Was Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber Being Showcased?

Theo Epstein called Kyle Schwarber’s appearance in the majors, “the perfect pit stop for him on the way to Triple-A.” While he’s right in the sense that Schwarber fit perfectly as the team’s DH during those games, it was also the perfect time to showcase the catcher as the trade deadline approaches.

As much as the Cubs wanted their own first-hand look of what they have in last year’s first round pick, the motive could be more about showcasing him to other teams instead, according to a Cubs official.

The knee-jerk reaction is to make a bitter-beer face at the thought of moving Schwarber, who hit .364 with a home run in his six games with the big league club to go along with a .320/.438/.579 triple-slash and 13 home runs in 58 Double-A games this season. In 130 minor league games, Schwarber has 31 home runs while hitting .333 and getting on-base at a .432 clip.

He’s really good.

But the Cubs have the third best record in the National League and have set themselves up for a run at the playoffs–at least a run at the Wild Card game if the Cardinals keep running away with the NL Central. With that being the case, the Cubs will be buyers at the trade deadline.

18 June 2015:  Chicago Cubs Catcher Kyle Schwarber (12) [11203] rounds the bases after hitting a 2-run home run during the fifth inning of the game between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field in Cleveland, OH.

If the Cubs are going to buy, they need something to giveaway.

Starlin Castro’s trade value is plummeting with his game not worth as much as his name. Offensively, he’s worth less in terms of WAR than Chris Coghlan. On defense, he has 14 errors, a number that doesn’t count for the surmounting mental ones.

Javier Baez is an option, but he broke a finger on June 7th and is looking at a 4-8 week recovery time.

If the Cubs want to acquire a difference-maker at the deadline, it’s Schwarber that offers the most value. That value isn’t only for the other team, but you have to look at the value he offers the Cubs.

With Schwarber, Baez is the odd man out. Kris Bryant stays at third, and Castro and Addison Russell form the middle infield. Defensively, Schwarber might not be the adventure that Alfonso Soriano was in left field, but he might not be average either. If he hits, who cares, right?

The Cubs insist that Schwarber will be a catcher long term, but they traded for Miguel Montero and his 3-years and $40 million remaining on his deal. Part of the reason the Cubs were enticed by Montero was his catching ability. Are they going to give that up for Schwarber, a project at catcher, sometime in the next two and a half years? Unlikely. Is Schwarber going to keep working on his catching ability in Triple-A for the next two and a half years? Unlikely.

If Schwarber can catch or not, why is the Cubs front office so vocal about how sure they are of him behind the plate? Is it to hear themselves talk and reinforce their own thought to themselves? Doubtful.

In a Chicago Tribune story this week, Epstein says starting pitching depth is the focus for the team right now. In the same conversation he says, “We’re more convinced now more than ever that (Schwarber’s) going to catch and catch a long time in the big leagues.”

But no one else believes it.

But Epstein is a salesman, and it’s very possible the public comments are posturing for future trade talks.

Maybe the Cubs make more of a minor move, like trading for utility man Ben Zobrist or a mid-level starter. But the Cubs need pitching, and plenty of difference-making pitchers could be available.

Would the Phillies take a package headlined by Schwarber with a couple of lesser prospects for Cole Hamels? Where can they find a better offer?

If the Tigers are still caught in the middle of the AL Central, and possibly fall further behind the Royals, could they sell free-agent-to-be David Price? They’ll gladly take Schwarber to serve as insurance to Victor Martinez at designated hitter or possibly catch.

12 September 2014: Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cole Hamels (35) throws during the first inning against the Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park.

Could the Cubs use Schwarber as trade bait for Cole Hamels?

Do the Athletics sell-high on Sonny Gray? Is the price for Scott Kazmir as high as Schwarber? What about the White Sox and Jeff Samardzija?

I’m not saying those deals are fair or unfair with Schwarber involved, but the Cubs won’t sit back and watch a playoff opportunity pass. They also won’t mortgage their future in the same way the A’s did by trading Addison Russell last year for Samardizja.

But the Cubs are more than Schwarber–clearly. They may be better this year with Baez at third base and Bryant in the outfield. By the time Montero’s contract is up, maybe prospect Victor Caratini is ready to be their next major-league catcher. Maybe another trade for a Miguel Montero-type player presents itself.

If Schwarber can fetch Hamels or Price in return, do the Cubs pull the trigger? I say yes.

One thing we know from Schwarber’s first trip to the big leagues is that he’ll be helping the Cubs come September. Even if that means he’s playing for another team.

Editor’s note: ‘White Sox’ was added before Jeff Samardzija to clarify that he’s no longer on the A’s.

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