Ah, late June. The time of year when the fakers and the makers begin to separate themselves into groups and pine over each other’s players and prospects.
Indeed, in every season since this particular window of contention opened up (2015-now), the Chicago Cubs have been big buyers around this time of the year (Fernando Rodney, Austin Jackson, Dan Haren, Mike Montgomery, Aroldis Chapman, Joe Smith, Jose Quintana, Alex Avila, Justin Wilson, Jesse Chavez, Brandon Kintzler, Daniel Murphy, and Cole Hamels are just some of the names they acquired around now).
But of course, this season is different for many different reasons, including …
(1) There is only one unified Trade Deadline this year on July 31st, which means there’ll be no August waiver wire transactions (like Murphy last season);
(2) The Cubs have already made a really big acquisition in the form of Craig Kimbrel;
(3) There’s a readily apparent need on offense, not just in the bullpen/rotation; and
(4) Questions around the budget elasticity persist, especially now that the Cubs have signed Kimbrel (even if Ben Zobrist doesn’t ever return).
All of which leaves us Cubs fans wondering … ARE THEY GONNA MAKE ANY MORE NOTABLE MOVES?!
Now usually, we don’t get a very straight-forward answer to a broad question like that, but this time we kinda did. Here’s Jed Hoyer on 670 The Score, when asked if it’s time to look at different solutions for some of the lineup spots, in particular (emphasis mine):
“I do think we’ll certainly look outside for answers. I think that whether we find those answers is a question. I think the trade market could be tough, and we’re not going to make change for change’s sake. But this is an offense that probably doesn’t have quite the depth that (it used to have). Obviously, we certainly miss (Ben Zobrist’s) presence, his quality at-bats, his on-base skills. We wouldn’t be doing our job to not do our due diligence, to not think about those things externally. Whether they happen or not, I’m not sure.” Hoyer continued: “If an external move makes sense to jump-start the offense, maybe we’ll do that.”
I’m not saying that’s a resounding confirmation that the Cubs are going to go out and get a bat on the trade market (as Hoyer noted, it’s not entirely within their control), but when the GM suggests twice – inside a minute or so – that the Cubs could look outside of the organization for an answer to those questions, it’s pretty tough to ignore.
With questions at second base and in the outfield, and with no definitive certainty that Ben Zobrist is going to return (much less soon), I’d say it’s fair to just believe Hoyer. Moreover, it’s not as if internal bumps – Ian Happ? Robel Garcia? – are certain to make an impact.
I’m not sure exactly whom the Cubs will target just yet (Whit Merrifield was a rumor all offseason, though he was extended on a modest deal before the season began, Howie Kendrick’s name has popped up here lately, and I think we’d all be thrilled to see the below-.500 Nationals become sellers and ship him or (dream?) free-agent to be Anthony Rendon to Chicago), but I do think the Cubs could try to find somebody. Of course, if and when they do, the prospect cache they’ve only just built back up may be significantly impacted once again.
So if you’re anxious for a deal and are starting to get excited about some of the names I mentioned above, just remember, you have to trade quality to get it (and quality, in this system, means guys like Nico Hoerner, Adbert Alzolay, Miguel Amaya, Cole Roederer, Brennan Davis, Brailyn Marquez, Tyson Miller, and more – guys you’d hate to see moved).