Marlins Releasing Derek Dietrich Suggests Weak Market for Cubs Outfielders

News of the Marlins designating outfielder Derek Dietrich for assignment probably doesn’t hit many people’s radar. But with many expecting the Cubs to dangle one or more of Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ and Albert Almora to try to return a quality reliever or leadoff hitter, the fact that no team offered Miami anything for Dietrich may be a poor omen of the market for the Cubs outfielders.

In the Cubs’ favor are the many differences between Dietrich and this young trio. For instance, Dietrich is a poor defender and will enter his age-29 season with no further room for development. But the biggest difference is Dietrich was due for a salary hike via arbitration if kept by Miami or traded for. He made $2.9 million in 2018 and was projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn a bump to $4.8 million. That is quite a bit for a player who wouldn’t be a starter on most contenders given his fairly pedestrian .265/.330/.421 slash line.

So some teams may have interest in Dietrich but prefer to sign him as a free agent at a far more modest sum. Or they just go with a pre-arbitration player from their own system. This returns us to the question of how much other teams would be willing to give up for one of the Cubs’ former first-rounders. After all, one of those teams theoretically could sign Dietrich without giving up any players in return.

Here’s how the four outfielders compare:Chicago CubsThis seems to put the Cubs back in the same box of over-valuing their young bats as the previous two years that precluded any trades. This problem is a result of the front office rolling the dice when they took over seven years ago that a shortage of young bats existed in the market. Their thought was by drafting advanced bats regardless of defensive skills, they could keep some and flip the others for pitching.

They did move three international signings for pitching: Gleyber Torres in a package for Aroldis ChapmanJorge Soler for Wade DavisEloy Jimenez in a package for Jose Quintana. Unfortunately, the only piece returned with long-term control was Quintana, and the team’s top draft picks other than Kris Bryant haven’t ripened into unique assets in the current market.

But as the chart above shows, all three Cubs outfielders would be more attractive to a major league team based on different factors. Schwarber is the most expensive but the best power hitter. Almora is a terrific defender, pre-arbitration age, and has yet to be tested with full-time at bats. Happ has defensive flexibility, is pre-arbitration, and also hasn’t been tested as a full-timer.

That said, it seems unlikely for the Cubs get back a top reliever or quality leadoff hitter for any of them unless packaged with at least one prospect.

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