The Chicago Cubs are reportedly "actively exploring a trade" for a top closer, according to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. It just so happens the Cleveland Indians have the closer who lead all relief pitchers in fWAR in 2015, Cody Allen. Could the two teams make a swap? If the Cubs really want a top closer and the Indians feel theirs is expendable, then absolutely.
A lot has been made of the Indians potentially trading a starting pitcher this season, despite the team's reluctance to say they are willing to do so. But not a lot of talk has involved Cody Allen, who is coming off the best season of his career and whose trade value may never be this high again.
Cody Allen has been a good reliever since his debut in 2012 and he has been getting better with every season. His strikeout rate has increased every year since his rookie season in 2012, culminating in him striking out 34.6 percent of the batters he faced in a stellar 2015 campaign. Last season also featured the second-lowest walk rate of Allen’s career at 8.7 percent. Allen finished the year with a 2.99 earned run average, which does not look great on the surface, but he also had an inflated .342 BABIP and he gave up the fewest amount of home runs in his career (2).
If Allen has one weakness, it is that he does not induce many ground balls. His groundball rate hovers around the low-30 percent mark, so when he makes the trip to the mound in the ninth inning it can sometimes be harrowing as balls fly over his head when he is protecting a one-run lead. However, more often than not, he gets the job done, especially when he can keep those fly balls in the park like he did in 2015.
Should the Indians and Cubs enter trade talks, this could be an issue for Chicago. The Cubs’ home park, Wrigley Field, had one of the highest home run factors of 2015, according to ESPN. They may feel that Allen’s fly balls are too much of a risk, but if they want one of the absolute best closers in the league, they may be willing to look past that.
As for what the Indians could expect in return, something based around Javier Baez does not seem out of the question. Baez has played a mix of third base, second base, and shortstop in his short career, meaning he could essentially take the place of a Mike Aviles type in the lineup. With the added benefit of actually being able to field those positions and the amazing ability to hit a baseball.
With the amount of infield talent the Cubs have, they could also consider moving Starlin Castro. He is coming into the home stretch of the 7-year, $70 million deal he signed in 2013, but he is not owed more than $11 million until 2020 when the Indians could enact a $1 million buyout. If the Cubs could eat part of that contract the Indians could be interested.
Or perhaps, getting a little bit optimistic on the Indians sign of the trade, they could ask for outfielder Jorge Soler. He is a young, cost-controlled outfielder with exciting power potential. The big question would be whether or not Cubs would part with him for a top-tier closer.
I would say a trade between the two clubs is not that close, but it is certainly not impossible with the above starting points. The young position players on Chicago should be awfully tempting to the Indians front office, and the Cubs should consider taking a good, hard look at Cody Allen to fix their closer situation.