It’s been nearly a month since the Cubs ended their 108-year World Series drought, but the images are still fresh in baseball fans’ minds. Among the most vivid: Kyle Schwarber returning from a six-month layoff because of knee surgery, doubling in his second at-bat and reaching base 10 times in 20 plate appearances against the Indians.
But then came a realization: Schwarber’s value is sky-high and he could fetch a serious haul in a trade. Of course, that sentiment hasn’t been one that Theo Epstein and Co. are professing publicly, but they’ll at least have to listen to offers for the slugger.
But Chicago would be insane to trade Schwarber now. Here’s why:
Schwarber has an unknown ceiling
The kid will turn 24 in March and hasn’t even tapped into his full potential. The fact that he is light years ahead of most young hitters – Schwarber hit 16 homers with an .842 OPS in 273 plate appearances as a rookie in 2015 – makes it easy to overlook the fact that he still has room for improvement.
And that’s saying a lot considering Schwarber was able to pick up a bat after missing six months and solve the likes of Corey Kluber and Andrew Miller on the sport’s biggest stage.
He’s already a proven postseason performer
Schwarber’s World Series heroics this past season were eye-opening, but so was his 2015 playoff performance. Remember the ball he planted atop the Wrigley Field video board during the 2015 NLDS? That was one of five homers that postseason, which featured an .889 slugging percentage.
Chicago is going to be an October fixture for the foreseeable future, so why part ways with a guy who is built for the playoffs?
The Cubs can find a spot for him defensively
Schwarber never will be a Gold Glove defender, but the Cubs already have plenty of those. He was primarily a catcher in the minors, but his future is in left field. Obviously, that’s where Ben Zobrist spent his time after Javier Baez took over at second base. And the center-field void created by the expected free-agent departure of center fielder Dexter Fowler should be filled by Albert Almora.
Having the luxury of the DH spot would be ideal, but if there’s one thing Joe Maddon values, it’s versatility – NL MVP Kris Bryant played six positions (plus DH) this past season. Maddon can make all the pieces fit, including Schwarber. Plus, someone could get hurt (as Schwarber did in 2016), so depth is never a bad thing.
There isn't a glaring need
Many are pointing to the fact that Jake Arrieta and John Lackey will be free agents after the 2017 season. True, but why does that mean the Cubs should trade Schwarber now? If a rotation need exists after next season, address it then – and, sure, that could include a Schwarber deal.
For now, Chicago’s rotation – which led the majors with a 2.96 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP in 2016 – features the second- and third-place finishers (Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks) in the 2016 NL Cy Young Award voting, as well as the 2015 winner (Arrieta). Sure, Jason Hammel is gone, but he never threw a pitch in the 2016 postseason.
This is a potential dynasty
After enduring a painful rebuild – not to mention that 108-year title drought – why not enjoy it? Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod worked tirelessly to assemble this group, which features countless young superstar position players, so why start subtracting key pieces so quickly?
Repeating is tough, but this core has a chance to contend for a championship for at least another five years. And Schwarber is a big part of that.