Coming off their first World Series title in several generations, the Cubs had few glaring needs heading into the offseason. Much of their young core is still intact, but they did need some bullpen depth. It appears they're going to bolster it by adding an elite arm to the back end.
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports that the Cubs are "close" to completing a trade for Royals closer Wade Davis that would send Cubs outfielder Jorge Soler to Kansas City. There's also this from Jeff Passan of Yahoo, though:
Source: While the Cubs/Royals' Wade Davis-for-Jorge Soler trade is "seriously down the road," it is not expected to be completed tonight.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 7, 2016
Davis, 31, saved 27 games in 30 chances with a 1.87 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 47 strikeouts in 43 1/3 innings. He was bothered by forearm soreness during the season, limiting him to a much smaller workload than normal. There were two DL stints and slightly diminished velocity late in the season.
That said, Davis was arguably the best reliever in baseball in 2014-15, posting a combined 0.97 ERA, 0.82 WHIP and 187 strikeouts in 139 1/3 innings.
Obviously Davis would take over as the Cubs' closer. If they acquired him, they could use some more depth, sure, but they would have an impressive stash of power arms in Davis, Hector Rondon, Carl Edwards Jr., Pedro Strop and Justin Grimm, among others, as setup types. So it would be the makings of a good bullpen.
It's not just the Cubs here. Jayson Stark of ESPN.com reported a few hours earlier that the Nationals were making a late push for Davis. Other reports indicated the Dodgers were involved here as well.
So while the Cubs are the clear favorite, we need to keep in mind how the Chris Sale trade unfolded. Everyone had him going to the Nationals and the Red Sox swooped in.
Davis is set to make $10 million this season before hitting free agency. If they decide to deal him, it would appear the Royals believe those resources are better served elsewhere as they face a remarkable number of free agents after 2017. They could then slide Kelvin Herrera into the closer role. As things stand, Joakim Soria and Brian Flynn would look like the top setup options.
The Royals are trying to stay competitive in 2017 without having the entire team fall apart afterward, as the following remaining players hit free agency after next season: Eric Hosmer, Alcides Escobar, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, Jarrod Dyson, Danny Duffy, Jason Vargas and Davis.
Soler fits the profile on what the Royals would be looking for in return for Davis.
In parts of three seasons, the 24 year old has hit .258/.328/.436 (107 OPS+) with 35 doubles, 27 homers and 98 RBI in 765 plate appearances. There have been spurts that illustrate his massive upside, such as his performance in the 2015 playoffs, but he's also had lots of injury woes, namely on his hamstrings.
Again, Soler has huge upside and is signed on a nine-year, $30 million deal that runs through 2020. Given his upside, that's pretty cheap, though it should be noted he has a clause that says he can opt into arbitration once eligible. Given the structure of the Royals' roster with all that free agency coming after next year, his fit here is very evident. He could easily slot as a middle-of-the-order DH in order to protect his hammies or grab the right field job once Jarrod Dyson is traded, as has been rumored.
Consider the situation relatively fluid, even if it looks like the Cubs are in the driver's seat here for Davis' services.