I had been putting off writing anything about the possibility of the Cubs trading for Rafael Devers because it still feels too far-fetched to be worthwhile at this point. However, the news cycle has stagnated to the point that it’s either this or diving into the merits of Eric Hosmer as a platoon option. Since I’ve already written about Hosmer several times, Devers gets the nod.
There’s been a lot of social media discourse on this topic lately, perhaps spurred by the prediction of Matt Snyder at CBS Sports that the Cubs would trade for Devers at the 2023 deadline. Several different factors would have to align here, like Boston being out of contention and Cubs being in it, but the real kicker for me is timing. This is a moving target under any circumstances, but it might be easier to hit if Alexander Canario can get back to the field this season.
Snyder’s thoughts are predicated largely on the report that the Red Sox and Devers are “galaxies apart” in their extension negotiations and that the third baseman intends to hit free agency following the season. That would reduce Boston’s leverage, though it would also put even more onus on the Cubs to work out their own extension with Devers in order to avoid overpaying for a rental. Given how much money is coming off the books, that shouldn’t be a problem.
Any concerns about the requisite cost should be mitigated by the idea that Devers is perhaps the most perfect fit for the Cubs outside of Shohei Ohtani. As a lefty-batting third baseman who hits for both average and power, and who will only be 27 years old in 2024, he checks several boxes. The rub, of course, is determining what it would take to land him.
That’s where I come back to Canario, whose ankle and shoulder injuries may well have altered the course of the Cubs’ offseason to an extent. Whether or not they had planned to dangle him in trade talks, and I think that was likely, having both Canario and Brennen Davis sidelined by injuries removed a big chunk of the organization’s top-end outfield talent. An optimistic timeline could see Canario resuming light baseball activity in February, so a mid-season return is entirely possible.
Even if he’s not included in a hypothetical deal, simply being healthy provides the Cubs with more options and leverage to make deals. The same goes for Davis, who was shut down in the Arizona Fall League to a stress reaction in his back that could turn out to be nothing but that is mildly worrisome nonetheless. We must also consider the possibility that Nico Hoerner will have been extended by then, thereby securing the middle infield for the next six years or so.
A trade and extension for Devers would open up Jed Hoyer’s willingness and ability to trade from an infield group that includes James Triantos, Cristian Hernandez, Kevin Made, and Ed Howard, among others. Lots of moving parts here.
Then there’s the possibility of reducing Devers’ acquisition cost by including Chris Sale, who has two years and $55 million remaining on his deal. The big caveat here is that Sale has a full no-trade clause and can veto any deal for something as simple as objecting to the Wrigleyville jerseys. But if Sale was amenable and the Cubs were willing to take on $45 million in salary — with the possibility of a $20 million vesting option in 2025 — the return would be lessened.
Greg Zumach of North Side Bound theorized that a package of Christopher Morel, Keegan Thompson, and Owen Caissie might be enough to get it done. Perhaps Miles Mastrobuoni as a sweetener to give Boston GM Chaim Bloom a taste of his days in Tampa.
I forgot including Chris Sale in this trade. My bad!
The full deal would be:
Rafael Devers and Chris Sale (Red Sox retain $7.5m in 2023 and $2.5m in 2024)
Chris Morel, Keegan Thompson, and Owen Caissie https://t.co/Qd1LPcefcw
— Greg Zumach (@IvyFutures) December 28, 2022
Now we’ve reached a confluence of thought exercises with one based on a midseason move and the other looking at something happening before the season. We can adjust everything by applying a sliding scale to either the prospect package, the Sale money, or both. Then we’ve got to factor in Sale waiving his NTC and the competitive standings or outlooks of either team at various points, so this is really just for funsies right now.
All things considered, I think a trade is very possible in theory even if it seems like quite a stretch in actuality.