Infielder Jeimer Candelario was signed as an un-drafted free agent in 2010. He’s a switch hitting righty from New York who hit .283/.376/.464 between Double-A and Triple-A ball in 2016 with 13 home runs, 77 runs batted in, 70 walks and 99 strikeouts. He’s hitting the cover off the ball so far this season with a 1.172 OPS for 2017, hitting .400 off left-handers.
Candelario had a quick cup of coffee for 11 games in the show last season, playing a five-game stint on the Cubs roster. Over 11 at-bats he hit .091 with a single, three walks, and five strikeouts. The 23-year-old still has a high strikeout rate in 2017 which could be seen as the downside to the Iowa Cubs' third baseman.
The trend in the majors is to take players like Jeimer and use their .763 slugging percentage to leverage offensive capability against problematic tendencies to strike out. The hot start in his 2017 line of .316/.409/.763 could be seen that Jeimer Candelario is finally ready to take the next step and become a full time, bona fide, major league ballplayer.
The only problem with that logic is the current third baseman for the Chicago Cubs being Rookie of the Year and NL MVP Kris Bryant. With the ceiling for this power hitting talent rather limited in the Cubs organization, it can be seen how valuable young mister Candelario could be in a trade.
Pitching is the currency of baseball, and a dominant bullpen is essential to building a championship ball club. The Kansas City Royals effectively won the World Series in 2015 by shortening every game to 6 innings with the most dominant bullpen ever assembled by a modern baseball team. Their approach changed the landscape of building a championship franchise, where what once was an afterthought position for starting pitchers who couldn’t make the rotation has become an essential focus point in the building of a modern day 25-man roster. The bullpen for the Chicago Cubs World Series team of 2016 has evaporated with Aroldis Chapman returning to the Yankees, Travis Wood traded to the Royals, and Anthony Rondon unable to hit the broad side of a barn with a fastball.
The 2017 version of the Chicago Cubs bullpen is centered on arguably the best closer in the national league, Wade Davis. Besides the stability provided from the closer position in the bullpen, the dependability surrounding the remaining bullpen arms remains in doubt, as can be seen by the performance through the first 2 weeks of the season.
Hector Rondon is not hitting his spots and seems to never quite be on the same page as the new Cubs full time catcher Willson Contreras. Rondon fell off the pitching control wagon somewhere in the breakdown during the World Baseball Classic. His strikeout rate of 11.81/9 and WHIP of 0.75 notwithstanding, he still gives Cubs fans everywhere a heart attack when he misses his catcher’s glove placement by feet, much less inches. The dependability for Rondon is shaky at best for the long haul.
Koji Uehara was slotted the setup man for Davis in the eighth inning, until failing spectacularly against the average offense of the Pittsburgh pirates for three runs and two hits. The bottom five relievers in WHIP for the Cubs' bullpen areKoji Uehara (1.41), Brian Duensing (1.50), Justin Grimm (1.59), Mike Montgomery (1.67) and Pedro Strop (2.00).
With the exception of Wade Davis and Carl Edwards Junior (Maybe Rondon), there isn’t much dependability in the bullpen of the defending world champs.
The Cubs need to leverage Candelario as a cornerstone piece for another lock-down relief pitcher to secure what have been the loose-cannons of the National League bullpens. In light of this, some intriguing possibilities come to light in this young 2017 season.
David Robertson already has his foot out the door on the south side of Chicago. The White Sox closer has post season experience with the Yankees, and retains a stellar 1.12 WHIP with 169 strike outs and 73 saves in a White Sox' uniform. He still has another year on his contract, and White Sox current third baseman Todd Frasier will conclude his contract l at the end of the 2017 season. A cross town trade would be ripe for both teams to reinforce a problematic and uncertain position for the future.
Kyle Barraclough is a reliever in the Miami Marlins bullpen. He had 29 holds last season, second most in the majors, as well as 113 strikeouts. He posts a 1.23 WHIP with a 14 K/9. Control problems have been issues in the past with Barraclough, but the talent is there to strengthen a bullpen from a team who is starting 33 year old Martin Prado at third base. Derek Dietrich as the alternative at the hot corner, but cannot hit left handed pitching (Candelario’s specialty) and would platoon perfectly with the Cubs minor leaguer.
Daniel Hudson is a reliever who pitches for the Pittsburgh Pirates bullpen. He has a questionable 2016 ERA of 5.22 with 1.44 WHIP and 8.7 K/9, but he goes on stretches where he is un-hittable. For the first 30 appearances of 2016 he had a 1.55 ERA before having control issues that ballooned his ERA outrageously, but for the last 27 appearances of 2016 he earned a 2.70 ERA while totaling 58 strike outs and 18 earned runs over 34 and 1/3 innings. A work in progress that is being groomed for a closer role by the Pirates who are a small market team that might be looking at another post season watching the playoffs from home. 33 year old David Freese as the third base starter, and soon-to-be retiree Aramis Ramirez as the backup, open the door for an investment in the future of the Pirates third base power hitting position.
The Cubs have options, and it’s still early in the season. But all things being relative, the Cubs have a prime opportunity to build another championship bullpen and a young third baseman Jeimer Candelario might be just the blue chip they need to get back to the World Series.