The Cubs Have Turned the Trade Market Upside Down

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The Cubs Have Turned the Trade Market Upside Down

Chicago Cubs

The course is set, the wind is picking up, and a third nautical metaphor for literary balance: The Chicago Cubs will be sellers at the 2021 MLB Trade Deadline. It’s a done deal. You can count on it.

Fortunately, internalizing that message today doesn’t sting nearly as much as it would’ve around mid-June, when the Cubs were still in first place and no-hitting the Dodgers in Los Angeles. But since then, they’ve lost 11 straight games, falling two below .500 and 9.0 games back in the standings (fourth place in the NL Central, behind even the Cardinals now).

And so here we are three weeks + two days away from the 2021 MLB Trade Deadline, with a Cubs team that is certain to be sellers. And yet, three weeks + two days ago, I’d point out that virtually everyone was labeling them would-be buyers.

That rapid shift has really throwing the league for a loop. According to Robert Murray, one rival executive said the change – from just this one Cubs team – would “reshape the deadline.” And he’s not wrong. Not only did the market lose one big source of demand over the last few weeks, it dramatically expanded its desirable supply – which was tight! – because of the nature of the Cubs roster, which is loaded with expiring contracts at almost every position around the diamond.

So which Cubs are actually trade candidates? Well, the Cubs two all-stars, Craig Kimbrel and Kris Bryant, will probably be in the highest demand. And, indeed, those rumors have already started (Kimbrel, Bryant).

But there’s also Zach Davies (in a market desperate for starters, he seems like he should have some value), Andrew Chafin (who doesn’t need a late-inning, high-leverage, left-handed reliever in the playoffs?), and Joc Pederson (for whom Robert Murray says there is expected to be a market).

So what was that, five players, including a right-handed closer, a left-handed late-inning reliever, a third baseman, a starting pitcher, and a left-handed outfielder who could play all three spots in a pinch? And only Kimbrel has a club option for 2022? Yeah, the market has been flipped, and those are just the guys who are DEFINITELY available. But there are probably more. There are several other arms in the bullpen of the type that get moved every year, plus a complementary outfielder like Jake Marisnick. It’s a large volume of players who just “hit the market.”

I tend to think that the Cubs will hold onto Anthony Rizzo and Javy Báez (just a gut feeling), as I think they’ll try to re-sign both this offseason. But they will be targeted by contenders this month and I’m no longer certain either is entirely off the table (remember, this offseason’s free agent crop is loaded with infield talent).

Beyond that it’s really just a matter of need and the alignment of value. I personally wouldn’t trade Willson Contreras (I don’t know if the Cubs even *CAN* trade him right now with their lack of upper-minors catching depth), but if some high profile catcher on a contender went down, don’t you think they’d call the Cubs to see what’s up?

The bottom line? There’s very little actually nailed down right now (maybe … Adbert Alzolay, Nico Hoerner, Kyle Hendricks, and Willson Contreras?) and that is going to change everything for the trade market, when viewing it from outside the Cubs. Jed Hoyer and the front office will be the belle of the deadline ball and that comes with a lot of responsibility.

These next three weeks + 2 days could very well help define the next 5-10 years of Cubs baseball. Even if the days of prospects like Addison Russell, Eloy Jimenez, Gleyber Torres, etc. on the move are over, the Cubs have enough available, affordable talent to make a significant difference in their future. And now that the market knows where they stand, things will really start to heat up.


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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