The Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs have been rivals for a long time. Because of that, they make very few trades with each other over the years. But there could be an opportunity this winter for the division rivals to get together on a deal.
The Brewers gave the Cubs a run for their money in the division race in 2017 and forced the Cubs hand in acquiring Jose Quintana and Justin Wilson. With the Crew being so close to the Cubs this year, why would they want to make a deal to help the Brewers get better? I don’t know the exact answer to that. The only logical explanation is if it was beneficial to both sides and Cubs GM Theo Epstein believes it would improve his team.
Who would the Cubs look to deal?
The Cubs have a logjam of talented position players. There’s almost no fair way to give all of them playing time. One of them will need to be moved in order to solve this issue. Chicago has three players that can play second base: Javier Baez, Ian Happ, and Ben Zobrist. Baez and Happ would garner a large return, something Milwaukee Brewers GM David Stearns would balk at giving his rivals. So that leaves Zobrist.
The 36-year old Zobrist has two years remaining on his contract. He’s due $16.5 million in 2018 and $12.5 million the year after. Zobrist has been a quality bat that can play all over the field throughout his entire career. He’s baseball’s Swiss Army knife and could easily lock down second base for Milwaukee.
Let’s speculate as to what a deal might look like.
Zobrist is coming off his worst year at the plate since 2007. He posted a .232/.318/.375 line with 12 homers and 50 RBIs. Some could argue that his decline in performance could be attributed to his age, but there were other factors in his performance. He was extremely unlucky, as shown by his .251 BABIP. He also lacked of a consistent spot in the lineup. Without Dexter Fowler, the Cubs lacked a lead off hitter and Joe Maddon was forced to alter the lineup regularly.
What do the Brewers give up?
The Milwaukee Brewers give up Trey Supak, their 16th rated prospect, and Wuilder Rodriguez, who can be a bullpen depth piece. Supak came to Milwaukee in the Jason Rogers deal with Pittsburgh that also netted Keon Broxton. He’s turned into a solid starter in the Minor Leagues and has the potential to fit into the middle of a rotation in the future. The 6’5″ righty posted a 3.57 ERA in A-ball this season and opposing batters hit only .212 against him.
The 24-year old Wuilder Rodriguez dominated High-A this year, putting up a 1.63 ERA in 27 games out of the bullpen. He’s not a highly touted prospect but putting up a sub-2.00 ERA at any level is incredible. He has a lot of development ahead of him but is still an intriguing farmhand.
What are the chances this trade happens?
The Cubs trading Zobrist to the Milwaukee Brewers would be extremely unlikely. The cost to acquire him isn’t that much, especially compared to Happ or Baez, but it’s still difficult to see either side pulling the trigger on this deal. The Cubs know how good of a player Zobrist is and what he can do for a team. They wouldn’t hand him over to the one team that can derail their hopes for a division title.
There are multiple other second base options that the Brewers could look at prior to calling the Cubs about Zobrist. Also, the Cubs don’t really have to move Zobrist. It’s true that he’s their only position player above age 28, but he’s still capable of putting together a good season.
Overall, the odds of the Brewers and the Cubs linking up for a trade are low, but if they did decide to make a deal, Zobrist is probably the likeliest option for the Milwaukee Brewers to target.
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With both teams battling for this division, they make little sense as trade partners. The Cubs are primarily searching for starting pitching and so are the Brewers. Even with the logjam of position players the Cubs have, the Milwaukee Brewers are pretty well set at most spots as well, except for second base.