Here’s what we know:
- The state of the Cubs’ rotation is an extreme gray area, ranging from the possibility for six effective starting pitchers by the first week of August to four reasonably effective starting pitchers and scary questions.
- For that reason, Jed Hoyer was pretty open that the Cubs will be exploring trade conversations with teams about starting pitching depth.
- The Mets are terrible, but it’s not immediately clear how deeply they will sell at this trade deadline, and now – chronologically speaking – they will want to set up their rebuild timeline.
- Jacob deGrom is 30, awesome, and under team control via arbitration through 2020. He’s got a 1.79 ERA this year with peripherals to match.
Against that backdrop, you’ve got the Mets possibly considering moving deGrom this trade season, and, if they do, virtually every buyer will be kicking the tires. I have no doubt that will include the Cubs.
However – and I almost never say this with respect to any possible trade – the Cubs simply do not have the prospect currency to pull off a trade for deGrom if the Mets are looking for prospects. I think the Cubs’ farm system has taken some nice steps this year, but with injuries and ineffectiveness at the top, and without any super-duper-shocking breakouts into elite status, there just flat out aren’t the pieces to put together a compelling offer for deGrom, let alone beat other offers out there.
So, then, if the Cubs kick the tires on deGrom and get into some post-tire-kicking chats, the names that would necessarily have to come up would be from the big league roster.
To that end, Bruce Levine has been floating deGrom’s name in connection to the Cubs for a little while now, and, although it’s been difficult to parse just how speculative it is, here’s what he wrote today: “[Addison] Russell and [Ian] Happ would both be in play right now for a pitcher like Mets ace Jacob deGrom, who’s under contract control through 2020. Any team looking to acquire deGrom now would be looking at having three playoff runs with him as a front-line starter …. Starters like deGrom will be on the Cubs’ radar with the health of Yu Darvish up in the air. Theo Epstein and Hoyer have a track record of being aggressive, and the Cubs’ window to win is right now. This time, the difference is that the Cubs will have to trade off their big league roster to make a big move.”
Again, the language is mostly hypothetical, but Levine does raise two specific players on the big league roster who could (1) be attractive enough to the Mets to *MAYBE* headline a deal for deGrom (with much more added if it was just one of those two, let’s be clear about that), and (2) be dealt without crushing the current roster.
I tend to think it’s a very dicey proposition dealing a compelling piece – or more – from the big league roster in the middle of a contending year, but if deGrom is definitely going to be moved this month, maybe you don’t have a choice if you want a crack.
Then I circle back to Point 3 at the top of this post. If the Mets unload, are they looking to get near-ready prospects with an eye toward competing in a few years? Or do they want early-arb/pre-arb guys like Russell or Happ to compete again next year? And if they’re leaning that way, why trade deGrom right now at all?
Synthesizing all of this, I think there’s a very small chance the Cubs could put together a competitive package for deGrom with a guy like Russell or Happ at the center. More likely, another package out there (gulp, hopefully not the Brewers) will simply be better. The dude is just so very valuable. Even more likely than that, the Mets don’t wind up trading deGrom at this time at all.
(All of this ignores how you’d make it work from a rotation/roster perspective, and I do that intentionally: if you have the opportunity to add a guy like deGrom in a trade you’d otherwise make, you just pull the trigger and then figure out how to fit everyone later.)
I tend to think a rental/depth starter is going to be the play for the Cubs this month, and I’m perfectly fine with that. But I suppose we’ll at least keep an eye on the deGrom stuff in case the Mets wind up having a particular affinity for a Cubs player they believe they can pry from the big league roster.