andrew miller yankeesFor a team like the Chicago Cubs, it’s not easy or obvious to point to a serious deficiency requiring a clear upgrade at the midseason Trade Deadline. With an injury or two here, or a dramatic fall off in performance there, clarity could come, of course. And things could change.

But, over the past few weeks, there has been one area of focus in Cubs trade rumors: adding an elite, impact arm to the bullpen. More specifically, rumors and discussion about Yankees lefty Andrew Miller has bounced around, and he does seem like an excellent fit *IF* the Yankees decide to sell.

To that end, the Yankees have warmed up quite a bit lately, and, although they’re 5.5 out in a very competitive AL East, they are but a game below .500 and just 3.0 games back of a Wild Card spot. The Yankees may not sell this year, and, even if they do, they might not want to move a multi-year piece like Miller (he’s under team control through 2018 at $9 million per year).

Instead, for example, the Yankees might prefer to deal closer Aroldis Chapman, who is a free agent after this season in which he’ll make $11.325 million.



Chapman, you’ll recall, was traded to the Yankees after a scary-sounding domestic incident for which he was ultimately suspended 30 games. To say that he’d come with some baggage is more than fair, and the impact on the clubhouse would have to weighed alongside the impact on the diamond. For that reason, but much more because of his impending free agency, Chapman would cost a great deal less in trade than Miller, or fellow late-inning reliever Dellin Betances.

Yes, even the 28-year-old pre-arbitration righty comes in for a mention in this space, because a report out of New York has the Cubs scouting all three Yankees relievers.

To be sure, the Cubs are going to be keeping plenty of options on the table here in June before making a more focused, aggressive push in July, but Gordon Wittenmyer reports that the Cubs could be looking to “strike early” in a deal to add pitching. Should the Yankees sell, their trio of arms would be of obvious interest to the Cubs (among many other teams).

The price tags would vary from extremely expensive (Betances) to very expensive (Miller) to pretty darn expensive (Chapman), which makes the situation all the more interesting, as a team like the Cubs would have to weight not only which arm they prefer, but also the relative preference in pairing with the acquisition cost – as well as planning for beyond 2016.

In such a deal, though, Wittenmyer hears that Willson Contreras, Javy Baez, and Kyle Schwarber (as we’ve heard before) are off the table. From a pure value perspective, I could actually make an argument that Betances or Miller is worth one from that group, but when you dig in on the value those players have to the Cubs (and the healthy-return upside of Schwarber), it’s virtually impossible to justify dealing one or more for a bullpen arm, even one of the best bullpen arms in baseball.



On the year, Betances sports a 3.23 ERA over 30.2 innings, but a 1.32 FIP and a 0.95(!) xFIP thanks to a mind-boggling 49.2% K rate and 6.7% BB rate. In his 26.2 innings, Miller is at 1.01/1.05/0.99 in ERA/FIP/xFIP, and owns a 48.0% K rate with a 3.0% BB rate, which just leaves you shaking your head. In Chapman’s 14.0 innings, he’s posted a 1.93/0.75/2.27 line with a “mere” 37.5% K rate and 5.4% BB rate.

From a performance standpoint, there is not a bullpen in baseball that is not dramatically improved immediately upon adding any one of these three arms.

So, then, this will remain something to watch closely.

One final thing. You may have seen some rumors pop up on Twitter over the past few days, which I’ll note here mostly for the responses from Sahadev Sharma and Dave Kaplan, each of which confirm that the Cubs are in the market for a bullpen arm. As for the original Chapman rumor below, I will say that Christopher Meola is best known for breaking the Giancarlo Stanton extension (in almost perfect detail), so his words merit a fraction more attention than you might otherwise give a stray Twitter claim.



That said, with Sharma and Kaplan quickly responding in such strong terms, I think it’s fair to presume that, while there’s obvious interest between the Cubs and Yankees in doing something, the specifics are not there yet:


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