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Cubs to acquire Wade Davis from the Royals for Jorge Soler

If Davis is healthy, the Cubs will get perhaps the best reliever in baseball.

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Kansas City Royals John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

The Cubs learned firsthand this October how essential it is for a competitive team to have an elite bullpen, as they rode Aroldis Chapman hard to a championship. Now, with Chapman seemingly on the way out, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports that they’re making a deal to bolster that bullpen:

Since becoming a reliever in 2014, and being able to focus on his fastball and his cutter, Davis has been utterly untouchable. He has struck out 234 batters in 182.2 innings and has allowed just 25 runs in 185 games. His 1.18 ERA in that span is two-tenths of a run better than anyone else with more than 100 appearances in that span. Despite showing some reduced velocity, a significantly reduced K/BB ration, and missing all of August with a flexor strain in his right elbow, Davis was again extremely effective for the Royals in 2016, with a 1.87 ERA, 47 strikeouts in 43.1 innings, and saving 27 of 30 chances. If he is healthy, Davis is better than Chapman, and probably will be the best reliever in the National League next year.

In return, the Royals are getting just Soler from the Cubs, which seems like a shockingly low return given what clubs have been getting for elite relievers. Indeed, last trade deadline, the Yankees got a massive return from the Cubs for Chapman. We can only assume that the elbow injury scared off a lot of suitors.

Soler is a 25 year old bat-first corner outfielder who didn’t have a place to play in Chicago anymore, with Kyle Schwarber set to return to play left field, Albert Almora seemingly ready to take over center, and Jason Heyward in right. He was signed out of Cuba in 2012 and quickly moved through the Chicago minor league system. He’s struggled, however, in part-time duty with the big league club, pairing a strikeout-prone league average bat with questionable defensive skills.

Soler does have tremendous power potential when he makes contact, and hits lefties far better than he hits righties. But an inability to control the strike zone threatens to turn him into another Avisail Garcia if he can’t find a way to make more contact. The Royals will undoubtedly use him in right field and will hope that steady playing time helps him to develop. If he can’t, Kansas City is giving away a very valuable piece for nothing.