For the last year or so, people have been asking what the Cubs are going to do with all these infielders. A trade, or several trades, has always seemed likely, so perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised that the Cubs shipped Luis Valbuena to the Astros in exchange for Dexter Fowler and Dan Straily.
Valbuena and Fowler are somewhat similar players, as both draw a lot of walks and have average power, making them slightly above average hitters. Fowler’s a better baserunner, while Valbuena’s a better defender, but the overall packages are similar, and both project to be roughly league average players in 2015. The Astros are getting two years of Valbuena’s services in exchange for one of Fowler, though,
which is why they added Straily as a sweetener making it a little strange that Chicago had to throw in Straily as well. This seems like a nice deal for Houston, given that they probably don’t get any worse and cut $4 million from their payroll, plus pick up a 2016 asset.
For the Cubs, they get to arrange their assets a bit more optimally, as Valbuena was blocking Kris Bryant’s path to the big leagues. Assuming Bryant will be on the team on May 1st, an OF is better for Chicago than infield depth, so making this swap now gives them a chance to avoid a roster crunch a month into the season. And they also get a chance to sign Fowler beyond 2015 if they so desire, so perhaps this isn’t a pure rental for them either.
This seems like a better deal for Houston, but it makes sense for Chicago as well, given their backlog of infield talents. If Bryant is what people expect him to be, no one will miss Valbuena for very long.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.