The Cubs, who began 2016 with Hector Rondon as their closer only to supplant him with Aroldis Chapman after a July trade, on Wednesday announced the acquisition of Royals righthander Wade Davis, who effectively becomes their third closer in the past six months.
Davis, 31, pitched for Cubs manager Joe Maddon in Tampa Bay from 2009-12, although he was a far-less effective starter at that point.
The Royals get outfielder Jorge Soler in return. Soler ranked as one of the Cubs’ top prospects from 2012-14 and is still just 24, but Chicago’s depth in the corner outfield made it difficult for him to find regular playing time.
Jorge Soler, rf
Soler defected from Cuba in 2011, officially signing for a $6 million bonus as part of a nine-year, $30 million contract. Soler has tantalizing raw power and a prototypical right fielder’s arm, but lack of focus and low motor are some of criticisms of his game. He was a key part of the Cubs’ 2015 postseason run, hitting .474 with three homers as they reached the NL Championship Series.
There were some promising indicators to Soler’s 2016 season, despite the on-surface results. His walk rate rose to 11.7 percent from 7.6 percent in 2015, his strikeout percentage dropped to 25 percent from 30 percent and his average on balls in play dropped to .276 from .361, meaning a move back to his career .330 is possible.
However, the Cubs already had Jason Heyward, Kyle Schwarber and Albert Almora and signed Jon Jay earlier this offseason, so Soler seemed no longer a fit in Wrigley Field. But the Royals should have vacancies with the rumored departures of Lorenzo Cain and Jarrod Dyson, with Soler expected to slide into right field at Kauffman Stadium.
Wade Davis, rhp
Davis is a cost-effective and short-term solution for the Cubs at closer. The team is reluctant to spend the money necessary to re-sign Chapman, or the money and first-round draft pick necessary to secure the Dodgers’ Kenley Jansen. Davis is signed for 2017 at $10 million, and his presence will help the Cubs groom Carl Edwards Jr. for the closer’s role as soon as 2018.
Davis was again one of baseball’s most dominant closers in 2016, striking out more than a batter per inning and not allowing a home run. Overall he has allowed just three long balls in 182.2 innings over the past three years.
Davis did miss time in 2016 with a forearm strain, and his command was off from 2015. His fastball velocity dropped a tick, but Davis still remains difficult to hit and square up, suppressing exit velocity and hard-hit balls.
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