Despite the hole the Cubs have already dug (and continue to dig) for themselves this season, I still believe they have the best shot at winning the NL Central.
However, an NL Central victory far from assured, which is why I think the Cubs should still very much add this deadline. When you are the best bet, but not a lock, to win a division, every incremental win added carries a whole lot more weight. I’ll be surprised to see them stand pat this July, even if they won’t force a major trade before the deadline.
- Over at FanRag Sports, Jon Heyman does his usual team notes dump, and there are a couple of interesting rumors tucked in there. For one, Heyman is hearing that Julio Teheran could be made available this season and the Cubs are one of the three theoretical landing spots (along with the Astros and Yankees). Teheran is having a horrible season on the mound (5.14 ERA, 5.71 FIP), but was a 3.2 WAR pitcher last season with a 3.21 ERA and 3.69 FIP. Given his age (26) and cheap control (through 2020), the Cubs would almost certainly be interested in adding Teheran to their long term plans.
- Also from that Heyman article, the Pirates are probably not going to move Gerrit Cole this summer. He was never likely to wind up in Chicago anyway, but it seems the Pirates are planning on holding onto him.
- One more piece from Heyman at FanRag covers nine trades that make sense for this deadline. Among the many deals, Heyman sees Quintana heading to the Astros, David Robertson heading to the Nationals, and … Justin Verlander heading to the Cubs in exchange for Thomas Hatch, Jose Paulino, and Jose Rosario. Those are three of the Cubs better (top 30ish) pitching prospects, including last year’s third round (but first Cubs) pick. Heyman suggests that the industry “buzz” has the Cubs as the team most interested in Verlander so far, so maybe this rumor will continue to build smoke.
- At ESPN, Buster Olney writes that if the Blue Jays decide to sell, Marcus Stroman will be at the top of many buyers’ wish lists. More specifically, he mentions the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros as two teams who’d be certain to come calling. Stroman is having a solid season, with a 3.42 ERA and a 3.51 xFIP over 105.1 IP. His (still low) strikeout rate has crept up over 20% and his (solid) walk rate has dripped down to 6.1%. Like Teheran, Stroman is just 26 years old and under team control through the 2020 season. That the Cubs would be interested is no surprise. Now we just have to wait and see if the Blue Jays are willing to deal.
- We touched on this yesterday in the Justin Verlander smoke/rumor piece, but Sahadev Sharma has an excellent look at the various and potentially available (to the Cubs) starting pitchers this summer over at the Athletic. Unfortunately, as reality often is, he believes that you can “cross off” Chris Archer from your list and consider “Marcus Stroman” to be a pipe dream. With that said, he does believe that each of Sonny Gray, Jeff Samardzija, and Justin Verlander are all “legit targets” this summer, and each presents his own unique challenges and benefits. I think it’s pretty safe to say that Gray is the most desirable starter long term, but you can probably argue which will be the most helpful in the second half. For a thoughtful discussion on all of the above players, be sure to check out the piece yourself.
- According to Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald, the Marlins are concentrating their scouting efforts on about six farm teams in preparation for a roster sell-off this July. Those six teams include the Yankees, Red Sox, Brewers, Rockies and … Cubs. It’s not quite clear who the Cubs would have interest in, but maybe a reunion with Dan Straily could be in the cards. He’s got a 3.51 ERA through 95.0 IP this season, which would be almost a half-run better than any single starting pitcher on the Cubs. He’s also still just 28 years old and under control through 2020. Perhaps, as a lower cost alternative, the Cubs could target someone like Straily to start building out the rotation for the future.
- Earlier today, rumors were circulating that the Milwaukee Brewers were planning on adding at the deadline, specifically targeting starting pitchers like Sonny Gray or Jose Quintana. Obviously, given their position in the NL Central and everything I said in the introduction, adding via trade could make some sense and they certainly have the prospect pieces to pull something off. At MLB.com, Jon Morosi echoes those “Brewers as buyers” predictions, and adds the Blue Jays’ J.A. Happ to the mix of potential targets. And, at a minimum, the Brewers’ involvement in the starting pitching market could drive up prices for the Cubs. This is not an enviable position.
- And finally, at 44-40, the Kansas City Royals are just 1.0 games out of first place in the AL Central. Naturally, that means they’re looking for upgrades, specifically in the rotation. At MLB Trade Rumors, Steve Adams writes that the Royals could add to the rotation this summer, though they’d most likely be looking at rental starters for payroll flexibility reasons. Among the names they could be interested in, you’ll find Trevor Cahill, Jhoulys Chacin, Scott Feldman, Alex Cobb, Derek Holland, Lance Lynn, and Jamie Garcia. Beyond that, Adams also includes Jeremy Hellickson, Johnny Cueto, Marco Estrada, and Francisco Liriano as potentially available options.
- I don’t necessarily see the Royals as a direct market competitor for starting pitchers, but there could be some overlap. Fortunately, as that long list of names implies, there are plenty of theoretically available rental arms.