Although I’m obviously disappointed at the last three weeks of Cubs baseball, I’ve more than made peace with the direction this team is headed, and I am genuinely excited about where these next three weeks might take us. However, if there is one regret it’s the wasted presence of Craig Kimbrel.
Evidently, a dominant closer can’t, by himself, take a team to the playoffs, but that type usually can carry a team once they are there. That’s why they cost so much to acquire at the deadline. They’re rare and uniquely valuable for teams that plan to play in October.
So it’s a bummer that the Cubs, who finally found themselves a truly, legitimately, dominant closer, won’t be playing in October this year. It just would’ve been nice NOT to need a dominant closer at the deadline and would’ve opened up a lot of opportunities for buy-side trades elsewhere.
Landing Spots for Kimbrel
Then again, that’s also the saving grace of the entire season. The Cubs have one of the most coveted deadline trade candidates and appear ready to take advantage.
Here are four potential landing spots for the Cubs All-Star closer, according to the latest rumors.
The list starts with the two teams identified by Buster Olney, the Houston Astros and Oakland Athletics. As we’ve discussed with other trade rumors already, I’m particularly intrigued about trading with the A’s, because the information gap created by the lack of a 2020 MiLB season is less of a problem when your current scouting director (Dan Kantrovitz) is the A’s former Assistant GM (through 2019). Long story short, he knows that system and would have the sort of intimate knowledge that would give you more confidence in such a deal.
The third team listed is Kimbrel’s former team, the Boston Red Sox, who have a tenuous grasp on first place in the AL East … but also one of the top records in MLB and a relatively rare opportunity to strike while the Yankees are scuffling (and perhaps even sellers) at the deadline. Query whether a baseball ops leader like Chaim Bloom would give up the sort of young talent you’d hope to see in this sort of deal, but, hey, Theo Epstein did it … right? Boston’s bullpen has been pretty good this season, but Kimbrel would instantly be their best reliever. In fact, he’d instantly be the best reliever on just about any team in MLB this year.
The fourth and final team is another reunion: The Atlanta Braves. This would be a pretty bold move for a third place team, but the NL East is tight and the Braves have as much of a shot to win as any team out there. The Cubs and Braves have struggled to find common ground on trades in the recent past, though, so we’ll see if anything has changed before the deadline.
If you’re looking for more on Craig Kimbrel, check out the following posts:
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) July 6, 2021
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) July 7, 2021
White Sox Getting Eloy Back
Yesterday, among many other rumors, we discussed the Chicago White Sox need for a bat before the deadline, most likely in the outfield given the on-going injury-related absences of Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert. And according to Bruce Levine, Joc Pederson was one of the names to pop up early on.
HOWEVER, it’s not entirely clear if that rumor was sourced before or after this news:
BREAKING NEWS! Eloy Jiménez will begin his rehab assignment on Friday with Winston-Salem. pic.twitter.com/Unb9BxSVNf
— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) July 8, 2021
The Sox were always expecting Jimenez back sometime this season (I’ve seen August most often), but if he’s starting his rehab assignment on Friday, you have to wonder if he can return before the deadline. And if so, you have to question how much urgency the Sox would have to trade for someone like Pederson.
Given that Jimenez is no lock to be immediately impactful upon his return (hey, he missed some serious time) … and the fact that Robert is still an unknown … and the fact that their current outfield of Andrew Vaughn, Brian Goodwin, and Adam Engel leaves much to be desired … and the fact that the AL has a designated hitter … I tend to think they will still be interested. But no doubt the urgency wanes with the return of Jimenez.
Kris Bryant’s Competition? Eh …
The Oakland A’s are popping up everywhere I look lately. According to Jon Heyman they and the Blue Jays are among the possibilities for 41-year-old All-Star DH/OF Nelson Cruz, who is somehow … still freakin’ awesome: .304/.377/.562 (151 wRC+); 18 homers.
A’s and Jays are among possibilities for All-Star Nelson Cruz. Can you imagine Toronto’s lineup with Cruz? @MLBNetwork
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) July 8, 2021
I bring that up because, sure, it’s interesting on its own, but also because the A’s and Blue Jays have been speculatively connected to a certain right-handed power bat on the Cubs, Kris Bryant. There are MANY differences between Bryant and Cruz for the rest of the season, but there is also overlap here and I just want to keep an eye on it.
The same goes for this:
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) July 8, 2021
The Mets have been connected to Kris Bryant in the offseason and over the past week or so, but their interest in Adam Frazier provides some overlap. No, Bryant doesn’t bat left-handed and second base is like the one position outside of the battery that he doesn’t play, but they can both also play the outfield. Frazier also comes with one more year of team control, which can cut both ways for a buyer.
Neither Frazier nor Cruz are direct Bryant competition, but these are all teams we know are looking for a bat LIKE Bryant. And Bryant’s flexibility really does make him an option for any team.
*All of this assuming this is the route the Cubs elect to go … and also that Bryant makes a healthy and productive return to the field before the deadline.
And finally … Asked about specific areas of need, Seattle Mariners manager Scott Servais said “every manager out there says he needs more pitching.” That’s just about the worst kept secret in MLB, but it does put the Cubs in a good position with respect to Zach Davies.
And I don’t think Brett was off by connecting him back to the team that traded him in the first place:
Given Zach Davies' success there in August and September of last year, not to mention his sub-3 ERA since May 1 (and the teams' familiarity with each other in recent talks), you can presume Davies will soon be connected to the Padres in rumors. https://t.co/8WykiAsWku
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) July 8, 2021
It’ll be fun* to trade Zach Davies (to the Padres or anyone), because we can add that return to the return for Yu Darvish and not unfairly claim that the Cubs got a little more for Darvish than we initially believed.
*It’s not that fun. I much rather be winning.
In any case, just remember that after Kimbrel, Davies might actually be one of the most important deadline pieces for the Cubs. This is a very uniquely pitching-starved market (in part because that’s just the way things are this year, but also because of (1) the shortened 2020 season impacting arm injuries and (2) the sticky stuff enforcement). So Davies could net the Cubs a nice return if he keeps up his recent stretch of solid-ness.