Ender’s Game: Is Trading Soler For Inciarte a Good Idea?

Jorge Soler has been the subject of trade rumors since the World Series ended, and it doesn’t look like those talks are slowing down. If anything, they are accelerating, though the return has changed. While the initial thoughts were that the Cubs would move their right fielder for an arm, it now looks as though they could be looking for a center fielder.

Ender Inciarte, you may recall, came to Atlanta as part of the exorbitant price the D-Backs paid for Shelby Miller. Having just turned 25 at the end of October, Inciarte is entering only his third MLB season and is under control through the 2020 season. His youth, control, and varied skillset make him a pretty sought-after commodity, hence the “Soler plus” part of DiCaro’s tweet. She went on to say that the Cubs are discussing internally whether the new Brave is worth the steep price.

While Jason Heyward could probably play an above-average center fielder if pressed into service there, paying a guy a bunch of money and then playing him out of position is sort of like buying a supercar and then driving it around on city streets. Or maybe in the winter. That’s all well and good for Lance Briggs, but I’m not sure the Cubs want to do that with the team’s biggest investment. As such, it’s been speculated since before the big deal went down that they’d move Soler in order to accommodate Heyward.

Inciarte might not be a big name for casual fans, but he could well be a big piece in what the Cubs have done so far this offseason. He’s a superb defender, ranking 3rd in UZR/150 among all center fielders with at least 200 innings logged there over the last two seasons. Over the course of his time in Arizona, he spent at least 547 innings at each of the three outfield positions, which makes him a nice fit for Joe Maddon’s philosophy.

Having elite defense at two outfield positions is a fair sight better than having mediocre gloves at the corners with a right fielder (even the best in the game) playing center. Following the 2015 season, The Fielding Bible — which uses a panel of 12 experts to determine the game’s best defenders — recognized Heyward in right and Inciarte as a multi-position (all three outfield spots) talent. For what it’s worth, Addison Russell finished second in the latter vote.

But we’re not really talking about a glove-only player here, either. Inciarte slashed .303/.338/.408 with 6 home runs and 21 stolen bases. While his 5.1% career walk rate leaves quite a bit to be desired, he balances it with an 11% strikeout rate. And that contact-heavy approach the Cubs have touted would benefit from the presence of a bat that makes contact at an 89.1% clip and that has only a 5.2% swinging strike rate. As a quick refresher, the Cubs had a team contact rate of 74.8% and a swinging strike rate of 11.8% in 2015.

If there’s a bit of a concern in Inciarte’s offensive game, it’s that the lefty batter had some pretty stark splits last season. The overall batting average was nice, but he hit only .229 against lefties in 2015. Now, he did post a .273 average against southpaws in 2014, a number that’s only 6 points lower than his production vs. righties. In two seasons, Inciarte has hit .250 with no homers against like-handed pitchers as compared to .309 with 10 bombs against righties. The lack of power isn’t a concern though, as this isn’t a guy you’re counting on to put the ball over the fence with any regularity.

So let’s see: better defense, better contact, team control for a number of years. What’s not to like? If we could view this potential move with blinders on, I think I’d be willing to pull the trigger in a heartbeat. But for such a swap to go down, it’s almost assuredly going to include a few other players. I’m not big on speculating when it comes to stuff like this, but it’s not difficult to imagine Albert Almora being involved. I mean, if the Cubs acquire a glove-first CF with several years of control, it kinda blocks AA’s path to The Show.

Perhaps that’s the “plus” part of the cost from DiCaro’s tweet. Given Atlanta’s apparent strategy to rebuild for the future, a still-maturing Almora might be a nice fit for them. Again, I’ve already gotten too far down the rabbit trail. Had you posed this scenario to me a week ago, I’d have probably said no way. But now that the Cubs have agreed to terms with Heyward, I’m more inclined to feel good about Inciarte.

Still, Soler-plus is a steep price, and one I’m sure many of you would balk at. Given my previously-stated skepticism of Soler’s ability to ever reach his full potential though, I can’t say I’d be against a trade. In the end, I trust the Cubs front office to make the right deal to benefit the team in both the immediate and distant future.

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  1. If Soler gets traded, it will be for a starting pitcher…..not another OF guy.

    But I think Soler has more value than most GM’s want to let on……..guy will be a beast at the plate in 2016.

    Hammel was throwing well before his leg cramps happen. He might be throwing like a #3 in his 2016 contract year. If Hendricks fails, we still have Cahill, Richard and Wood. So a move on a starting pitcher won’t happen until July.

    Relax and just watch this batting order make a ton of runs.

    1. I agree with Evan that I don’t want Heyward in CF.

      That being said, a cost-controlled middle-to-top of rotation starter would be great both short and long term. I think with Hammel the worry is that he has a history of being a poor second half pitcher. So I would possibly explore trading for near major league ready starting pitcher and using the Cubs minor league depth to acquire such a starter. A guy like Jeff Hoffman of Colorado may interest them, for example, if they can swing a trade for Blackmon and get Colorado to part with Hoffman. Jake Thompson of Philadelphia may be another possibility.

      The other thing is that a lot of people say the Rays would ask too much for Kevin Kiermaier. I don’t agree. Almora and Soler (and a deep, high ceiling minor leaguer or Baez could get you Odorizzi or Matt Moore, plus one of McGee or Boxberger and Kiermaier.

      Further, the Cubs may not even have to trade Soler or Baez. The Cubs have plenty of guys that rebuilding teams would love such as Almora, Gleyber Tores, Eddy Martinez, Billy McKinney, and Eloy Jimenez. My point is, the Cubs are in a position of leverage here: there aren’t many offensive players available that are low cost + long term + high ceiling options like Soler or Baez. Either of those two will return a lot more than one would imagine. In fact, if Shelby Miller was worth what the Braves got in return, I’d argue to say that Jorge Soler is the as close as there is to the offensive comp of Miller in return trade value.

    2. By the way Cubs Talk, I saw your comment on an earlier post about lagging load times on Cubs Insider and you are correct. Shockwave is a horrible plug in, and I know many developers, myself included, that would love to see Adobe products based on Flash go away forever.

      One thing Evan could do is move off of Word Press and on to another site like Blogger, or use a service such as Chicago Now or Bleacher Report, which I would assume would limit his revenue opportunities. Personally I would rather see Evan put up a Paypal donation button and see how that goes. Maybe if he can get enough donations to cover his efforts he could then start to remove some of the awful, lag-inducing ads. I am not sure what his readership numbers are but if readers donated $1- $3 a month without obligation that may help, only because I do know what those ads pay — on the high end about $12 per 1,000 impressions but probably much, much less.

      In the meantime, I have experimented with various browsers to see which ones eliminate some of the lag time. Safari works the best. Firefox and Chrome are nearly identical but Firefox has a slightly better load time.

      Another way to speed up response time if you are commenting is to deactivate spell check. Spell Check constantly checks your work for spelling and grammatical errors in real time and it causes significant lag in some Flash applications. The longer your comment, the longer the lag time.

      The best way to handle commenting is to simply type your response off site, using Word or Pages and then you can cut/paste your response into the Comment box.

      The issues here are problematic of Word Press as much as it is the Flash software. The two do not work well together.

      Either way, a nice holiday gesture would be to PayPal Evan a small donation. His e-mail address is easy enough to find and it would go a long way to keeping the site full of fresh content. Or at least just say thanks.

      Also, maybe try to refer readers and potential commenters to the site. We all love a good, healthy debate here and it helps defray some of the time involvement for Evan. He has a family and we should appreciate his efforts through at least referrals, if not a one-time donation/gift. Time is our most precious commodity because it is the only one that truly comes with a diminishing timeline that is out of our control.

      Thanks Evan, for all the work you do here. I will paypal you something after the holidays because I appreciate all of your work.

      1. Thanks, Mike, but I think your work here is more than enough of a donation. It’s true that the ads are sort of a necessary evil, and I’ve even experimented with different vendors to see what works best. Based on rev shares and CPM on impressions, the trivia ads are most lucrative on a per-ad basis. The static ads (MLB Shop, Drizly, etc) are commission only and I’ve only ever gotten one sale to date through any of those. It was a jersey, so the relative amount was nice, but still under the threshold to actually receive a payout. Then I’ve got the store, sales from which provide a small commission. But that’s again something that is sporadic at best. The Ticket Lodge ad is great because I have an agreement for a small monthly payment and CI readers get a discount, so it works both ways. I’d love to have actual set agreements for banner ads and such, but our viewership really isn’t enough to merit such a deal.

        While I could move the format to blogger or Medium or something else, I’ve just grown so comfortable with this site and format. Perhaps a change would come in the future, but I don’t have the time right now to make a wholesale shift. If you’ve been around long enough (and I know Mike was because I got his feedback on the changes), you may recall a while back when a template update completely changed the old style of the site. I had to spend several days reconfiguring the whole thing, which was a real pain. So I feel as though I’ve got real ownership of what’s up here now. For a guy who’s not all that savvy, I’m pretty happy with it. It’d be great to be able to hire a legit person to be able to construct a site and really make it sexy, but I don’t have the capital for that and don’t want to ask someone to work for free.

  2. So I’ve read this post, like, three times. :]

    All the points make a ton of sense, both pros and cons. I’d be damn happy if they acquired Inciarte, or even Kiermaier.

      1. Shoulda maintained the veiled mystery-man persona, imo. But I would love to see Kevin Kiermaier out there in center, not only because he’s awesome but because he’s an Indiana kid.

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