With the impending trade deadline comes inevitable reckless speculation on the part of irresponsible bloggers and even respected journalists. Yahoo’s Jeff Passan joined the Kyle Schwarber for Yankees setup man Andrew Miller farce that has become popular talk radio fodder with his Case for Kyle Schwarber to the Yankees piece where he admits “even addressing it is probably a time-waster.”
In every example, the flawed argument starts out by referencing the Cubs 108-year drought as the reason they must “go for it” now since there are “no guarantees” that this young team will be there in the future despite being built to compete for years to come. Therefore, the Cubs should give up “whatever it takes” to acquire Miller. The problem with that rationalization is that it erroneously assumes making an outrageously lopsided deal for a middle reliever automatically “guarantees” a World Series title which, of course, is not true. That fallacy exemplifies the same type of myopic thinking that doomed the Jim Hendry regime, who just happens to be the special assistant for Yankees GM Brian Cashman.
Theo Epstein & Co. have resurrected the Cubs to their current enviable position by taking the long view, shrewdly selling high on tradable assets like dealing Scott Feldman for Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop while avoiding the foolish pitfalls his predecessor fell prey to repeatedly. Trading Schwarber now — while still rehabbing from his severe knee injury — would be selling while his stock at it’s lowest point. Meanwhile, Miller’s value has never been higher with multiple suitors banging down the Yankees’ door to get him. I’m no economist, but selling low and buying high doesn’t usually yield the best returns (just ask Rick Hahn).
Beyond their current discrepancy in valuations, you simply don’t trade an every-day player for a middle reliever, let alone a potential perennial All-Star. His 150+ innings per year will always mean more that the 60 or so you’d get from any reliever. Passan points out that Miller’s WAR projections add up to 2 over the remaining 2 years on his contract in the best-case scenario. Meanwhile, Schwarber projects to contribute 21.3 Wins Above Replacement of the next 5 years he’s under Cubs contract control. I’m no mathematician, but 21.3 seems like more than 2.
The flawed argument also presupposes the Schwarber is the only piece that could possibly nab Miller and that Miller is the only possible option out there. Of course, neither is true. The Cubs have a farm system overflowing with desirable talent that can match any other franchise out there. While not as sexy a name, 23-year old Dan Vogelbach has been mentioned recently by reputable writers in the know like MLB’s Jon Paul Morosi as a perfect fit for the Yankees 1B/DH needs. Include him in a package with a couple 2nd and 3rd tier prospects and it probably beats any package other clubs are willing to part with. If that doesn’t work, there are other lefty reliever options that suit the Cubs’ needs like say, oh I don’t know, Miller’s 105mph-throwing teammate Aroldis Chapman whose price tag will be significantly lower as a 2-month rental heading into free agency next year.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Schwarber is untouchable, but it would have to be for someone of far more significance than any relief pitcher. A starter the caliber of say, Chris Sale would be closer to a match if you packaged Schwarber with center fielder Albert Almora Jr. to fill some of the myriad White Sox needs. Not likely to happen given the bitter crosstown rivalry, but that’s the only type of deal that could pry Schwarber from Epstein’s clutches.
Bottom line: you can “go for it” without being fucking stupid. Andrew Miller’s left arm would be an incredible asset to add to the arsenal, but only at the right price.