Trade 1: The Chicago Cubs trade C Yan Gomes to the Cleveland Guardians for RHP James Karinchak and LHP Randy Labaut
I understand this isn’t the catcher that Cubs fans would like to see traded, however, the nature of a trade is that the receiving team has to get a player they actually think is valuable, and unfortunately not many people can look at Tucker Barnhart’s production at the plate and say that he has been anything close to valuable.
That being said, the Cleveland Guardians have gotten a -0.6 WAR from the catcher position, and even with the call-up of prized prospect Bo Naylor, a playoff team needs to have a veteran backstop to give them a chance to make a run. Even when the Cubs made their run in 2016 with Willson Contreras they had Miguel Montero and David Ross on the roster for much of the season to work with the pitching staff.
The Guardians have young starting pitching and in a video game it may be fun to pair that with a young catcher so they can learn the game together, it simply doesn’t work like that in the real world when you find yourself in a division that’s up for the taking. If the Guardians were 10 games back, it may make sense to let Naylor learn on the fly, but with Gomes, they have a legitimate shot at the playoffs.
What the Cubs would be looking for in return would be cost-controlled bullpen pieces and they’d get that in the form of castoff James Karinchak and former 35th-round pick Randy Labaut. With Karinchak, the wildness finally resulted in a move that many outside of the Guardians organization found perplexing which was a demotion to AAA. Since arriving in Columbus he’s been exceptional, working to a 2.57 ERA and 13 strikeouts over 7 innings. Labaut has been impressive as well with a 2.13 ERA at AAA although he hasn’t missed many bats with just three strikeouts over 12.2 innings.
If the Cubs aren’t willing to pay for relievers in free agency this is a good way to get it without mortgaging the future and moving top pitching prospects to the pen.