mets logo featuredEarly in the offseason, and even extending back to midseason last year, when discussing the possible surplus of interesting New York Mets pitchers, the idea was to somehow get one of the better ones – the younger ones – onto the Chicago Cubs. Those were the rumors, anyway. The interminable drumbeat out of New York of the Cubs having to unload a shortstop, and the Mets willing to part with one or two medium-grade pitching prospects. Cubs fans never did understand it, and nothing ever came of it.

Fast-forward to today, and the possibility of the Mets trading a pitcher is still of interest to the Cubs, but not in the same way. Specifically, the Mets have long been reportedly looking to trade some of their rotation depth – Bartolo Colon, Jon Niese, and Dillon Gee, for three examples – to shore up the other side of the ball/pick up a prospect, to save some cash, and to open up space in the rotation for their many quality young arms. That’s relevant to the Cubs, of course, because they’ve got their own rotation depth to move, and the market here is likely interrelated.

So, let’s consider this new report:

First thing’s first: this could be the same old posture we see teams engage in from time to time when everyone knows they’re looking to do Thing X. “You know, we don’t have to do Thing X. We’re perfectly content doing Thing Y, or just standing pat and not doing Thing X. In fact, we really like the opposite of Thing X.”

That said, the fact remains that the Mets had an obvious surplus of tradable back-end starters, and didn’t make a deal. That could mean their demands were too aggressive, or it could mean they found a soft market.

And here’s where we note the Cubs’ position: given the extreme rotation depth, they’d probably like to deal at least one of Travis Wood or Edwin Jackson (eating salary on the latter to make it happen), and with the Mets out, maybe the Cubs now have an easier path. It’s not at all hard to see how the Cubs’ back-end depth would have been competing with the Mets on the trade market, given the rough similarities in cost, control, and expected performance.

But, on the other hand, maybe the Mets pulling out is just the canary in the coal mine of a terrible trade market for these types of pitchers. Looking around the game, I can see teams that could stand to add a back-end arm, but maybe not at the cost of some cash and a prospect. And maybe teams aren’t interested in a couple years of control when they’re eyeing an extremely deep pitching pool next year (both in the upper tier and middle tier). So, then, maybe they’re solely looking for a one-year depth addition, and aren’t loving the prices from the Mets or the Cubs or any other team.

Of course, it’s also possible that there’s absolutely no relationship between the Mets’ failed (so far) efforts to deal a starting pitcher and the Cubs’ starting pitcher retention (so far).

In either case, the Cubs may wind up proceeding like the Mets: carry everyone into Spring camp and see what happens on other teams and on their own team. You never know when a rash of injuries might plague teams around the league and open up opportunities … or when a rash of injuries on your own team might leave you wishing you’d held onto that extreme depth.

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