This morning while obsessively trolling MLBTraderumors, I stumbled across a piece of new pertaining to the perpetual heart-breaker known as the Chicago Cubs: they are currently working with Ryan Kalish, who they signed in December to a minor-league contract.
Kalish, who is had the same type of neck surgery Peyton Manning had, was non-tendered by the Red Sox at only 25 years of age. Theo Epstein, who was familiar with Kalish due to his time as the Savior of Boston, picked him up and is now enjoying the strides in Kalish’s recovery. However, with Kalish’s emergence, the Cubs now find themselves with potentially an extra outfielder who is a bit too costly for them in the form of Nate Schierholtz.
Sep 14, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Chicago Cubs right fielder Nate Schierholtz (19) hits an RBI double against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
As Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer have displayed in recent seasons, they are always looking to shed salary and get younger, and that’s where the Kalish-Schierholtz situation arises. Schierholtz is 30 years old and making $5 million this season, which is the fifth-most on the roster in 2014, and he has Ryan Sweeney, Justin Ruggiano, Brett Jackson and Junior Lake competing for an outfield spot (in addition to non-roster invitees Kalish, Chris Coghlan, and Emilio Bonifacio). This creates a scenario where trading Schierholtz is completely reasonable for both Chicago and Detroit.
We’ve discussed almost ad nauseam how the Tigers should approach the loss of Andy Dirks, but this new situation presents an opportunity for the Tigers that is low-cost, low-risk, and has a commitment for only this season. In terms of 2014 payroll, Schierholtz would be the 11th-highest paid Tiger, making the same amount as potential platoon-mate Rajai Davis. So far, so good.
In terms of the skill set he brings to the table, it’s almost perfect: Schierholtz is a good-not-great left-handed bat who brings defensive talent to the corner outfield positions.
Offensively, Schierholtz has shown flashes of power throughout his career as a part-time player and it culminated last season in Chicago in an ISO of .219 and 21 dongs in 503 at bats. His walk rate ebbs and flow as well: in 2012 he showed patience with an 8.6 rate, but 2013 saw him drop to 5.8. His career rate is 6.0, but it seems like 2013 might be more of a fluke now that he’s seen repetition in his career. His wRC+ was 106, which is above average, and he shows a speed score of 4.4 or above when he plays over 100 games (similar to Dirks’ rating), and against righties last year he batted .260 (.170 against LH). Lastly, the dude’s been able to hit doubles at a consistent rate throughout his career, averaging 26 over a 162-game schedule. Still looking good, eh?
Defensively, Schierholtz really fits the bill: He has predominately played either left or right field for the bulk of his career, with most of his innings coming in right. In 2011 as a San Francisco Giant Shierholtz played left field and posted a UZR of 2.5 and had an ARM rating of 0.9. In 2013 as a nearly-everyday rightfielder for the Cubs, had an OOZ of 77 and a UZR of 0.2 in 1,041 innings. Comparatively, Gold Glove-nominated Andy Dirks had an OOZ of 59 and a UZR of 9.4 in 868.2 innings. Before we all squawk about the disparity between their UZR’s, remember: before 2013, Dirks’ was -4.2 and 1.3.
Also, Ol’ Nate has a pretty good arm.
So, suffice it to say, Schierholtz would not only be a pretty good fit as the lefty side of a platoon with Rajai, but his skills in the outfield would remain nearly consistent as if Dirks were still there. He’s affordable, which means he could possibly resign with the Tigers in the outfield and play a bit in right next season if Torii Hunter isn’t retained.
Lastly, the cost wouldn’t seem to be too great, as probably a minor leaguer or two of varied respectability could get the job done. Epstein and Hoyer seem not to be too picky in terms of the talent received in trades (in regard to position players vs. pitchers), so something could very easily get worked out.
Low-risk, low-cost, high-reward, solid beard. What’s not to like about Nate Schierholtz?