Gary Matthews Jr. Todd Hundley. Dee Strange-Gordon. With the Cubs in need of help both behind the plate and in center field, they could do worse than exploring a trade that would kill two birds with one stone while adding to the pantheon of players whose fathers are former Cubs greats.
The Diamondbacks reportedly have Daulton Varsho on the block following a season in which he hit 27 homers and posted 4.6 fWAR while playing all three outfield spots in addition to catching. His future behind the plate may be limited, but the versatility sure is a nice value-add. Varsho accumulated 19 defensive runs saved with a 23.2 UZR/150 in the outfield, most of that came over 541.2 innings in right. He logged solid numbers over 378.2 innings in center as well and can hold his own there on an everyday basis.
Varsho is a lefty batter with excellent pop and he’s an above-average baserunner with plus speed, all things the Cubs need in a bad way. He’s also expected to earn just under $3 million in his first year of arbitration and he’s got four years of club control with two minor league options remaining. Dude checks pretty much every box the Cubs have, which is also why they probably can’t get him.
The asking price is surely very high for the D-backs, who have also made outfielders Jake McCarthy and Alek Thomas available. While the Cubs have stated the desire to bring in at least one outfielder, everything points to them wanting to limit the duration of any additions in order to keep a seat warm for Pete Crow-Armstrong. With Seiya Suzuki locked in for the next four years and an extension for Ian Happ reportedly being prioritized, there’s not much room in the outfield.
The future of the overall positional group has taken a hit in recent weeks, however, with Alexander Canario requiring two surgeries to repair a broken ankle and dislocated shoulder and Brennen Davis dealing with a stress reaction in his back. Even if both are able to make full recoveries, their timelines may have been set back several months. Between that and the uncertainty of getting a deal done with Happ after failing to reach agreements with previous star position players, a little reinforcement wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Those aforementioned injuries will make it harder for the Cubs to pull off a significant trade due to both perceived leverage and actual availability, though they figure to be better situated to deal for an outfielder than, say, a pitcher. Unless Arizona is simply looking to swap players at similar positions, I have to imagine they’re looking to add pitchers or infielders. The Cubs have plenty of those, so it’s a matter of whether the juice is worth the squeeze.
Varsho is essentially a younger, better version of another potential trade target we’ve mentioned here before who also happens to be related to a former great. Mike Yastrzemski could very well be on the way out in San Francisco, especially if the Giants end up landing Aaron Judge, and he’s going to cost a lot less while still offering solid defense, good baserunning, three years of control, and three options. The biggest factor in the cost difference is that Yastrzemski is entering his age-32 season where Varsho will be 26 next year.
That could mean the difference in having to give up Adrian Sampson or needing a package that includes Keegan Thompson and [insert two prospects]. I’m really bad when it comes to trade proposals and projections, so I won’t speculate further on that for fear of getting out over my skis. Suffice to say it’s going to take a lot to pry Varsho away and I’m not sure the Cubs would be willing to place even a small lien on their future when it might create positional redundancy in an area they consider a strength already.
Then again, having a 26-year-old outfielder in the fold for a few years would provide a whole lot of insurance against future injuries and/or failing to come to terms with Happ. I don’t view this as an outcome with any significant degree of likelihood, but it was fun to think about bringing Gary Varsho‘s kid into the fold.