Chicago Cubs get reliever Davis for Soler
Bullpens are always the most high-maintenance working part of any baseball team, even World Series champions. The Chicago Cubs took a major step Wednesday toward making their bullpen work well again 2017.
Completing a deal that had been percolating at the winter meetings, the Cubs obtained right-handed closer Wade Davis from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for outfielder Jorge Soler, once a key member of the Cubs' "core" of young players.
In the 31-year-old Davis, the Cubs are getting a two-time all-star but one who battled forearm issues this past season, putting him on the disabled list twice.
The injury, termed a strained flexor muscle in his right forearm, limited Davis to 45 games, when he went 2-1 with a 1.87 ERA, 27 saves and a 1.13 WHIP. Davis pitched in 69 games in 2015, when the Royals won the World Series, and in 71 games in 2014, when they went to the Series.
"We felt really good about it," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer told reporters Wednesday at the winter meetings, outside of Washington. "We looked at the file and the MRIs he took in July, and they looked really good. Dayton (Royals GM Moore) actually offered those, and Dayton's a dream to work with. We had our trainer put his hands on him today for a physical, and he looks fantastic, ready to go. Any time you trade a guy like Soler, you want to feel terrific about what you're getting in return. We felt really good about it."
Hoyer made it clear Davis is with the Cubs to close. This past season, Hector Rondon opened as the closer, but he gave way in late July, when the Cubs obtained hard-throwing left-hander Aroldis Chapman in a trade with the New York Yankees. Chapman is a free agent, and the Cubs weren't expected to bring him back.
Davis may be a rental for 2017. He will make $10 million next season, and he can become a free agent in the fall.
"We did this deal with the idea of putting Wade in the ninth inning," Hoyer said. "That doesn't say we don't have confidence in the others, but one thing we learned this year is that when you play that extra month, it's hard on your bullpen. The more good relievers we can have and add multiple weapons, the better. We like all the guys we have, and hopefully that can take the burden off the seventh month."
Soler leaves the Cubs with a legacy of having great potential but never fully able to shake nagging injuries. The Cubs signed him to a nine-year major-league contract on June 30, 2012.
This year, he played in 86 games, putting up a batting line of .238/.333/.43 with 12 home runs and 31 RBI. For his big-league career, which began in 2014, Soler has a line of 258/.328/.434 with 27 homers and 98 RBI.
He hit 2 home runs in the 2015 division series against the Cardinals and 1 against the Mets in the 2015 championship series. He spent two months on the DL this past season with a hamstring injury.
"We like that we have some control with Soler over the next four years," Moore said in the same news conference as Hoyer. "Right field has several players that are perhaps hitting free agency after the 2017 season, so this was an important deal for us. We see (Soler) as an average right fielder with a chance to get better. We put great faith in (coach) Rusty Kuntz, who works with our outfielders and baserunners, and we feel there's upside there as well."
Soler took to Twitter to express his feelings.
"Kansas City ... are you ready? I am!" he tweeted. "Can't wait for Spring Training. Let's do this Royals fans! #SolerPower"