5 Cubs-Rays trades that make sense

January 13th, 2016

Nobody has more pitching to trade than the Rays, and no team seems as persistent in working to find a fit for that pitching than the Cubs.

Tampa Bay team president Matt Silverman said the other day on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM that his trade dialogue this offseason has been "more targeted with the Cubs," who have intriguing young hitters to drive conversations about the Rays' stable of available pitchers.

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"We know we line up potentially well with them, given our depths and strengths vs. theirs," Silverman said. "I wouldn't be surprised if something lined up over the next couple of years, just given the constitution of the clubs, but I don't want to oversell anything. We got close with a number of clubs on a number of things this year, but nothing really has come to fruition."

Not yet. But talks continue. With that in mind, let's explore a super-sized cycle of Rays-Cubs trade possibilities:

THE SINGLE: LHP Jake McGee for OF Billy McKinney

No, this isn't overly sexy. But swapping these two Macs would provide a return for both teams on all of the trade conversations they've had since the World Series.

McGee has been one of the best left-handed relievers around when healthy, delivering a 2.7 WAR in 2014, when current Cubs manager Joe Maddon was with the Rays. McGee has two years left before free agency, and he would help a Cubs bullpen that had no dominant lefty in 2015 and has added only Rex Brothers and Edgar Olmos this offseason.

McKinney, a first-round pick of the A's in 2013, is probably a year away from the Major Leagues, but he is ranked by MLB.com as the No. 2 prospect in the deep Cubs system. He's a solid fielder and a promising bat.

THE DOUBLE: RHP Alex Cobb and McGee for OF Chris Coghlan, McKinney, C Willson Contreras and 1B/DH Dan Vogelbach

This might not seem like enough return for two high-end arms, but Cobb and McGee are becoming expensive, coming off down seasons and only two years from free agency. There's no guarantee Cobb will return to his form before the Tommy John surgery he underwent in May, making even this outlay a risky proposition for the Cubs.

Coghlan, who is a year from free agency, had an .804 OPS in 2014 and a .784 OPS during the Cubs' 97-win season in '15, but he has been squeezed out of the outfield picture by Kyle Schwarber and Jason Heyward. Coghlan could become a valuable asset with a short-term extension and more plate appearances. Contreras, ranked as the Cubs' No. 10 prospect by MLB.com, won the Double-A batting title last season, hitting .333 for Tennessee. Vogelbach, ranked 13th in the Cubs' system, is a promising hitter who is best suited for the American League, where he could serve as a DH.

THE TRIPLE: RHP Jake Odorizzi and McGee for SS/2B Javier Baez, McKinney and Vogelbach

Cubs president Theo Epstein has been with the North Siders for more than four years and has yet to trade any of the club's top prospects. This is a deal in which it makes sense to take that plunge.

Odorizzi has developed into the prize of the Royals-Rays trade that followed the 2012 season, surpassing outfielder Wil Myers (since traded to San Diego) in value just as Kansas City closer Wade Davis shot past James Shields. Odorizzi has benefited greatly from the time he's spent with Tampa Bay pitching coach Jim Hickey and Cobb, and only an oblique injury stopped him from improving on his 2014 breakout season last year. He's 25, under club control for four years and would look right at home working alongside Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester and John Lackey in the Cubs' rotation.

Baez, 23, is blocked at shortstop in Chicago but would start there for the Rays. He could run into 30 home runs this year, like Evan Longoria did in his first full season.

THE HOME RUN: RHP Chris Archer and McGee for OF Jorge Soler, Baez, McKinney, Vogelbach

This trade could truly prove historic for both franchises.

Archer represents both a wise acquisition and a concession for the Cubs, who under former GM Jim Hendry added him in a 2008 trade for Mark DeRosa and subtracted him in one for Matt Garza in '11. Archer was emerging as a potential difference-maker when he was dealt to Tampa Bay and completed his education while being nurtured by David Price, Hickey and Maddon.

Archer, 27, was fifth in AL Cy Young Award voting last season and two years ago signed a contract that could pay him as little as $45.5 million for the next five years. There would be no better rotation in the Major Leagues than the Cubs' with Arrieta, Lester, Lackey and Archer. Trading Soler, 23, would allow the Cubs to keep Coghlan in the mix until Albert Almora, the club's No. 5 prospect, is ready to take over center field. It could also open room for free-agent center fielder Dexter Fowler to return.

The acquisition of Soler and Baez would completely reshape the core of the Rays' lineup, giving manager Kevin Cash enough run production to compete for postseason spots for the foreseeable future, given the tiers of quality pitching in the organization.

THE GRAND SLAM: Archer, McGee and CF Kevin Kiermaier for Schwarber, Baez, McKinney and SS Gleyber Torres

Schwarber, 22, might be a better hitter than reigning National League Rookie of the Year Award winner Kris Bryant. He is challenged defensively but could emerge as a face-of-the-franchise player with an AL team. Torres, 19, is ranked as the Cubs' No. 1 prospect.

Imagine the Cubs' outfield with Gold Glover Kiermaier in center, Gold Glover Heyward in right and Soler in left, all controlled through 2020. Shortstop Addison Russell and Bryant are under control through '21, making it possible to consider trading Baez and Torres in the same deal.