Cubs land closer Davis, show ‘hungry to win another World Series’
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NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – In a deal as much about Jorge Soler’s future and the Kansas City Royals’ past, the Cubs on Wednesday completed a trade that sent the young outfielder to the Royals for closer Wade Davis.
Davis, a dominating member of the Royals’ shut-down bullpen for their 2014-15 World Series teams, helps fill the void left by departing free agent Aroldis Chapman as the Cubs try to repeat their historic 2016 championship.
But the deal that percolated for two weeks before reaching the agreement stage Tuesday was delayed another day as the Cubs explored the right-hander’s medical history and conducted their own physical Wednesday morning.
“We felt really good about it,” Cubs general manager said of the risk involving the forearm injury that put Davis on the disabled list twice last season. “He looks fantastic and ready to go.”
Assuming health, Davis is one of the top two closers to switch teams so far this winter, joining free agent Mark Melancon (to the Giants for four years, $62.5 million).
Team president Theo Epstein called it “an aggressive move, the move of an organization that’s hungry to win another World Series.”
And Davis’ one-year, $10 million club commitment makes him a more attractive investment that the likes of Melancon – or premier free agent closers Kenley Jansen and Aroldis Chapman, who expect to command bigger, longer term deals.
“Obviously, getting a guy the caliber of Wade, that is certainly a central move of the offseason for us,” said Hoyer, who may have stated the obvious when he declared Davis the Cubs’ 2017 closer. “I can never predict the size of the splashes or whatever you want to say, but I can say this was a big move for us in an offseason where we don’t feel we have to make a ton of big moves.”
Davis, 31, who has allowed one run in 22 career postseason relief appearances, spent a total of six weeks on the disabled list last season because of the forearm, including all of August.
He returned in September and finished the season with seven consecutive scoreless appearances for a final line of 27 saves in 30 chances and a 1.87 ERA. He had ERAs of 1.00 and 0.94 in 2014 and ’15, primarily as a setup man.
“He’s definitely a difference maker,” said Cubs manager Joe Maddon, who had Davis early in his career as a starter in Tampa Bay and who talked to him Wednesday afternoon. “He feels great. Listen, if he goes out there and pitches like he can next year, which I fully anticipate, his stuff is that good – high velocity, great cutter, very good curve ball. And he knows how to pitch, too.”
Before he was hurt last year, the Cubs looked into acquiring Davis at the trade deadline but quickly moved on after the Royals asked for Kyle Schwarber.
Soler, 24, was one of Theo Epstein’s first signature moves when he took over the Cubs’ baseball operation five years ago.
The under-the-radar Cuban amateur, who was part of the international class that included Yoenis Cespedes, signed a nine-year, $30 million deal in 2012, debuting in late August 2014.
“He had some stretches where he performed like an unbelievable player, especially in the 2015 playoffs. It’s hard to trade a guy like that,” Hoyer said, citing the Cubs’ surplus of outfielders leading up to the trade. “In order to do some of the things we wanted to do we decided that was the right move for us.”
Soler, who has been available in trade talks for more than a year, has exceptional power and for stretches has shown good plate discipline. But he has been unable to stay healthy for a full season since his first year in the minors, and his fielding struggles make him a more natural fit in the American League.
“We love his upside, love his power,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. “We like the fact we have some control the next four years. It was a tough deal, trading an All-Star closer in Wade Davis, someone who’s been so instrumental to our success. We certainly wouldn’t have won the World Series without Wade Davis.”
The Cubs, who last week signed free agent left-hander Brian Duensing to a one-year deal for bullpen depth, aren’t done pursuing relievers, Hoyer said.
In fact, Davis’ predecessor as Royals closer, Greg Holland, has been a Cubs target since early in the off-season. The right-hander is expected to be at full strength by spring training after rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. He conducted showcase for teams early last month.
They’re especially paying attention to lefties and have maintained contact with free agent Travis Wood with an eye toward a possible return.