Late last week, Ken Rosenthal reported that the Braves were interested in Cubs outfield Matt Szczur, who is out of minor league options, and is questionable to make the Cubs’ opening day roster. Should he not make the roster, Szczur would have to be placed on waivers, where it sure seems like a rebuilding club (like the Braves) or a club that wants to upgrade its 4th/5th outfielder situation would pounce quickly, and the Cubs might lose Szczur for nothing at all.
So, it’s unsurprising that we learned this weekend that the Cubs are talking to teams about Szczur, who should be appealing to a wide swath of clubs. In fact, the Sun-Times reports that the Cubs are “listening” on Szczur.
As the Sun-Times piece recounts, Cubs manager Joe Maddon was effusive in his praise of Szczur this weekend, going on at length about what a great teammate Szczur is, and how he’s a big league player. The question, of course, is whether Maddon was angling toward getting Szczur included on his roster … or sending a signal to possible trade partners.
In truth, it’s probably a lot of things, but I also have no doubt that Maddon simply genuinely believes Szczur is a great teammate and a big league player, considering how he performed in a bench role for the Cubs last year.
With less than a week to go before Opening Day, it seems more likely than not that a deal is consummated this week. If the right deal doesn’t come together, though, the Cubs may have to decide on whether to risk losing Szczur, whether to option Tommy La Stella to Iowa for a little bit (he’s reportedly said he’d go this time), or whether to begin the season with just seven pitchers in the bullpen.
If the Cubs wind up going the trade route, you’re not going to see a significant return, in part because the very thing that is driving this situation is Szczur’s lack of minor league options, which will make him less attractive to trade partners. They know that if they acquire him, and he doesn’t demonstrate value in short order, they might themselves be confronted by the possibility of losing him for nothing.
Still, a nice low-level, high-risk prospect? A competitive balance draft pick? These things strike me as plausible.
I don’t want to lead anyone into thinking that there is a huge prospect coming at the other end of this. But Szczur has legitimate value to the right team, and, not unlike the Cubs’ recent acquisitions of Alec Mills and Eddie Butler, sometimes interesting guys are made available only because of unique roster considerations by the trading club. Just because the Cubs may not carry Szczur on the opening day roster, that is to say, doesn’t mean he has no trade value.
In the end, the nice thing for Szczur here is that he’s virtually guaranteed to wind up on a big league roster at the end of Spring Training, one way or another. And it’ll either be with the Cubs (cool!), or on a rebuilding team where he gets a starting job, or on another playoff contender. He seems a genuinely great guy, so here’s hoping it’s a good situation for him however this plays out.
Don’t forget, the Cubs’ gold championship gear just came out today, and you can pick yours up only at the official MLB Shop: