Chicago Cubs Rumors: Will the team trade for Edwin Diaz?

As the Chicago Cubs rumors swirl that they’re looking to bolster their bullpen this offseason, there may be no better option than a trade with the Seattle Mariners.

After a disappointing end to the 2018 season, Chicago Cubs rumors indicate they are looking to make impactful additions this offseason to cement their status as World Series contenders.

The inconsistent nature of the Cubs’ offense has garnered the ire of fans and been the subject of countless headlines since the season ended, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see the team focus on bolstering the back end of the bullpen rather than make drastic changes to the lineup.

Cubs’ General Manager Jed Hoyer recently said that the front office is happy with the group they have and are focusing on guys already in the clubhouse.

Hoyer could be telling the truth, or he could be saying what he needs to say to reporters. No one expects him to come out and talk about how poorly the offense performed in the second half. That’s just not going to happen.

Assuming we can put stock in Hoyer’s remarks as well as the countless reports on the Cubs’ limited financial flexibility, it seems the biggest offseason goal is to add pitching depth. With five guys already set in the starting rotation, that leaves the bullpen as the area the team will address.

If Theo Epstein and the front office don’t have the ability to dole out a large contract to a free agent reliever, the team’s best bet to bring a game-changing pitcher to the North Side of Chicago lies in a trade with the Seattle Mariners.

The Mariners are at the beginning of what they’re envisioning will be a quick rebuild; the team reportedly has a goal of contending again by 2021. In what will surely be a busy offseason in Seattle, the Mariner’s have already shipped off James Paxton to the New York Yankees for a trio of prospects.

With Paxton gone, the Mariners next most valuable trade chip is All-Star closer, Edwin Diaz. The 24-year-old fireballer is coming off the best season of his career and perhaps one of the best ever for a closer.

In his 2018 breakout campaign, Diaz led all pitchers with 57 saves – that’s tied for the second most ever in a single season in MLB history. His 93.4 percent save conversion rating was the fourth highest in the league among all pitchers with at least 20 saves last year.

Although his 57 saves were impressive, that was just the tip of the iceberg on his incredible season. He finished sixth among qualified relievers with a 1.96 ERA and first with a 1.61 FIP.

Diaz blew hitters away with his fastball that consistently sits in the upper 90s, a pitch that played a large role in his 44.3 percent strikeout rate – the second highest among all relievers. He’s also one of the better bullpen arms at limiting walks. His 38.2 percent K-BB% was the best in the league.

His numbers alone make Diaz immensely valuable, but when we throw in the facts that he’ll be 25-years-old at the start of the 2019 season and is under team control for five more seasons, the Mariners are sitting on a gold mine.

With someone that valuable, the price will be lofty. What would the Cubs have to give up to land Diaz? Quite a bit.

The Mariners will surely place a lofty price tag on Diaz. Can the Cubs match it?

Cubs fans know all too well how much an elite reliever costs. During the 2016 World Series run, acquiring Aroldis Chapman for just half a season from the Yankees cost the Cubs their top prospect, Gleyber Torres.

If half a season of Chapman cost so much, what will five years of control over a much younger and much cheaper Diaz cost?

For starters, probably two of Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ, or Albert Almora Jr.

In addition to two of those players, the Mariners will probably ask for at least one of the Cubs’ top minor league prospects like Miguel Amaya, Adbert Alzolay, or the team’s 2018 first round pick Nico Hoerner.

However, it really just depends on what the Mariners want back.

With their goal of competing again by 2021, Seattle may have more interest in the major league ready players like Schwarber, Happ, and Almora who will be under team control for another few years before the Mariners would have to sign them to an extension.

The Mariners also have the option to go for an entire package of minor league prospects if they’re confident enough that they’ll develop well and be ready to serve as impact MLB players within three seasons.

If the Mariners do show more interest in minor league prospects rather than young MLB-ready talent, it may take the Cubs out of the running. Simply put, the Cubs don’t have the prospect capital to compete with other teams that may be interested.

Fangraphs‘ Craig Edwards ranks the Cubs as the sixth worst farm system in his post-2018 farm system rankings. If the Mariners want younger players with more control in their return package for Diaz, plenty of teams have more high-level prospects than the Cubs. Currently, the Mets appear to be the frontrunner.

Next: Could the Cubs trade for Giancarlo Stanton?

Only Seattle’s front office knows how realistic trading Diaz to the North Side is, but if the Mariners are looking for young, high upside players that are ready for the MLB right now, they’d be hard pressed to find a team with more intriguing players than the Cubs.