When you’re 9.5 games out of first place on July 9th and you have a roster loaded with talented players on expiring contracts (including, perhaps, the single most coveted player available) … it’s not difficult to predict or encourage a substantial organizational sell-off at the trade deadline. We did a few days ago (and so did a lot of you).
But now it’s official.
According to Patrick Mooney, Ken Rosenthal, and Others at The Athletic, the Chicago Cubs are officially “beginning the process of becoming sellers at the July 30 trade deadline.”
What does that mean, exactly? Well, he sort of hinted at it last night in the life comes at you fast quote: “Eleven days ago, we were fully on the buy side of (the trade deadline), everyone was calling about that. Obviously, people are now calling to see which players are available, so it’s a very different scenario than we expected.”
The difference now, I suspect, is that when those people call to see which players are available, Hoyer is no longer pushing them off, waiting and hoping for a winning streak to salvage the season. Now, he’s probably identifying which players are available and laying the groundwork with specific teams. That is a huge, definitive step forward reported by some very trustworthy reporters. So, first and foremost, I should say this: Get ready, because it’s really happening.
Now, the questions are When? Who? and For What? Fortunately, we have (partial) answers for almost all of those.
In terms of when, Mooney believes that while an early deal or two is always possible, most of these discussions will go right down to the deadline. So hold onto your butts (and make sure you donate to Brett’s Trade Blogathon, which is raising money for Make-A-Wish). Part of the reason why, I suspect, is because the MLB Draft is a month later this year and that’s almost certainly taking the attention of most front offices. I also think teams want to see how certain pitchers respond to enhanced enforcement of the sticky stuff rules.
So who is available? Well, obviously anyone can be had for a price, but the Cubs seem to want to hold onto certain players with multiple years of control. For example, one NL Executive predicted that the Cubs would rule out any trades involving Willson Contreras or Kyle Hendricks, and I tend to agree. If the Cubs are going to pull off some sort of quick turn around, they’ll need both guys. And, hey, they’re both good, young, and under affordable team control. There’s not really a pressing need to move either (you can presume this also includes, for one speculative example, Nico Hoerner).
But Craig Kimbrel, Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javy Baez, Joc Pederson, Andrew Chafin, Ryan Tepera, Zach Davies … they’re all mentioned and there shouldn’t be any surprises there. There is a brief discussion about the likelihood (or not) of an extension for Rizzo and Baez and the impact that has on their availability this deadline. But you can check out the original post for more on that.
And finally, what are the Cubs going to target? Well, this is actually may favorite part of the story and perhaps the juiciest. Mooney reminded folks of Crane Kenney’s “finances won’t be the issue at the deadline” quote, and flipped it on its head. In short, if the Cubs were willing to use additional resources to ensure better quality buy-side returns “upper-tier”, then the same should be true in reverse:
While the calculus has obviously changed, the Cubs should still use their resources to get the best deals. Covering the remaining money owed to players like Kimbrel and Bryant will expand those possibilities and increase the odds of landing better prospects.
But Mooney takes it a step further, with a little help from an AL Executive, who believes the Cubs best chance for a significant return will likely include packaging multiple players together in a larger deal that addresses multiple needs for some other contender. It’s what the Cubs did to the A’s with Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel and it’s what the Tigers did to the Cubs with Alex Avila and Justin Wilson (to name just two recent examples). And, personally, I am thrilled to hear that. I know that’s just rival executive speculation (perhaps with their own motivations completely contrary to the Cubs own goals!), but targeting fewer, higher-impact prospects by using your financial leveraging and packaging multiple players together is exactly the route I hope the Cubs intend to take.
There is so, so much more in this report from The Athletic, so be sure to subscribe and take a look. The next era of Cubs baseball is developing before our eyes. And it figures to be a wild, bumpy ride.