Random fun story from Ken Rosenthal, who found out – seven years later! – that the Cubs and Marlins were once close on a trade that would’ve completely and fundamentally altered the course of Cubs history (and not necessarily for the better).
The Marlins, according to major-league sources, made a strong push for Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta at the 2014 trade deadline, offering multiple prospects. The Cubs might have agreed to the deal, too, if the Marlins had included the one prospect they wanted most: catcher J.T. Realmuto ….
The Marlins pursued Arrieta despite being out of contention and headed for a 71-win season. They envisioned pairing him with the late José Fernández at the top of the rotation, and if they had succeeded in completing the trade, perhaps they would not have signed left-hander Wei-Yin Chen to an ill-fated, five-year, $80 million free-agent contract before the 2016 season.
Realmuto, then 23, had made a brief major-league debut shortly before the trade discussions with the Cubs turned serious, replacing Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who was out with a concussion. The Marlins rightly believed Realmuto would develop into a star, and knew, like every club, that catching is forever a position of scarcity.
That is *WILD* to think about. All the possible ripple effects.
The most obvious, of course, is that the Cubs wouldn’t have had Arrieta there to win the 2015 Wild Card Game and Cy Young, so maybe none of that fun stuff, including the NLDS win over the Cardinals. And 2016? Without Arrieta, the Cubs maybe do still make the playoffs, but do they actually run through the postseason like they did? Big questions.
Without Arrieta, what other moves to the Cubs make for the rotation in 2015? Do they sign a big name? Do they make some other big trade? Or are the guys they DID sign less interested in joining up, since maybe that 2015 team looked less promising? No Ben Zobrist? No Jason Heyward? No Jon Lester the year before, even? And if no Lester, no David Ross? And if no David Ross, who’s the manager right now?
And that’s all just the Arrieta side of this thing. If the Cubs had J.T. Realmuto back in 2014, what happens with Willson Contreras? Does he get dealt when his value was much lower? Does he go back to being a third baseman or corner outfielder (he was in his younger days!)? Does Realmuto have the same breakout with the Cubs that he did with the Marlins? Who else would the Cubs have gotten in the deal? Might the Cubs have developed and then traded Realmuto?
On and on we could go. Just bonkers to think about what could have happened.
Pretty sure I’m glad it didn’t!