Ah! The first Lukewarm Stove of the trade rumor season! It’s both exciting and weird. On the one hand, I can’t wait to get into the weeds on a ton of new rumors and how they either directly or indirectly affect the Chicago Cubs now that we’re well into June and things are a lot more real.
But on the other hand, the Cubs have likely already made their most impactful addition in the form of Craig Kimbrel, and I just doubt anything else comes close to that.
- For one, this starting rotation and starting group of position players is pretty much set in stone, so I don’t see any new players coming in that way (barring some season-altering injury). But for another, the back of the Cubs bullpen looks a whole lot different with Kimbrel and healthy Pedro Strop around.
- With Kimbrel lined up to take on the 9th, the Cubs now have Pedro Strop as a very strong set-up man in the 8th and Steve Cishek/Brandon Kintzler/Carl Edwards Jr. as the mix-and-match 7th inning types (it’s never this defined, of course, but let’s pretend for the discussion). So with those four locked into place, plus Tyler Chatwood and Mike Montgomery filling the “long-men” and spot-starter roles, the Cubs arguably have two – at most – open bullpen spots. Brad Brach is here, but struggling badly, and Kyle Ryan has been fine, but is far from an ideal lefty in the pen.
- If I had to guess, then, I’d bet the Cubs biggest remaining move happens in the bullpen, but I don’t believe it’ll be for a true back-end, impact type. Instead , I can most easily imagine another left-hander to supplement (or replace) Kyle Ryan on the depth chart. That player might range from someone who’s a legit lockdown reliever (lefty or otherwise), like Will Smith, to someone who can be more of a lefty-specialist like Tony Watson. Brett discussed both players, who were recently connected to the Cubs in rumors, just the other day.
- But they’re far from the only available arms on the market. Jon Morosi recently reported the Tigers willingness to trade some key veteran players, including closer Shane Greene. But while Greene has been pretty good this season (1.00 ERA, 20 saves), lefties have actually crushed him throughout his career: .286/.364/.454 (352 wOBA). While he might represent an overall upgrade to the Cubs bullpen, particularly against righties, what I said about someone to handle the left-handed hitters stands. For what it’s worth, Morosi mentions only the Phillies as a potential suitor for Greene at this point, though obviously a lot can change as time goes on.
- Another popular and oft-rumored Cubs relief target (at least before Kimbrel was added) is Ken Giles. Giles may have had his issues in the past and may also be a righty, but he’s been straight up dominant this season (1.08 ERA, 1.15 FIP) and is absolutely stifling lefties since the beginning of the year: .128/.180/.255 (.189 wOBA). In fact, in over 300 career IP, Giles has been a lot tougher on lefties (.250 wOBA) than righties (.282 wOBA). But there’s a big, fat catch.
- He just got hurt:
Right elbow inflammation for Ken Giles. Clay Buchholz transferred to the 60-day IL to make room for Jordan Romano on the 40-man roster.
— Shi Davidi (@ShiDavidi) June 12, 2019
- According to Shi Davidi, Giles said he felt fine on the mound, but his recovery from back-to-back outings against the Yankees last week is taking longer than usual. Although he doesn’t expect to be gone for long – he’s officially on the 10-Day IL – the “right elbow inflammation” might scare some teams off – or, at least, that’s what they’ll say. And if the Blue Jays are finding insufficient offers for a reliever of Giles’ caliber because of the injury, they may decide to just hold onto him this season and trade him this winter or next season.
- Despite winning records, both the Diamondbacks and Rangers have a tough outlook in terms of reaching the postseason this year, but neither team is apparently willing to sit back and take it. D-Backs GM Mike Hazen is certainly the more conservative of the two, citing the team’s competitiveness closer to the deadline as a signal to invest more in this team or start planing for the future. While Rangers GM Jon Daniels suggests that the actual on-field results are only part of their broader strategic plans (that’s a pretty fun difference in philosophy). Both teams, however, are looking for starting pitchers and Arizona has reportedly looked into Mike Leake. It’s not clear where either of them will go, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see some activity from both of them.
- I don’t necessarily believe that activity will lead either team to come calling on someone like Tyler Chatwood or Mike Montgomery, but both could be starters, so … who knows (right now)?
- And as a final, broad note: Red Sox President Dave Dombrowski recently said that he does NOT think the league’s decision to eliminate the August 31st waiver deadline will necessarily make teams more aggressive earlier in the trading season – as has been predicted. While I don’t suppose I can argue with the “earlier” part of his belief, I do think the elimination of that deadline should end up in *more* deals than there would have been otherwise. Whether that happens now or closer to July 31st is somewhat irrelevant and not exactly what was being predicted in my experience. That’s still interesting to note. Brett got more into the new unified Trade Deadline earlier today.
- For what it’s worth, the Red Sox did not consider signing Craig Kimbrel this season and they could still be open to selling at the deadline if their slow start continues/gets worse. That would be a fun fire sale. Then again, even if Dombrowski is the sort of executive that loves to be active, I doubt we see a big Red Sox sell off any time soon. Read more right here.