We started talking this week about the new, unified Traded Deadline on July 31 – there is no more August waiver trade period – and Cubs President Theo Epstein himself suggested that it could have an impact on the trade season landscape, telling Patrick Mooney at The Athletic that he anticipates a higher volume of trades, even if many are smaller.
Will the Cubs be in on those smaller deals? Annually, they pick up certain types in August – veteran bench guy/third catcher, speed guy, depth relievers – and doing so by trade this year would require pulling it off by the end of July. The rub there is that, unlike in years past when you could add those fringe roster types on August 31, just before rosters expand to the full 40-man, this year, you’d have to actually carry the guy for a month longer before rosters expand. That’s necessarily going to create a serious challenge, and I tend to think you’ll see those fringier types picked up in July only if they can be stashed at AAA until September. Otherwise, the Cubs and others might just have to lean heavily on waiver claims in August for those types.
What about truly impactful July trade additions? We know the Cubs have already made their biggest addition by signing Craig Kimbrel, but that’s not going to be the only move they explore or make.
To that end, Mooney indicates precisely what everyone following the team is already thinking: “The Cubs believe that they’ve already addressed their biggest need and can now target left-handed relievers.”
Right now, the Cubs’ lefty contingent on the 40-man roster includes:
- Mike Montgomery (has not had a lot of success as a shorter-outing lefty)
- Tim Collins (looks the part, but meh performance)
- Kyle Ryan (meh results, good peripherals, hit very hard at times)
- Xavier Cedeño (rehabbing, didn’t look great when healthy)
- Randy Rosario (has gotten decent big league results at times, but hasn’t really looked the part)
Brian Duensing is also still around, but he’s been injured and underwhelming at Iowa this year.
On the whole, as you start thinking about lefty options for a postseason bullpen, there just isn’t much there that inspires confidence. Indeed, it’s not even a situation where there’s an obvious LOOGY in whom you’d have a ton of confidence.
The Cubs will try to attack this issue in the coming weeks. I have no doubt.
How exactly? What type of reliever would they go after? Well, I think the Cubs would be well-served targeting EITHER a quality full-inning reliever who happens to be a lefty, or even just a mere LOOGY type who can solely get lefties out. It’s a little harder to carry that second guy on the regular season roster (a guy you previously might have just picked up in August). But once you get to September, it’s not an issue, and in the postseason, it’s almost a must to have a LOOGY.
Again, then, I circle back to the unified Trade Deadline. If the Cubs wind up targeting a pure LOOGY type, I expect that to be a July 30/31 addition, shortening the length of time they’d have to make that work on the roster. If they want to go after an impact reliever who happens to be a lefty (*I’ll just be over here dreaming on Will Smith*), then you might see them entertaining discussions much sooner.
I look forward to the rumors starting to develop, and also more sellers starting to define themselves – at that point, the market will become more clear, together with the Cubs’ realistic options.