Cubs make splash with deal for Candelario, acquire Cuas from KC

August 1st, 2023

CHICAGO -- The Cubs’ players did their part in ending the idea of a Trade Deadline selloff, piling up wins over the past three weeks to pull back into the postseason discussion. The front office has rewarded their efforts by reeling in switch-hitting .

Prior to Monday’s 6-5 loss to the Reds, the Cubs announced that they acquired Candelario and a cash consideration from the Nationals in exchange for shortstop prospect Kevin Made (No. 14 on Pipeline’s Top 30 list for Chicago) and pitching prospect DJ Herz (No. 16). The move adds a defensively-sound player with pop in his bat to a Cubs lineup that has been rolling of late.

Cubs receive: 3B Jeimer Candelario, cash
Nationals receive: SS Kevin Made (CHC No. 14 prospect), LHP DJ Herz (CHC No. 16 prospect)

“To be able to put up the numbers he’s been putting up this year,” Cubs manager David Ross said, “and be able to come over here and help us out, that’s huge. I know him just as a person -- great human being.”

Addressing their need for bullpen depth, the Cubs also landed righty  from the Royals for Minor League outfielder . Those deals come after the Cubs headed into Monday having won 15 of their last 22 games, giving president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer plenty of reason to buy at the Deadline.

Cubs receive: RHP Jose Cuas
Royals receive: OF Nelson Velázquez

The clearest avenue for lengthening out the Cubs’ lineup for the stretch run was via the corner infield spots or designated hitter role. In Candelario, the North Siders have a more than capable third baseman (six outs above average and two defensive runs saved) who can also offer depth at first and DH.

This season, the 29-year-old Candelario has hit .258 with 16 homers, 30 doubles, 53 RBIs and an .823 OPS in 99 games for Washington. He headed into Monday leading National League third basemen in wins above replacement (3.1 per FanGraphs), doubles (30) and extra-base hits (48).

Prior to this move, the Cubs had been using center fielder Cody Bellinger as a part-time first baseman against righty pitching, allowing Mike Tauchman to man center and hit leadoff in those games. Struggling veteran Trey Mancini has helped at first and DH against lefties, while Nick Madrigal and Patrick Wisdom have split time at third.

Against lefty pitching, Ross has also tried having two catchers (Yan Gomes and third-stringer Miguel Amaya) in the lineup with one in the DH role. Super utility man Christopher Morel has been used as a DH at times, too. Ross has continued to search for the right formula, but the overall offensive production at first, third and DH has lagged.

Chicago had produced a .223/.298/.380 slash line with an 83 OPS+ (17 percent below MLB average) out of the DH slot, entering Monday. First base featured a .236/.295/.385 slash and a 76 OPS+, while third base included a .234/.319/.412 line and a league-average 100 OPS+.

This season, Candelario has hit .271 with an .875 OPS against righties (138 OPS+) and .227 with a .702 OPS against lefties (91 OPS+). That said, his career track record includes better results against lefty pitchers (.263 average, .756 OPS) than righties (.236 average, .731 OPS), leaving room for some potential positive regression.

“I’m excited to have a new part of our lineup,” Cubs second baseman Nico Hoerner said. “[He’s] a guy who’s really driven the ball this year, a lot of extra-base hits and has hit righties really, really well this year.”

Hoerner paused and then added with a smile: “A member of the 2016 Cubs, right?”

Candelario was originally a non-drafted free agent signing by the Cubs in 2010 before breaking into the big leagues with the club in ‘16. He was traded to the Tigers the following year in the deal that brought catcher Alex Avila and pitcher Justin Wilson to the North Side.

“We came up together,” Cubs outfielder Ian Happ said. “I’m excited to have him back and a part of this group and hit right in the middle of our lineup. It’ll be great.”

Candelario was on an expiring contract worth $5 million, which he signed in November, and represented the Nationals’ top trade candidate. In recent years, the Nationals have completed similar deals to acquire prospects and younger players as they build toward the future.

Candelario’s standout season comes after he was non-tendered by the Tigers in the offseason.

With the Nationals, Candelario also emerged as a valuable clubhouse presence. He immediately embraced the role of veteran leader for Washington, and has been lauded for helping teammates through his interactions and play on the field.

"He leads by example,” said Nationals manager Dave Martinez, who worked with Candelario when he was a rookie on the Cubs. “If you’re a young guy and I’m watching that guy, I’m going to do the same thing.”

The 29 year-old Cuas has a 4.54 ERA in 45 games this season for Kansas City, amassing 52 strikeouts against 21 walks in 41 2/3 innings. Given that Cuas has Minor League options remaining, the Cubs could weigh whether to add him to the MLB bullpen or send him to Triple-A Iowa as a depth piece.

“We’ll see how that whole thing pans out,” Ross said of Cuas. “He’s got some options and he’s got some things that I know look pretty nasty. A three-quarter delivery, sinker-slider, real stuff. I think he can help us. We’ll see in what capacity.”