Earlier this afternoon Dexter Fowler shocked the MLB world by signing a one year contract with the Chicago Cubs just one day after he had reportedly agreed to a three year deal with the Baltimore Orioles. Prior to the announced signing the Cubs shipped out Chris Coghlan to the Oakland Athletics to open a spot for Fowler.
Even with this move, the outfield depth chart is pretty staggering. As Jeff Passan notes, The Cubs could field two full outfields with their roster: Heyward, Schwarber, Fowler, Soler, Zobrist, Baez.
Perhaps this is the time for the Rays to re-enter the fray.
For most of the winter there have been reports of the Cubs and Rays being engaged in trade discussions centering, particularly around INF Javier Baez. Rob Willer wrote here about Baez as a potential target, and Rays GM Matt Silverman has expressed discussed how the Cubs and the Rays form a good potential fit as trading partners.
#Rays Matt Silverman: "We had lots of conversations [with the Cubs]. We know we line up really well with them given our depth and strengths"— MLB Network Radio (@MLBNetworkRadio) January 10, 2016
The Cubs are the current betting favorites to win the World Series, but they play in what might be the toughest division in baseball. So they may be motivated to use the log jam of outfielders they currently face to further improve their team.
If the Rays were seriously interested in Baez or another young piece like OF Jorge Soler, now may be the time to act, because as the crowd in the Cubs' outfield becomes thicker, the price for outfielders should go down. Theo Epstein may be more comfortable in pulling the trigger on a trade for pitching.
One road block to a deal being made may come in the form of the Rays no longer having Jake McGee to use as a trade chip in negotiations. The other name connected with the Cubs previously was rehabbing-ace Alex Cobb.
The Rays have just as crowded an outfield as the Cubs do with Corey Dickerson, Kevin Kiermaier, Steven Souza, Jr., Brandon Guyer, Desmond Jennings, Steve Pearce, and Mikie Mahtook all looking to battle for spots on the MLB roster. But if the cost of Soler has been lowered enough, the Rays may feel that they need to take the opportunity to jump at acquiring a potential impact bat.
If the Rays don't want to sell low on Alex Cob, or the Cubs want to see him pitch first, then the most likely pairing would be in the back-end starting pieces like Drew Smyly, Erasmo Ramirez, or Matt Moore, which is convenient. Starting depth appears to be the Cubs' biggest weakness as they look to re-load for a 2016 World Series run.
With the acquisition of Corey Dickerson, the Rays have already made their move for adding an outfield bat to the roster, but it would be foolish not to check back in with the Cubs now. If the Cubs demands are low enough, it may make sense to make a deal to add another offensive piece to the puzzle for the Rays.
In the American League we have the designated hitter to take advantage of adding additional bats to the lineup regardless of positional necessity. This could be the opportunity to pick up an asset at a depressed cost.