Inbox: Is Schwarber a trade candidate?

Beat reporter Carrie Muskat answers questions from fans

December 7th, 2017

It seems the best move this offseason for all involved would be to move to an American League team in return for some pitching. Do you think that's a likely move? Or will we see a young healthy guy like or Albert Almora Jr. moved instead? It seems Schwarber now is a prototypical American League player.
-- Colleen M., Chicago

It may seem like a good move to you, and it may be something the Yankees are considering, if you believe the latest rumors. Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein would disagree.
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"I'll happily endorse him as the type of player we want to win with, here with the Cubs," Epstein said of Schwarber. "The fact he hit 30 bombs in a bad year is a good start.
"Power is not everything," Epstein said. "I think he fell into this year becoming more of a slugger and less of a hitter than he is. That's important for him to get his identity back as a hitter and a dangerous hitter. We feel he has the potential to be an all-around hitter on the level of an ."
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There also are the intangibles that Schwarber possesses and which Epstein values.
"[Schwarber] has got certain toughness and leadership qualities that are hard to find that we don't necessarily have in surplus and in abundance in the clubhouse," Epstein said. "He has a certain energy and grit and ability to bring people together, and that's important. The biggest thing is his bat. We think he's the type of offensive player who you build around along with a couple other guys."

As far as who the Cubs are willing to trade, I only know who they won't, and that list includes , Rizzo and . The Cubs do appear to have a surplus of young infielders with Happ, and , and they may have to part with one of them to acquire the pitching they want.
I haven't heard much talk about Schwarber as the backup catcher. Is this no longer an option? He could spell Contreras as the left-handed-hitting catcher and start in left field when Contreras starts.
-- Ken R., Los Angeles

Schwarber is considered the No. 3 catcher, but because of the left knee injury he suffered in early 2016, the Cubs don't consider him an option behind the plate full time. Usually backup catchers don't start at other positions in the same game in case they're needed. However, in photos posted this week of Schwarber, it looks as if he's lost weight this offseason. Maybe he's prepping for more catching work, which would open an outfield spot.

Why haven't the Cubs had more success in recent years developing starting pitchers in their system? Who are the most likely candidates to reach the Major League club in the coming years from the group in the Minors now?
-- Kyle R., San Antonio, Texas

When Epstein took over, he wanted to restock the Minor League system and create a foundation of homegrown players. The Cubs did focus on position players in the first round of the Draft, mainly because they have a better chance of getting to the big leagues quicker than pitchers. Some of the Cubs' top pitching prospects have been slowed by injuries (Duane Underwood, Ryan Williams, Carson Sands). , a second-round pick in 2013, was the first Cubs pitcher drafted under Epstein to make it to the big leagues, doing so in '16.
Pitchers to watch include and , ranked 13th and 14th, respectively, on's list of top Cubs prospects. Both got a brief taste of the big leagues this year. Right-hander Jake Stinnett, a second-round pick in 2014, did well in the Arizona Fall League, as did right-hander Adbert Alzolay (No. 3 among Cubs prospects). But they're more likely to get a promotion later in 2018 if all goes well.

Want an example of what a gamble it is to pick pitchers in the Draft? Pitcher , who was selected first overall in the 2013 Draft by the Astros -- ahead of Bryant -- was designated for assignment on Nov. 20 by the Phillies. At 26, he has never pitched in the big leagues. Appel spent two injury-plagued years in the Phils' organization, needing right elbow surgery and battling a right shoulder injury.
Why wouldn't we want to re-sign ?
-- Wendall S., Byron Center, Mich.

The only reason not to is if Jay's salary request is more than the Cubs want to pay and if the Cubs feel they have someone else who can fill that role. Jay, who will be 33 in March, made $8 million in 2017.
What are the chances that the Cubs ask to be part of their coaching staff?
-- James L., Brookfield, Ill.

Ross won't be part of the coaching staff, but he is expected to spend more time with the team in his role as a special assistant to Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer.