Things change so quickly this time of year that I wanted to vomit out some trade-related thoughts before everything changes again.
While the Cubs are as “in” the division race now as they were a week ago, I think you do have to at least incorporate this past week into your calculus a little bit when it comes to how aggressive to be on the trade market. The Cubs have gone 1-5 in their last six games, which is a pretty dramatic stretch in a tight division when you have to make big decisions about how much to add by Wednesday.
Is it bad enough to fundamentally change your thinking about buying/selling? Nah, nah, nah. The Cubs are a GAME out of first place. If you can win your division, you still shoot for that. Besides, sell … what? The Cubs aren’t exactly constructed like a selling club, because (1) they don’t have a ton of valuable short-term pieces that will net you anything you care about on the prospect front, and (2) their most valuable pieces are guys you want right back out there in 2020 anyway. The “selling” conversation just doesn’t hold any credence for me, even if the Cubs were to drop the next three games.
But I *do* think you have to be a little more cautious now about buying aggressively. If I had more confidence that the Cubs would win the division, for example, I might be more inclined to think they should spend big on a true impact reliever – the kind of guy who can make a disproportionate difference in the postseason. But, even with that guy added in the next few days, I do *not* have confidence that the Cubs will win the division, thus that pitcher might not be nearly as valuable as adding Aroldis Chapman was a few years ago. So the price tag the Cubs should be willing to pay should be much lower, and thus, they’re not going to get a true impact type. So be it.
The same is true on the positional side, but I think we were already there – “impact” bats really aren’t available this year, unless it’s an out-of-left-field, longer-term, younger-player move. I’m sure the Cubs are exploring that stuff, but that wouldn’t really be a matter of how “aggressive” they’re being in the trade market – that would moreso be about starting to reshape the team for 2020 and beyond. If they find the right deal on that front, cool, fine, go for it. But I just doubt that comes together at the end of July.
So, then, where I stand right now is this: the Cubs can still win this division, and they can also improve this team over the next few days without giving up prospect pieces that are really going to sting. So I say – unless there’s some kind of crazy, transformative, big-league-roster-shaking move available that is too good to pass up – hold back, see what happens the next few days, and then add some cheaper, complementary pieces. A decent bench player, a decent bullpen arm. Then you just see what happens the rest of the season.
It’s not ideal. It’s not exciting. But this is the bed the Cubs have made for themselves, and when you watch this team, it seems crazy to think it would be a good idea to give up your best prospects right now for any rentals.