Cubs take chance on Rondon in Rule 5 draft

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Cubs take chance on Rondon in Rule 5 draft

NASHVILLE, Tenn. The Cubs continued to collect pitchers and take chances on guys with health issues by taking Hector Rondon with the second pick in Thursdays Rule 5 draft.

The Cleveland Indians named Rondon their minor league pitcher of the year in 2009, but elbow problems wiped out most of his past three seasons. He underwent right elbow UCL reconstruction surgery in August 2010 and had a second procedure in December 2011 to repair an elbow fracture.

Rondon, 24, has been used almost exclusively as a starter in the minors. Hes 36-36 with a 3.88 ERA in 120 games, with 526 strikeouts against 121 walks.

Weve been watching him a lot in Venezuela this winter, general manager Jed Hoyer said. Hes got a great arm and we feel like we can capitalize on the fact that hes healthy now and throwing the ball really, really well. Hopefully, he can recapture what made him the Indians top pitching prospect at one point.

As the winter meetings ended at the Opryland Hotel, the Cubs lost right-hander Starling Peralta to the Arizona Diamondbacks. They also lost outfielder Michael Burgess (Houston Astros), infielder Matt Cerda (St. Louis Cardinals) and right-hander Alvido Jimenez (Toronto Blue Jays) in the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 draft.

Cubs reportedly set to trade Jorge Soler to Royals for Wade Davis

Cubs reportedly set to trade Jorge Soler to Royals for Wade Davis

It appears as if the Cubs have answered two big questions surrounding Joe Maddon's team this winter.

With so many solid options in the fold to play everyday in the lineup, the Cubs now reportedly have one less guy to worry about in the outfield and one more pitcher to add into the late-inning mix.

USAToday's Bob Nightengale reported late Tuesday night the Cubs and Kansas City Royals had a deal in place with pitcher Wade Davis coming to Chicago and Jorge Soler acting as the return piece, though the deal was not official yet as of Wednesday morning.

[RELATED - Wade Davis trade would give Cubs a proven October closer]

As Nightengale also said, the Cubs gave up a lot for Davis, who will become a free agent after the 2017 season and was limited to only 43.1 innings in 2016 due to forearm issues:

Soler has struggled to stay healthy and cash in on his enormous potential during his two-plus years in the big leagues with the Cubs, but he is still young (he'll turn 25 in February) and won't become a free agent until after the 2020 season.

The main question with Soler entering 2017 was going to be where he would play — and how often — given Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward, Jon Jay and Albert Almora were already in the outfield mix and the anticipation Ben Zobrist would also see some time in the outfield with Javy Baez locking down second base.

It's no surprise to see Soler dealt this winter, but as David Kaplan said on Tuesday's CubsTalk podcast, Theo Epstein's front office is all about years of control, but if the deal goes through, they will have traded four years of control of a guy who was their top trade chip for only a year of control on a relief pitcher who has averaged only 61 innings per season the last three years.

However, if the 31-year-old Davis is truly the only return, he helps give the Cubs a boost in 2017.

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Davis — who spent the first four years of his big-league career pitching for Maddon in Tampa Bay — has emerged as one of the premier relief pitchers in baseball over the last three years.

In that span, Davis tallied a 19-4 record with 47 saves in 54 chances, a 1.18 ERA and sparkling 0.892 WHIP. He also struck out 234 batters in 182.2 innings while giving up just three homers. 

As the Cubs look to defend their first World Series title in more than a century, Davis would help shore up the bullpen and given his past experience, would figure to be able to pitch more than just the ninth inning come playoff time (if healthy). Davis would add another elite option alongside Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr. in Maddon's remodeled bullpen.

Soler should benefit from a clear path to consistent playing time with the Royals, especially moving to the American League where he can slot in at designated hitter which may ultimately be his best position.
 

Wade Davis trade would give Cubs a proven October closer

Wade Davis trade would give Cubs a proven October closer

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Cubs are reportedly moving closer toward acquiring Wade Davis — an All-Star closer who’s already notched the final out of the World Series — in a deal with the Kansas City Royals that would involve outfielder Jorge Soler.

The Cubs are making pitching their top priority this week at the winter meetings as they build out the team that will defend the franchise’s first World Series title in 108 years. If healthy, Davis would provide exactly the kind of late-game force the Cubs were looking for when they checked into the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center outside Washington, D.C.

At a time when Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen are looking to smash the record contract the San Francisco Giants just gave Mark Melancon (four years, $62 million), the Cubs could stay flexible for the future and mitigate risk with Davis, who will make $10 million in 2017 and can become a free agent after that season.

“We’re still talking about a lot of things,” manager Joe Maddon said before the Davis reports surfaced late Tuesday night. “We’re always looking to augment bullpens. Bullpens are so different on an annual basis. And I think every organization — especially after this (postseason) — is looking to reinvent their bullpens in different ways.”

The Royals had been at the forefront of that movement, using Davis as part of a deep, powerful bullpen that helped them shorten games and win back-to-back American League pennants and the 2015 World Series.

Maddon’s Tampa Bay Rays teams originally groomed Davis as a starter before flipping him to the Royals as part of the blockbuster James Shields/Wil Myers deal in December 2012.

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Davis blossomed in Kansas City, putting up ridiculous numbers as a setup guy/closer. He allowed zero homers in 2014 (1.00 ERA) and 2016 (1.87 ERA) and gave up only three in 2015 (0.94 ERA). During that time, he piled up 234 strikeouts against 59 walks in 182 2/3 innings. He has a 0.84 ERA in 32 1/3 career postseason innings.

Davis, 31, dealt with a strained right forearm this year, but injuries have been a recurring issue for Soler, who would be getting squeezed for playing time even when healthy at Wrigley Field.

The Cuban outfielder has shown flashes of his enormous potential since signing a $30 million contract in the summer of 2012. But Soler (.762 career OPS) looks more like a designated hitter who might benefit from a change of scenery to help unlock some of those physical gifts.

Soler still hasn’t turned 25 yet — or come close to playing a full season in the big leagues — but this is why the Cubs stockpiled so many hitters and prepared to make trades for pitching.

Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop almost disappeared during the playoffs, though the Cubs think that can be largely written off as late-season injuries and issues of timing and sharpness. The Cubs believe in Carl Edwards Jr. but still had to carefully manage his innings and appearances during his rookie season.

This wouldn’t necessarily stop with Davis, either. The Cubs plan to give Maddon some shiny new toys in the bullpen.