Well, well, well. Look at us now, Dad. I mean Jed. It’s the middle of June and the Chicago Cubs are (tied) in first place of the NL Central. Maybe you didn’t mean it at the time, maybe you didn’t believe it would happen, maybe you hoped you’d be able to restock the farm … but a promise is a promise. We’ll take a steady starting pitcher now (Kyle Gibson?) and one impact starting in July (Max Scherzer, obviously). Thanks!
Here’s some rumors from around baseball and the Cubs …
No, But Really Can We Have a Starter?
We’re not quite at the point where we definitely know who’s going to be available at the deadline. So the only thing we can do right now is (1) take a look at the 4th and 5th place teams around the league, (2) zoom in on their rotation, (3) eliminate guys under 26-years-old with multiple years of control remaining, and (4) weigh that team’s willingness to make a sell-side trade.
ESPN tried a little of that during the Cubs game on Sunday night:
would love boyd or berrios pic.twitter.com/oaotytoCyU
— Robert O'Neill (@RobertONeill31) June 14, 2021
We’ve already discussed Kyle Gibson – in terms of someone who can eat innings this and next season (and be acquired at a relatively low cost), I think he’s still a no brainer. But you should note that Max Scherzer left his last start after 12 pitches, Jon Gray has dealt with injuries, and is on some kind of cold streak (18 runs, 15 earned, over his last 17.0 IP), and Matthew Boyd left his last start with left arm discomfort.
It could be a particularly tough year to find a rental starter (or acquire one with confidence) given the sharp increase in injuries across the sport.
For what it’s worth, Scherzer threw a bullpen session yesterday, testing his injured groin, but ended it early. The MRI he took revealed only inflammation (not a strain), but he didn’t quite feel ready to go and may still hit the IL. As a former Chicago Cub coach, Nationals Manager Dave Martinez is thinking about avoiding an IL stint and just resting Scherzer another week (naturally).
As for Gray, a free agent at the end of the season, the Cubs were connected to him back when he was drafted and occasionally over the past two offseasons. He did recently express some desire to stick in Colorado (not that it’s really up to him), and interim GM Bill Schmidt did acknowledge how successful he’s been and how tough it is to build a successful rotation in Colorado, but … you just get the sense that he’s available.
Ah, but before I clicked publish, I stumbled on Ken Rosenthal’s latest rumor update, and he says “It is expected the Rockies will offer Gray an extension,” before the deadline, to see if they can come together on a deal and avoid a trade. He adds that the Rockies are fielding interest on German Marquez, but he’s under control through 2024, and they would prefer to keep him.
Another interesting name proposed by Matt Clapp … Tyler Anderson:
The issue is of course the trading within the division stuff. But I doubt the Pirates care about the Cubs. And I'm not sure Anderson would require a prospect(s) the Cubs would be terrified of giving the Pirates.
But, just another name to consider.
— Matt Clapp (@TheBlogfines) June 11, 2021
Anderson would not be the “impact” type, but as Clapp points out, and as we discussed with respect to Gibson, the Cubs need guys to eat innings. And right now, they’re without Adbert Alzolay and Trevor Williams while Jake Arrieta is struggling to find his way, Kohl Stewart is not yet established and is coming off a rough outing, and Keegan Thompson is not someone you want to depend upon in the rotation just yet (especially not when he’s succeeding in the bullpen). And that’s sort of the double-problem here, right? The Cubs rotation issues are going to soon start popping up in their stellar bullpen, because no group should be relied on THIS much (2nd in NL in IP, 5th in MLB).
A Few Random Cardinals Bits
I was reading Derrick Goold’s latest at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and although there aren’t any big reveals, there was a quartet of points/rumors/news that feel worth relaying.
1) The cat is out of the bag: Goold sees Kyle Gibson as a good place to start for the Cardinals and believes a trade is “going to hurt a little bit.” I suppose it was silly of me to think he’d skate under the radar all trade season, but I thought he’d last longer than this. And since when do fourth place teams with .500 records deal FOR starting pitchers?
2) Recently DFA’d Chicago Cub pitcher Shelby Miller could return to the Cardinals: “He was set to make a decision this week, could be today or within the next few days, according to a source. He had at least one other NL team interested. The Cardinals offered a minor-league deal and a chance to go to Class AAA Memphis and perform for a promotion.” Miller was reportedly awaiting word on a big league deal, but keep this on your radar.
3) On a scale from 1-10, Derrick Goold puts the chances at the universal DH next season at an 11.
4) The Cardinals are not at all concerned about Nolan Arenado opting out of his contract at the end of this season, which would leave $179M on the table, because of the general market factors (lots of talented infielders, the impending labor fight, etc.). HOWEVA, he does say that “The second opt-out – another year removed from the CBA, another year removed from pandemic – is more compelling if the Cardinals struggle to contend.”
Money “Won’t Be the Issue at the Deadline”
That quote is from Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney (via 670 The Score), and we intend to hold him to it.
"(Full capacity) does help us, and it will help us when we get to the trade deadline with Jed. Finances won't be the issue at the deadline." -Crane Kenneyhttps://t.co/RJ2195ze0x
— The Bernstein & Rahimi Show (@BernsteinRahimi) June 14, 2021
He was (probably intentionally) vague about just how good things were, citing the lack of a presale opportunities throughout the offseason, which is a fair point, but did sound legitimately enthused with the attendance numbers and concessions sales (must be the Beer Snake). And he reiterated that money simply will not hold the Cubs back from making moves this deadline.
How This Deadline Will Be Different
Okay, this is a very interesting angle I cannot say I fully expected: Might young, big league pieces be valued over true prospects this July (because of the total lack of scouting in 2020, as well as the individual preferences of a few certain clubs)? And might big league depth players have more value than usual, given all the injuries around the game?
According to Ken Rosenthal’s latest, yes, that could be the case:
“I’ve already had teams ask about some guys that I can’t move because they are depth at the moment,” the GM of one contender said. “So unless they are immediate upgrades at the same position, I just can’t consider at the moment.”
And, hey, maybe that works out for the Cubs, who’ve gotten big contributions from guys like Sergio Alcantara, Patrick Wisdom, Matt Duffy, Jake Marisnick, etc. Obviously, each of those guys has proven valuable here lately, but depth is depth and if you can get a useful back-end starter for one of those guys? You might have to consider it, especially if the Cubs start healing up elsewhere (Nico Hoerner, Javy Báez, David Bote).
To be sure, teams like the Pirates and Orioles are always going to want prospects, no matter what, but one executive did call out the Diamondbacks, Twins, and Royals (Rosenthal added the Nationals and Angels) as teams who could want to avoid a long rebuild and thus target big league ready pieces over prospects right away.
“You’d rather get slightly more established guys with track records given the A-ball guys will be such massive unknowns right now,” the GM said. “There was no (minor-league) baseball in 2020, so there were no stats, limited scouting looks (and now) changes in league rules. It’s hard to evaluate those guys at the lowest levels right now.”