The Chicago Cubs landed a dominant closer in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, as they acquired All-Star Wade Davis from the Kansas City Royals for outfielder Jorge Soler. Bob Nightengale of USA Today broke the news. The trade appears to be one-for-one, pending physicals.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) December 7, 2016
It is official. Wade Davis to Cubs for Jorge Soler. #Royals
— Jeffrey Flanagan (@FlannyMLB) December 7, 2016
Cubs Get Wade Davis from Royals
Who They Got
Davis, 31, suffered through two DL stints in 2016, but was still a fantastic reliever. He posted a 1.87 ERA with a 1.13 WHIP, both his highest marks since moving to the bullpen for good in 2014. However, from 2014-2015, Davis was arguably the best reliever in baseball, posting ERAs of 1.00 and 0.94. He also posted strikeout rates of 13.6 per nine innings and 10.5 K/9. His 1.13 ERA over the last three seasons is the best in baseball, according to ESPN.com.
Davis’ brilliance has been somewhat overshadowed by being in some historically great Royals bullpens over the last few seasons, alongside guys like Kelvin Herrera and Greg Holland, who Davis set up for until the 2015 postseason. The Cubs owe Davis $10 million in 2017, and he is a free agent after the season. He should fit in nicely as a shutdown ninth inning option behind setup men Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop.
On the other side, the Royals got a relatively cheap position player with years of club control, youth, and upside. Soler was signed out of Cuba prior to the 2012 season, and has four years and $15 million remaining on his contract. The 24-year-old corner outfielder has played only sparingly due to growing pains and residing on some loaded Cubs rosters, but he has the tools to be a well above average hitter. In 211 career games, Soler has hit .258/.328/.434 with a 107 OPS+, meaning he has been 7% above league average offensively. He projects as a power bat with average defense in right field.
Soler fits in well in the Royals lineup. He is a relatively patient right-hander who will now hit alongside left-handed bats such as Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer, and Mike Moustakas. That could give KC a formidable middle of the order if Moustakas recovers well from an ACL injury suffered last season. A bounce back campaign from Gordon is of considerable import as well, as he hit just .220/.312/.380 in 2016 after signing a long-term deal.
What It Means
KC has been trying to thread a needle this offseason, and this move seems to do just that. Based on General Manager Dayton Moore’s comments so far this fall, he wants to go for it one more time before almost all of the Royals core players become free agents after 2017. The problem is that he has clearly been forbidden from adding payroll by ownership. This move adds a cheap bat, frees up some cash, and sets up the Royals to make more moves later on.
For the Cubs, it’s pretty simple. They get a dominant, but possibly injury-prone closer. However, that risk is mitigated by the fact that they’re only on the hook for one year. This is a trade involving two clubs in win-now mode, and both clubs should be able to win more games immediately as a result of the deal. Everybody wins.