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Former Washington Nationals general manager Jim Bowden said on MLB Network Radio on Tuesday that the Chicago Cubs had called the Detroit Tigers about young starting pitchers Michael Fulmer and Daniel Norris. Bowden added that the Cubs had offered outfielder Kyle Schwarber in return.
Here's the full audio:
Juicy enough rumor for you? Let's dissect it.
Disappointing first half aside, the expectation with the Cubs has always been that eventually they'll trade a talented young position player for a similarly talented and young pitcher.
Another maintained expectation is that outfielder Kyle Schwarber will be that position player when such a deal happens. Schwarber is beloved within the Cubs clubhouse and front office, yet his positional limitations (he's a below-average defender in left) make him an awkward fit in the National League -- and especially on a team that has a long-term first baseman.
Schwarber, of course, has to hit to have value. That's never been a problem before 2017 -- not even last fall, when he returned to play in the World Series after missing most of the season with a knee injury. Schwarber's struggles this season -- he exited the first half hitting .178/.300/.394 -- haven't changed any of the above, but they might've loosened the emotional ties that kept Schwarber in Chicago over the winter when his stock might've hit peak value.
Now, Schwarber is a 24-year-old with four more years of team control and 555 big-league plate appearances suggesting he's an above-average hitter (104 OPS+), but not one who'll add value against left-handed pitchers or in any capacity outside of the batter's box. There's still value in that profile -- particularly for teams who believe his heretofore struggles are a short-term mirage -- just probably not as much value as there would've been in the past when he hadn't suffered through a prolonged slump.
The Cubs, for their part, could still use a young starting pitcher. Seven pitchers have made at least five starts for them this season, and only one (Eddie Butler) was younger than 27. Add in how Jake Arrieta is heading for free agency and how Jon Lester and John Lackey are having rough seasons, and the Cubs will have to address their rotation one way or another before long. Trading Schwarber for a young starter would be a step in that direction.
Buy. The Cubs probably still love Schwarber, and there's zero reason to believe they'll move him just to move him. But we believe the Cubs would trade Schwarber if it meant getting a quality controllable starter like Fulmer in return. It only makes sense.