Peter Gammons, who has a longstanding relationship with Cubs President Theo Epstein, is among the best reporters in the baseball world, even to this day. When he speaks on the Cubs and the rumor du jure, I listen.
To that end, Gammons was on The Score today with Mully and Hanley, and, among other things, addressed the proliferation of Cubs-Manny Machado trade rumors. While he understands the greatness of Machado, he reiterated a couple known stances: the Cubs are not looking to trade for rentals now at the expense of building back up the farm system (something Theo Epstein has said), and Machado is not going to sign a long-term deal with a trading team before hitting free agency.
The Cubs have discussed it, says Gammons, but he bets against it happening. Very directly.
“I’ll guarantee you that it’s been discussed – it’s my understand that it has been,” Gammons said of the Cubs going after Machado. “But it’s just something that Theo won’t do. I think at this point, Theo’s more interested in the attention span of the people playing there in the field right now.”
To be sure, Gammons is giving his perspective on what the Cubs would or would not do, not necessarily reporting that Epstein has told him directly, “In no universe am I trading for Manny Machado.” So we should be careful to be precise about what’s being said. However, I’m willing to get that Gammons has some unique insights into Epstein’s thinking, and I wouldn’t toss away any of this as mere gamesmanship. The Orioles are going to get a haul for a couples months of Machado, and, barring some dramatic turn of events, the Cubs are very unlikely to be the team that goes that route.
But it’s been discussed, so it’s not as if this is all being entirely concocted out of whole cloth.
How about that last, sort of cryptic line from Gammons? The conversation shifted away immediately, but then Mully and Hanley brought it back around. Gammons said he wasn’t talking about Kris Bryant or Anthony Rizzo, but otherwise wasn’t going to go into specific names. “[There are three or four guys who some days] just have some strange at bats. As a team, the urgency, I think it will return once they realize, ‘Look at what Pittsburgh is winning with.’ … They do play with an urgency every day … It’s still May. It’ll come along [for the Cubs], but the more important thing is for their good players to play well rather than trade three guys for Manny Machado.”
Even before he expounded, I was taking Gammons to mean the Cubs would like to see internal improvements in the middle infield rather than making a trade to improve. It was an interesting way for Gammons to frame things – is he questioning the focus of other Cubs players? Is the front office? – but the overall message was clear: the Cubs believe they have the pieces already in place to have a perfectly good offense without trading for a pricey rental.