The rumors are coming in a lot quicker and with a bit more weight now that the 2016 draft is in the rearview mirror.
So let’s take a look at what exactly is being said about the trade market, and how it might impact the Chicago Cubs …
- We’ve discussed the Cubs pursuit of a late inning reliever a lot lately, especially in regards to a few that are currently wearing navy blue pinstripes. At the highest level, we know that the Cubs are at least scouting each of the top Yankees relievers in Andrew Miller, Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances, with a particular affinity for the lefties Chapman and Miller. Well, Phil Rogers updated the story, confirming the Cubs’ interest in the relievers, but added quite a bizarre and unexpected twist: might the Cubs be interested in acquiring both Chapman and Miller in the same deal? While I can understand the excitement about that kind of rumor (and maybe even could argue the need for the Cubs to pick up two dominant relievers), I don’t suspect that’s very likely. The likelihood and cost of acquiring both of those relievers in the same deal might just be prohibitively high enough for the Cubs to lose interest. Heck, as of yesterday, rumor had it that the Yankees already would be asking for a Ken Giles level return just for Andrew Miller. Throw in Chapman on top of that, and I think you’d see the Cubs politely decline. Do I believe they have legitimate interest in both of these relievers independently? Yes. Might they make a play for one of them? Sure. Will both happen in the same deal? Almost certainly not.
- In fact, the Cubs may not even have a choice in the matter. According to one Major League source, as discussed by Gordon Wittenmyer at the Chicago Sun Times, the Yankees may not even make lefty Andrew Miller available whether they are sellers at the end of July or not. Miller, you’ll recall, is under control through the 2018 season, and the Yankees aren’t exactly strapped for cash. With their resources, they may realistically be very competitive by next season (and in 2018), and need an arm like Miller themselves.
- And taking it a step further, even if one, both, or all three of the Yankees relievers are made available for realistic prices (a bunch of very big “Ifs”), it’s not as though the Cubs are the only team out their looking. In fact, one of the Cubs’ biggest NL threats, the Washington Nationals, may soon be among their biggest competitors in the market for relievers, as well. Why? Well if you missed it, their closer Jonathan Papelbon was recently (Tuesday) placed on the 15-day disabled list, due to a strained ribcage. And here’s the kicker, the Nationals were reportedly already interested in the Yankees’ crop of relievers, before Papelbon went down. If anything, their interest may now exceed that of the Chicago Cubs by a fair amount. (And it’s not like the Cubs and Nationals would be the only interested teams, either.)
- The Rockies just designated shortstop Jose Reyes for assignment immediately upon returning from the restricted list following a domestic violence suspension. Of course, rookie Trevor Story has thrived in Reyes’ absence (.265/.318/.553 with 17 HRs), so the decision was apparently an easy one for the Rockies. Colorado will now have 10 days to trade or release Reyes, who’s owed roughly $13.1 million the rest of the way in 2016, $22 million in 2017 and has a $4 million buyout in 2018. With increasingly shaky defense at shortstop, a poor finish to the 2015 season, and a 50+ game suspension just wrapping up, I doubt Reyes will quickly find a home, even after he clears waivers and is released.
- Buster Olney relays a Joel Sherman report that he Yankees are interested in Cuban third baseman Yulieski Gurriel, but rightly notes that the big-money, can’t-miss tier of MLB-ready Cuban players in recent years has featured a strikingly large number of dead-money, did-miss players (the comparison here is not so much about where the players come from, but the competition level they come from, the limited scouting they receive, the outsized spending that accompanies their unique situation, etc.). Gurriel is believed to be among the very best of the best, but, at 32, it’s fair to wonder if another team is going to be disappointed in the end.
- The Brewers’ Ryan Braun continues to be available and the Giants continue to be interested, especially in the wake of Hunter Pence’s injury, but that may be the extent of this discussion for now. According to Ken Rosenthal, one Major League source suggests that the Giants and the Brewers have had only one “very minimal conversation” regarding a possible swap of players. Moreover, although Braun to the Giants makes sense from a baseball only perspective, there are many more obstacles in the way. Most notably, Rosenthal writes, Braun’s contract ($19M in 2016, plus another $80M over the next four years), the Brewers ‘goal in trade (they are not looking just to dump salary, they want a solid return), the Giants’ luxury-tax concerns (they’re already pushing up against the $189 million threshold), the Giants’ future payroll, Braun’s past, and more. Suffice it to say, Rosenthal sees some hurdles.
- For his part, Braun is not interested in all of the rumors, which tend to change on a day by day basis. “It seems regardless of which team we’re playing,” Braun said via Michael Wagaman at MLB.com, “that’s the team I’m getting traded to.” Indeed, Braun does nail it on the head in that respect. This time of the year, rumors fly in every direction. Some are based in fact and will ultimately lead to a deal, some are based in fact and will head nowhere, and still others are uselessly thin or mostly fabricated (either directly by a team/agent for a particular agenda or via the misinterpretation or misrepresentation of actual facts). In this case, you can be assured that the Braun (and, to that end, Jonathan Lucroy) will be available, and the Giants do seem like a reasonable fit for the outfielder from a baseball perspective.
- Lastly, let’s dip back into a story we haven’t discussed in a while: Tyson Ross. Ross, 29, was a hot and heavy Cubs trade target last season, because 1) he’s a good starting pitcher, but at least as importantly 2) he had multiple years of control remaining. Despite still having a year and half of team control, we haven’t heard much on Ross this season, because he’s been out with a shoulder injury since opening day. There’s good news on that front, though, as Dennis Lin is reporting Ross played some long toss today at 150 feet and is eyeing a bullpen session as soon as this weekend. If he can return soon enough, the Padres may be able to show that he is still healthy and effective and work out a deadline deal before August 1. It’s unclear how interested the Cubs would be, but – to be certain – they had serious interest in the past. If he can show he hasn’t been too negatively affected by this absence, perhaps they’ll rekindle those dormant discussions. Or perhaps the specter of a shoulder issue will be too much.
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.