’s infamous-and-out-of-character rant last week about this roster signifies a seismic shift in how the organization might approach this year’s trade deadline.
The Cubs aren’t suddenly going to become sellers in the midst of what should still be a championship window, and their core four of position players aren’t going anywhere. That said, major moves and significant tweaks aren’t a threat as much as they are a necessity in order to maintain playoff hopes.
While Peralta carries plenty of intrigue he also carries significant limitations and risks. The first clear risk is his injury history, as he’s now sitting on the IL for the second time this season for the same shoulder injury. Even if he proves healthy after the break, however, his presence on the roster is convoluted at best. As mlbtr astutely notes, the Cubs already have a lefty option in left in Kyle Schwarber (who once again could become a trade piece.)
Whether Schwarber is moved or Almora and Peralta serve some sort of de facto platoon — with Heyward manning center when Peralta starts — remains to be seen, but the end result is not especially appealing. Moving Heyward from right field where he’s elite to center where he’s solidly above average weakens the defense, although Peralta has proven a capable defender in the corners over his career.
While the awkward platoon could work in theory (Peralta has a robust wOBA of .383 and wRC+ of 136 against righties) it would take a different platoon partner, as Almora is actually faring worse against lefties this year than same handed pitching (.241 wOBA, 44 wRC+).
Adding Peralta, then, would require more than just shipping out one current outfielder. Creativity certainly exists here, as David Bote could become a consistent presence at the hot corner with more appearances by Kris Bryant in left field (also granting more playing time for Garcia at 2B/3B). These are dubious scenarios, however, granting too much authority in a speculative trade that may or may not be serious. And with the defensive woes so prevalent on the North Side of late, should the Cubs really attempt to bolster the offense while weakening its defense?
The Cost of Peralta
If the Cubs did make a move on Peralta one would have to wonder 1) how many other suitors he’ll have as the deadline approaches, and 2) what value would Arizona look to extract from Chicago? It’s clear the Cubs would have to finally part ways with some of their team-controlled positional talent, though it’s not clear yet who Theo and Jed are willing to give up, nor is it clear whom the D-Backs might covet.
With team control through 2020 Peralta represents more than just a mere rental, and would require a more significant return than he would next summer. There’s also the reality that Arizona sits just 1.5 games back of the second wild card slot, and their surprise run this season after signifying a rebuild during the off-season could pause any thoughts they have of trading their productive veterans.
For Arizona to part with Peralta, then, they’d need assurance that their questionable depth in the outfield is replenished (meaning Schwarber or Almora would certainly be a part of the package). They’d also likely try to pry one of the Cubs’ intriguing prospects, none of which the North Side squad can afford to give up for a year and a half of a player that won’t immediately move the needle.
The Cubs’ pursuit of Peralta appears to be more about due diligence than anything else, but the noise is certainly worth paying attention to. The Front Office has not been shy in signaling significant changes, and while it seems rather far-fetched that David Peralta ultimately represents part of the roster shakeup, the rumors are nonetheless significant.
In fact, Arizona has another outfielder that could satisfy the need in center and provide a leadoff presence while costing much less than Peralta. Jarrod Dyson is a better fit for the Cubs, his modest offensive prowess aside, as he’s getting on base at an adequate clip (.342) and provides a tool the Cubs desperately need: speed. With 20 stolen bases on the season and solid defensive skills, he seems like a much better fit if the Cubs are to pursue a trade for an Arizona outfielder. He might be 34 but is also controlled through 2020, and his price tag in both luxury hit and prospect haul would be less than that of his teammate.
This isn’t to say that Dyson should be someone the Cubs pursue. He’d be another ancillary piece, but in my opinion a much better fit than the holes Peralta would attempt to fill.
There’s but one guarantee for this Cubs team as the second half begins: changes are coming to Wrigleyville. How Theo and Jed ultimately pivot — particularly without the benefit of the August waiver wire — remains a mystery, but something’s got to give.
It’s going to be fun to unpack all of the roster action the next few weeks.
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