Under two weeks from the Trade Deadline, and the Cubs remained 8.0 games back despite their win last night. The Brewers also won, and although their schedule gets harder later this year, it doesn’t really toughen up much until the second week of August … long past the Deadline. So the chances of the Cubs making a MONSTER run to actually change plans is all the less likely, regardless of how many games the Cubs win now that they are back in a soft part of their schedule. I think you already know all of this, but just in case last night’s win turned your head at all.
The latest from the rumor mill …
Craig Kimbrel’s Suitors
A report from Bruce Levine has the “Astros, Red Sox, Blue Jays and Athletics  among the teams that have been showing interest, according to sources.” Interesting that the named teams are all in the American League, and while the teams with obviously upgradeable closer situations are going to be the top names, I’d still contend that even teams with a set closer could stand to add Kimbrel to their mix.
But, hey, if you want to start perusing the top prospect lists from each of those four clubs, by all means go for it. The Astros and A’s have just one prospect in the top 100 in MLB Pipeline’s rankings right now (oft-rehabbing pitcher Forrest Whitley and very young catcher Tyler Soderstrom, respectively). The Blue Jays have a whopping six, and the Red Sox have three. Not that you would have to target top 100s from that specific list, obviously – I’m just using it as a proxy for the available “impact” talent in those orgs.
Cubs Extensions Before Trades?
Like we’ve said, the Cubs were always likely to take one last pass at extensions for Anthony Rizzo and Javy Báez (if not Kris Bryant, who is less likely to sign) before deciding on trades, though a report this week brought that attention back.
If those talks are already back on, Rizzo didn’t let it slip (NBCSC): “I’m sure that’ll happen in due (time). I’m sure they have a lot on their plate right now, as do we, playing every day …. With all that, I’ve said my piece on how I feel and how I love the city. We’ve gone back and forth, but I just think that focusing on today right now is best for me, and I have no idea what’s going to happen 14 days from now. I have no idea what’s going to happen tomorrow. Just like Joc getting traded yesterday. So, during this period it’s definitely like, ‘Today, what do I have to do?’ Play baseball, just really simplify it and not worry about it.”
Anthony Rizzo on reports the Cubs will make offers to both him and Javier Baez ( report @JonHeyman )“ Right now it’s best to take it day by day. With all the rumors that will be flying. What’s going to happen is going to happen. None of us have any control of it”
— Bruce Levine (@MLBBruceLevine) July 17, 2021
Strictly speaking, you do have SOME control if the Cubs make an offer …. But Rizzo is right that, otherwise, it’s out of his control and his focus has to be on playing the games. Unlike Báez and many others, Rizzo has been traded before (twice), but he’s never been the subject of in-season trade rumors, so I’m sure it’s different and challenging.
Watching Ryan Tepera Closely
In the run up to the Trade Deadline, you really can’t look TOO much at any one night and say that it was huge for a guy’s trade value, absent an injury. So I’d caution you against getting too much into that mode. As close as you’d come is an appearance like Ryan Tepera’s last night, where interested teams definitely would be watching him VERY closely, given the fact that he was so dominant for a long time, then the sticky stuff enforcement came and his performance degraded at the same time, whether coincidentally or not. His usage was also very heavy early on, and then he went on the IL with a calf injury (returning as soon as he was eligible, so it felt more like a “rest” situation). That is not to say he was using stuff and had to stop (though we know that more than 50% of pitchers were); it’s only to say that when the timeline aligns, teams are going to be on extra alert if they’re considering making a trade. And then you throw in the usage concerns and the injury? There’s just a lot of reason to scrutinize his performances over the next two weeks extra closely.
To that end, it was great to see Tepera throw a scoreless frame with three strikeouts, but it came with a lot of buts. He hit a guy, he gave up a hit, two of the strikeouts were borderline calls on full counts, and his velocity was way down. If the Cubs were to move Tepera this deadline to a team looking for a reliable later-inning reliever, he’s probably going to have to re-stabilize, both his performance and his velocity, over the course of at least three more outings. It may or may not happen, in which case the Cubs simply wouldn’t getting a meaningful prospect offer, and that’ll be that.
If he does stabilize, then the question for trade partners will be how much are you willing to give up on the bet that he can be something close to the guy he was earlier this year for a couple months (when he was among the three or four most dominant relievers in baseball)? Do you give up something meaningful just for the chance he is that guy?
Who wouldn’t want to pick up an MVP at midseason, though?