Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

james shields padresWith the Chicago Cubs likely buyers this year for the first time in the last several Trade Deadlines, we thought it would be appropriate to take a brief look at some of the teams that could become sellers. These teams could present possible fits for the Cubs should they look to improve externally. 

Previously: Philadelphia Phillies, Milwaukee Brewers, Cincinnati Reds, Colorado Rockies, Atlanta Braves, Oakland Athletics.

Possible Seller

San Diego Padres

Record and Standings

  • Current Record: 44-49 (.473 W%)
  • Projected End of Season Record (PECOTA): 77-85
  • Standings: Third place in NL West, 6.0 games back of second Wild Card

Why They Might Be Sellers

The Padres went for it in 2015. I mean really went for it. They made a series of high profile trades and signings this offseason, in an effort to force contention in a division led by the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers – two of the best teams in baseball. Unfortunately, it did not really go according to plan, and the Padres have just a 1.6% chance to make the playoffs in 2015 despite a recent five-game winning streak (according to BP). Because of a limited budget, several expiring contracts, a dim immediate future and an all or nothing offseason strategy, the Padres will likely be blowing things up this deadline. This Grantland article by Rany Jazayerli sums up the entire situation, if you are unfamiliar.

How Soon They Could Be Ready to Sell

Despite Justin Upton’s request to the contrary, I suspect the Padres are very well near a full-on sale this July. There are so many potentially available players, though, that when they will sell is not very easy to define. In general, all of the players listed below will/should be available, but some are more likely to go sooner than others. Players with contracts expiring at the end of 2015, for example, will likely be the first out the door.

Realistically Available Players That Might Interest the Cubs

  • Craig Kimbrel
    • Position: Reliever/Closer
    • Bats/Throws: R/R
    • Age: 27
    • Contract: $9M in 2015, $11M in 2016, $13M in 2017, $13M club option ($1M buyout) in 2018
    • 2015 Stats: 35.1 IP, 3.06 ERA (2.21 xFIP), .347 BABIP, 26.4 K-BB%, .9 WAR
    • Recent Rumors/News on Bleacher Nation: Here, here.
  • Joaquin Benoit
    • Position: Reliever
    • Bats/Throws: R/R
    • Age: 37
    • Contract: $8M in 2015, $8M club option ($1.5M buyout) in 2016
    • 2015 Stats: 39.2 IP, 2.50 ERA (3.81 xFIP), .158 BABIP, 14.3 K-BB%, -.2 WAR
    • Recent Rumors/News on Bleacher Nation: Here.
  • James Shields
    • Position: Starting Pitcher
    • Bats/Throws: R/R
    • Age: 33
    • Contract: $10M in 2015, $21M in 2016, $21M in 2017, $21M in 2018, $16M club option ($2M buyout) in 2019, Shields can opt out of his contract after 2016
    • 2015 Stats: 121.2 IP, 3.92 ERA (3.31 xFIP), .316 BABIP, 18.1 K-BB%, .7 WAR
    • Recent Rumors/News on Bleacher Nation: Here, herehere, and here.
  • Tyson Ross
    • Position: Starting Pitcher
    • Bats/Throws: R/R
    • Age: 28
    • Contract: $5.25M in 2015, arbitration eligible in 2016 and 2017
    • 2015 Stats: 117 IP, 3.38 ERA (3.17 xFIP), .332 BABIP, 13.4 K-BB%, 2.5 WAR
    • Recent Rumors/News on Bleacher Nation: Herehere and here.
  • Ian Kennedy
    • Position: Starting Pitcher
    • Bats/Throws: R/R
    • Age: 30
    • Contract: $9.85M in 2015
    • 2015 Stats: 84.1 IP, 4.91 ERA (3.94 xFIP), .284 BABIP, 13.9 K-BB%, -.6 WAR
    • Recent Rumors/News on Bleacher Nation: Here and here.
  • Andrew Cashner
    • Position: Starting Pitcher
    • Bats/Throws: R/R
    • Age: 28
    • Contract: $4.05M in 2015, arbitration eligible in 2016
    • 2015 Stats: 109.2 IP, 4.10 ERA (3.69 xFIP), .312 BABIP, 13.5 K-BB%, 1.1 WAR
    • Recent Rumors/News on Bleacher NationHere.
  • Justin Upton
    • Position: Outfielder
    • Bats/Throws: R/R
    • Age: 27
    • Contract: $14.5M in 2015
    • 2015 Stats: 370 PAs, .252/.331/.426, .307 BABIP, 10.3 BB%, 25.9 K%, 1.9 WAR
    • Recent Rumors/News on Bleacher Nation: Here and here.
  • Will Venable
    • Position: Outfielder
    • Bats/Throws: L/L
    • Age: 32
    • Contract: $4.25M in 2015
    • 2015 Stats: 237 PAs, .256/.325/.405, .322 BABIP, 9.3 BB%, 24.1 K%, 1.2 WAR
    • Recent Rumors/News on Bleacher Nation: Here, herehere and here.

Overall Fit with Cubs

Whew… that is a lot of available players. Not unlike the Oakland Athletics, the Padres seem to have it all: cheap players, expensive players, expiring contracts, brand new contracts, all stars, role players, aces, back-end starters, closers, and middle relievers. Who the Cubs could target, then, is very difficult to pinpoint. There are so many different options that require just about every possible type of return. Because of the volume of players, I’ll categorize them by position and address the group, as well as each individual, below.

The Relievers

Adding in the bullpen is going to be particularly difficult for the Cubs in 2015. There isn’t necessarily a great need, so there isn’t a desire to overpay. If an attractive, relatively cheap (or long-term) option is available, then a move is possible; if not, then I believe the Cubs may very well (rightfully) stand pat. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like the Padres will be the best bullpen match.

Craig Kimbrel is one of the absolute best closers in baseball and has been for the past several years. Unfortunately, he is paid like one of the absolute best closers in baseball and will be for the next several years. With roughly $40M more still owed to Kimbrel, I don’t see the Cubs making a move for the pricey closer.

Joaquin Benoit may have a 2.50 ERA, but he has a 4.12 FIP that makes you question its veracity. He is 37 years old and is due a bit too much money for an older, not-quite-great-anymore reliever at the end of his career. While he’ll probably be useful to some team in 2015 with a greater need in the bullpen, I don’t think that team will be the Chicago Cubs.

The Starting Pitchers

The Cubs can very much use a starting pitcher for the stretch in 2015; Clayton Richard started yesterday and Dallas Beeler is starting this week, for example. The Padres, then, offer a multitude of options.

The Cubs were widely known to have interest in James Shields late in the offseason, as his decision ultimately came down to the Cubs and Padres, but I’m not so sure that will help a deal happen now. If the Cubs felt Shields was worth the contract the Padres gave him, they would have offered him something closer to what he ultimately received. Giving up prospects AND more money than they felt he was worth just a few months ago doesn’t really make sense and will likely not happen unless the Padres eat a lot of cash. Plus, Shields’ deal is pretty significantly back-loaded, making it even more unattractive than it looked (from this point forward) just a few months ago. The upcoming free agent market makes it all the more unlikely.

Tyson Ross, on the other hand, is an extremely attractive trade target. At just 28 years old with two more years of (arbitration eligible) control, Ross is a pretty ideal fit for a lot of teams, but I think I can make an argument that the Cubs are as good a fit as anyone. Unlike some rental players, Ross helps out (cheaply and significantly) in 2015 and beyond. A team like the Cubs, then, whose future is even brighter than their present, can justify giving up more in trade than someone who is more or less “all in” for 2015 alone. Those all-in teams may be better served targeting the “ace” level rentals available for the rest of the season, who will likely perform better, but cost less in trade. Remember, though, it will not be cheap to acquire Ross.

Ian Kennedy and Andrew Cashner are not necessarily the same caliber as Tyson Ross or James Shields, but they will also cost much less to acquire and/or pay. Kennedy would fit in at the very back end of the rotation and is just a rental, but hasn’t had his best year and may not be as attractive as many other options. Cashner is still young and has some control left, but is also underperforming and has struggled to stay on the field. Both players represent a distinct possibility for 2015, but neither are my first choices.

The Outfielders

The Cubs can use help in the outfield, for several different reasons. First and foremost, the offense has been struggling of late, and the only realistic areas to improve lie in left and center field. Second of all, the three main starters (Coghlan, Fowler and Soler) have had pretty significant injuries in their pasts; it would be quite a challenge to contend without any one of them. The Padres, then, have two fairly solid options to supplement the Cubs.

Justin Upton has reportedly been a target in the past, but the Cubs are reportedly on his no-trade list (a very short list, at that). It’s possible that he would waive those rights to come to a contender, but that represents a pretty significant challenge (although, if the Cubs were the only realistic opportunity, I suspect Upton – an upcoming free agent – would waive his no trade clause to rid himself of draft pick compensation this off season). As a rental, Upton won’t cost an arm and a leg, but he will not come cheap, either. With Chrises Coghlan and Denorfia holding their own in left field, Upton may not represent the best use of resources, right now (especially when you consider his recent oblique issue and production woes over the past month and a half).

Will Venable, then, is a pretty attractive and realistic option. Capable of playing center field and hitting from the left side, Venable represents a solid option to spell righties, as well as a guy that can enter a rotation across the entire outfield. A rental player himself, Venable might not even be too expensive to acquire. He strikes me as a plausible and moderately attractive trade target for the Chicago Cubs.

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