While it’s true that the majority of in-season, big-league trades come after the draft, discussions certainly begin before that. In fact, year after year, reports suggest that trade discussions actually began in the offseason prior to the deadline (or sometimes even earlier), but were ongoing all the while.
So, as we stand here today, just under a week away from the draft, trust that trades may not start trickling out for a few weeks, but discussions have already begun …
- In a recent column at the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo lists Chicago as one of the team’s that’s been trending in the wrong direction (it was written before their 4-game win streak, so that’s understandable). However, he mentioned that he’s “certain” Theo Epstein will spring into action on the trade market, possibly targeting one of Chris Archer, Alex Cobb, or Ervin Santana.
- We’ve heard Cobb’s and Archer’s names attached to the Cubs for almost three years now, so there’s probably at least some actual interest there. Santana, on the other hand, is a relatively new name. At 34 years old, Santana is coming off a 3.2 WAR season with the Twins in 2016 and has two more years of team control (one of via a club option). Unfortunately, while his 2.44 ERA looks brilliant, his 4.64 FIP, 18.6 K% and 10.3 BB% are far less inspiring. Santana would probably be an upgrade over the back of the Cubs’ rotation, but that’s just not the direction in which I see the Cubs heading. My best guess is they’ll either add a rental closer to the top of the rotation and reassess in the offseason, or they’ll add a younger, cost-controlled starter who could stick around for a few more years.
- On May 13, Bryce Harper and the Washington Nationals agreed to terms on a one-year deal worth $21.625 million for the 2018 season – a record contract for an arbitration eligible player. However, Harper’s still heading for free agency and when he gets there, he’s going to get paaaaaid. And before you start licking your chops, Cubs fans, just listen to the way one GM put his potential future earnings:
“Four hundred million is light,” the GM said. “It’s going to be more than that. If you could sign him to a 15-year contract, you do it. I would say something in the range of $35 million a year, maybe closer to the high 30s. It could approach 40 million dollars a year.”
- Yo. According to the report, the Yankees, Phillies, and Dodgers are all expected to be in the mix, but that feels almost entirely based on their ability to pay, as opposed to their fit. But, as Brett mentioned earlier, there’s exactly 0 teams that couldn’t fit someone like Harper into their lineup one way or another. This story is still a ways away from paying off, but boy is it going to be fun to follow … especially if his rumored desire to play at Wrigley Field is true.
- Shohei Otani is still dealing with a left hamstring injury and may not return to action until July. He’s played in just eight games this season, all of which have come as the designated hitter. Rumors have suggested that he’ll still be heading to the states after this season (effectively taking the Cubs out of the running thanks to the CBA), but we’ll see if that remains true as we approach the winter. In the meantime, Chuck Wasserstrom has put together the ultimate scouting guide to Shohei Otani at MLB Trade Rumors, and you’re really going to want to check it out. Nothing on Otani has been this comprehensive yet.
- The Pittsburgh Pirates may be just 3.5 games back in the NL Central, but they’re five games below .500, and are playing without Starling Marte (80-game suspension), without Jung Ho Kang (still in Korea), and with the ghost of Andrew McCutchen (.232/.313/.419). Needless to say, selling off at the deadline is well within the realm of possibility. And one such name that everyone keeps coming to is Gerrit Cole.
- Cole isn’t quite pitching like himself this season (4.27 ERA, 4.78 FIP), but his 19.7% HR/FB ratio is WAY out of whack with his career mark (9.3%), and he’s a 26-year-old starter just a season removed from a 5+ WAR season. Plus, he’s under control (via arbitration) for 2.5 more seasons, so there’s plenty of value to be had there. Of course, the real question is whether or not the Pirates would consider moving Cole to a divisional rival like the Cubs (and vice versa). My gut says no. BUT, the Pirates are always in search for young, cost-controlled talent, and the Cubs have that in spades. If it weren’t for the shared division, I’d actually call these two teams a really nice match.
- The San Francisco Giants are a massive 12.0 games back of first place in the NL West, and a full 11.0 games below .500. So, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick asks, “Is it time to break up the Giants?” If the team does go in this direction this July, don’t expect players like Buster Posey or Madison Bumgarner to be on the move. However, guys like Johnny Cueto (who could be a free agent at the end of the summer) and Jeff Samardzija represent the sort of trade candidates who could could conceivably overlap with the Cubs’ needs. I’ll hold off on digging any deeper on both until these rumors get a little more concrete, but you should know that Jeff Samardzija’s 2.89 FIP and 2.72 xFIP rank 4th in baseball. The former is one spot ahead of Clayton Kershaw, the latter is one spot behind him.
- The Cubs may have just swept the Cardinals, but that doesn’t mean they’re giving up on 2017 (because, duh). At the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, however, Derrick Goold writes about how the Cardinals’ lineup lacks a “centerpiece” to rally around and get things started. Perhaps, then, they’ll add a bat this July.
- Among the potential options listed, you’ll find names like Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas (indeed, a number of Royals are being heavily scouted), Todd Frazier, Zack Cozart, or potentially even Josh Donaldson. Whether the Cardinals decide to give up some prospects in exchange for a pricey bat, however, depends entirely on how the next 4-6 weeks go. If they’re still hovering around or below .500 at the All-Star break (and are behind both the Brewers and Cubs in the division), don’t expect them to make a big splash. If, however, they leap frog into first or second place, well, the Cardinals are nothing if not ambitious.
- And finally, other potentially available bats this summer include a few guys playing at Wrigley Field right now … just for the other team. Marlins outfielders Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna, as well as catcher J.T. Realmuto, are all considered to be available according to Ken Rosenthal (via MLB Trade Rumors), and they too could be targets for the Cardinals (well, probably not Realmuto).
- Yelich is hitting just below average this season, but was a 4.4 WAR player last year and is still just 25. He’s easily one of the more exciting young players in the game. Ozuna, 26, is having a HUGE breakout at the plate this season, earning a 153 wRC+ through his first 56 games. His presence on the market could really reshape a number of divisional races. However, because both are 1) really good, 2) young, 3) cheap, and 4) under control for multiple years, it’ll be tough to pry either away, even from the Marlins. And, to be quite clear, given the Cubs’ assets/needs, none of these three represent obvious matches for Chicago.