Lukewarm Stove: Cubs Money, Sky-High Prices, Alternative Targets, NL Central Questions, More

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Lukewarm Stove: Cubs Money, Sky-High Prices, Alternative Targets, NL Central Questions, More

Chicago Cubs

Last week, one of my biggest trade season gripes was the general lack of obvious, specific, and consistent rumors surrounding the Cubs and any one player in particular. Well, I think it’s fair to say that has changed.

After the original report from Detroit news revealed the Cubs interest in Tigers outfielder Nick Castellanos, a swath of other reporters, both national and local, confirmed as much, as well. You can now see Jon Morosi, Bruce Levine, David Kaplan, and Patrick Mooney/Sahadev Sharma at The Athletic discuss the Cubs interest in Castellanos (among other names).

  • But before we move on, I want to point out one line, in particular, from Sharma and Mooney’s piece that stood out to me: “To absorb a player like Castellanos [who’s owed around $4M the rest of the season) and his corresponding salary, the Cubs would need to get creative. That could mean shedding money from their major-league roster, paying down the cost with a more attractive package of prospects or getting a raise in the allowance from the Ricketts family ….”
  • As we know, the Cubs customarily prefer to earmark somewhere between $5-$10 million for in-season additions, but this year is a little different. For one, Sharma/Mooney write that the Cubs came in on the lower end of that spectrum this season. And for another, they likely spent some of that space on Craig Kimbrel’s free agent deal. Muddying the waters, of course, is the additionally money that can be saved on Ben Zobrist’s continued absence, but he may yet return (the Cubs should know more sometime this week, actually).
  • So, basically, the Cubs might not know how much money they can add in a deal until they hear from Zobrist, and if he is staying, they may need to part with better prospects to save cash in any such deal of consequence.
  • I wonder if the only reason the entirety of our (er, well, the Cubs?) attention has shifted to Nick Castellanos is because they, too, have found the price on Whit Merrifield to be too high:

  • It would not be surprising for the Royals to keep a high price on Merrifield – especially given that they just extended him this offseason – but I also think it would be pretty uncharacteristic of them not to move a valuable older player for several cheaper, but talented younger guys. That’s what they do. There’s no rush to move Merrifield, but I’d be at least a little nervous a late-breakout like him is going to turn back into a pumpkin at midnight. Or, you know, in 2020.
(Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
  • Just so you can see some of the alternatives all in one place:

  • Of course, a bat is not the only thing the Cubs will look to add at the deadline. They’re also still looking for a reliever – ideally one that throws from the left-side – but according to one AL Executive (per Mark Feinsand), the asking prices on rental relievers right now is “still ridiculously high.” The general belief, then, is that there will be a flurry of moves closer to the July 31st deadline, which is actually great for two reasons: (1) The Cubs will have a better sense of their finances after Zobrist makes his decision, and (2) Brett will have plenty to discuss during his BN Trade Deadline Blogathon! (PLEASE DONATE so we can help make a couple of wishes come true!)
  • For the Cubs, two lefty San Francisco Giants relievers – Will Smith and Tony Watson – have been in that conversation, but it’s not entirely clear if the Giants, who’ve gone 9-2 in the second-half and are now just 2.5 games out of the Wild Card race, will actually sell:

  • Those aren’t the only relievers, of course … and the Cubs are far from the only teams searching for bullpen upgrades:

  • The Red Sox are interested in top-shelf arms like Ken Giles and Kirby Yates, and they should have the pieces and purse to get any one of those deals done. And according to Ken Rosenthal, the Braves are also looking for pitching, both starting and relief, and Giles is a target of theirs, as well. The Cubs were, once upon a time, in play for Giles, but I think the addition of Kimbrel can allow the Cubs a longer leash to wait until the last minute and possibly target a lesser (more affordable) name that just happens to be good against lefties.
  • Speaking of the Braves starting trade targets, Rosenthal suggested Marcus Stroman. And according to Jon Morosi, eight teams – including the Cubs – were at Stroman’s most recent start: Braves, Cubs, Dodgers, Padres, Rays, Reds, Red Sox, and Yankees. However, Morosi points out that some of those teams (I’d have to think probably the Cubs) were there to see the Tigers, including closer Shane Greene.
  • And although they weren’t in attendance, the Washington Nationals also reportedly have eyes for Shane Greene, although Jamal Collier reports that they’re casting a wide net, including: “Tigers closer Shane Greene, Giants right-hander Sam Dyson and Royals left-hander Jake Diekman.” According to Collier, the Tigers asking price on Greene from the Nationals is #20 overall prospect Carter Kieboom. So if you have eyes for him as Cubs fan, you better start thinking Nico Hoerner … and then you better give up, because that ain’t happening.
  • Wrapping things up in the NL Central, the Brewers may soon get more aggressive on a starter, as Brett noted with the Brandon Woodruff injury. Or maybe they slide hard in the next week (including getting swept at home by the Cubs!) and decide to stand pat.
  • The Cardinals find themselves in a similarly tough position: “It’s a little trickier than in the past because what would you do to change?” Mozeliak said. “We need to be more productive offensively, no question. There’s not that one glaring need to do something at a specific position or that we need to add for a specific role. It’s one of the harder teams to say, ‘This is how we can improve,’ because what you want to say is, ‘Improve as a whole team.’”
  • And so do the Pirates: “We’d love to be able to add to this group,” GM Neal Huntington said recently. “We’ll see where we go. We’ll see what the market allows and where we can move this market in one direction or the other.” For what it’s worth, Huntington and the Pirates seem to be thinking more long-term than short-term with their potential moves, but we’ll see how that actually manifests when push comes to shove.

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Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami