Reports: Cubs in ‘Strong Pursuit’ of Daniel Descalso, Have Contacted Troy Tulowitzki

I know I say this all the time, but I really do intend to keep this brief. I’ve still got (at least) a three-hour drive and there’s apparently a stomach bug attacking my house. As such, you might actually hear less from me after this for the next couple days (you wish). Anyway, back to the Cubs, who are reportedly in pursuit of two infielders to fill an offseason need.

First up is Daniel Descalso, who just turned 32 and is coming off of career-high marks for home runs (13), runs (54), RBI (57), wRC+ (111), and fWAR (1.6). And those numbers are all significantly than his career marks, which doesn’t speak highly for his ability to replicate them. Seriously, 2018 was first time he’d ever eclipsed 90 wRC+ and his career total fWAR — including that 1.6 — now stands at 2.2.

Even so, the Cubs are interested. According to Ken Rosenthal, they’re in strong pursuit.

Now, Descalso does take his walks and has maintained an OBP around 100 points higher than his average most seasons, so he’s got some value there. But despite a walk rate that has climbed each of the last four seasons, his contact rates (both in and out of the zone) have dropped precipitously over the last three years. As you might imagine, his swing and swinging-strike rates have gone up in that same time.

Put that together with his age and the idea that competition could drive his modest price higher than it should be, and I don’t see much to like about this move. But what about the defensive versatility, Evan? Ah yes, thanks for reminding me. Almost forgot about that. And you know why I almost forgot about it? Because he’s not good defensively. Anywhere.

Descalso has posted a decidedly negative UZR/150 at every single position he’s ever played (all four IF spots and LF) and has achieved positive value during only seven of the 33 position-seasons he’s recorded. The Cubs already had a semi-versatile (but not very good) defensive infielder, who had better contact skills and limited power. And they traded him because he was going to earn less in arbitration that Descalso apparently will as a free agent.

And that brings us to the most baffling part of this whole things, which is that the Cubs could end up bidding against the Cardinals for their former player. Then you’ve got Bob Nightengale saying the Cubs “don’t know whether they can afford him in their budget.” Come the hell on.

The best explanation for this is that Nightengale is working at the behest of someone in the Cardinals’ front office to pump Descalso’s market up a little bit. Because if the Cubs truly can’t afford a guy who has averaged $1.75 million over the last four seasons and doesn’t figure to earn much more even after a career year, well, that’s really awful.

Now, I could understand if the Cubs had said they weren’t going to go more than $2 million for Descalso, which still seems like an overpay given that they traded La Stella ostensibly for making even less than that. But to make this about their budget…yeesh. Unless they truly are pinching every penny in order to keep Bryce Harper a reality. And now we’ve gone there. Ugh.

So let’s get back to the next topic and wrap it up quickly since I’m already too deep and still haven’t eaten. Tulowitzki is decidedly sexier than the guy I just finished talking about and he might also come cheaper. Since the Blue Jays simply cut Tulo and owe the remained of his $38 million salary, a new team can sign him to a league-minimum salary.

Of course, this isn’t perennial All-Star Tulowitzki, but a broken-down 34-year-old who has played as many as 131 games only once since 2011. And unlike Descalso, Tulo is coming off of a career-worst season in which he put up 0.1 fWAR with 260 plate appearances. As evidence of just how far he’s fallen, consider that he posted 1.3 fWAR in 203 plate appearances with the Rockies in 2012.

But the low price tag is enticing, which is why the Cubs had a scout at Tulowitzki’s recent workout. Per Jon Heyman, who’s citing Susan Slusser, the field of six interested teams will be narrowed soon. While several factors will be weighed, the shortstop is reportedly looking for a team that will allow him to remain at his preferred position.

Though he’s been passable at short over the course of his career, with 2018 standing as his first negative UZR campaign in a decade, there’s no way the Cubs could give him regular run at short. If they do part ways with Addison Russell, they’ll keep Javy Baez at short. And if they keep Russell, well, there you go. So this only works if Tulowitzki is cool with playing second and maybe spelling the everyday shortstop on occasion.

I suppose it also depends on the other teams, since they might be in a similar situation. Given his age and injury history, it’s hard to imagine anyone rolling out the red carpet and putting this guy at a premium position. But the low price means it’s an easy gamble. And if he’s really making only the minimum, it’d make more sense than Descalso. Unless, of course, there’s something else I just don’t know about the situation.

Stay tuned.

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