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Rays Trade Target: Kyle Schwarber

If the Rays deal one of their stars, a huge return could be in order

World Series - Chicago Cubs v Cleveland Indians - Game Seven Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

I know, this proposes the kind of blockbuster trade that rarely happens, but it makes sense in a lot of ways. So much so, you might have already dreamed about this deal yourself.

Rumors have been flying since the end of the season that the Rays may be looking to deal one of their top-flight pitcher, be it Chris Archer or Drew Smyly or Álex Colomé. In order for another club to get one of these guys, a big return would be in order.

The Rays farm system already owns top prospects such as Willy Adames, Brent Honeywell, and Casey Gillaspie, so the Rays probably don’t need to replenish their minor league system. Adding talent to Double-A and Triple-A may only jam the pipeline.

This would leave the Rays looking to acquire another All-Star caliber player, or at least several solid major-leaguers, things not many teams are willing to give.

That’s where Schwarber comes in.

MLB: World Series-Parade Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Of any club in the majors, the Cubs might be the worst possible fit for Kyle Schwarber.

At this point it’s clear that the defensively-challenged slugger doesn’t fit well in the National League with no DH position to fill, particularly because the Cubs already have very good players playing the positions at which he may be serviceable: Anthony Rizzo at first base and Ben Zobrist in left field.

This lack of fit has made Schwarber the subject of trade rumors since before he even made his major-league debut, and the Cubs need to put him in the field nearly prevented him from post-season heroics when he blew out his knee on an outfield collision.

I previously wrote that the Rays need to look for a player to fill in at designated hitter.

Though the former Indiana product missed the vast majority of 2016 with a knee injury, his 69-game debut in 2015 and World Series return this October showed what makes him so sought-after. Launching 16 homers in those 69 games with a wRC+ of 132, Schwarber has the potential to be one of the game’s premier power hitters.

And while he has begun to move away from the position more recently, Schwarber did play catcher, another one of the Rays biggest areas of need, in college. He played 20 games at catcher for the Cubs in 2015, so it’s not out of the question. Having that type of hitter able to fill in as even a small part of a platoon behind the plate would be a massive upgrade for the Rays.

Schwarber is the level of player the Rays could demand for one of their stars and appears to be available, a rare combination. Add in the fact that he is under team control for the next two years before hitting arbitration in 2019 and that makes him a very valuable asset.

So how could the Rays pull this off?

One way would be to play to the Cubs possible need for a starting pitcher and offer them Chris Archer. With John Lackey and Jake Arrieta due to hit unrestricted free agency after the 2017 season, it is reasonable to assume the Cubs are looking to add more starting pitching.

Adding Archer to their roster, on a relatively cheap contract through 2019 with team options for the two years after that, would be a huge boon for the World Champions.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays
Chris Archer could be on his way out of Tampa Bay
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

With the Rays depth at starting pitcher, it is a deal they could afford to make.

Another direction the Rays could go would be to offer Colomé as a replacement for departing free agent Aroldis Chapman. Colomé was a stud at the back end of the Tampa bullpen in 2016, their lone representative at the All-Star Game, and the cost of closers is high enough that a deal could be made with most of the value being met.

If the Rays do want to deal one of their better players, gauging the Cubs’ interest in Archer or Colomé might be the way to go. The Cubs fit the need and have a player who may be available that would make such a deal worthwhile for the re-building Rays.