Friendly reminder: The 2021 MLB Trade is this Friday at 3:00 pm CT. But if you’re following along live at home, be sure to stay tuned for at least 30 minutes after the deadline, as deals tend to get done right under the wire and not reported until after the bell has rung. And I suspect that may be especially true this year, with most of the rumors and trades being pushed further back than usual because of (1) the draft, (2) the changes to sticky stuff enforcement (teams want as much data as possible), and (3) the particular starting pitching needs of this market. Teams could take as much time as possible to finally agree to terms.
And as for the Cubs, remember, they have a lot of pieces to trade, but also a down-sized front office and no GM to share the burden of the biggest decisions. So while Jed Hoyer will certainly have other opportunities to prove himself throughout his tenure, he will get one early shot to define his presidency this week. We may not know it right away, but these moves (or non-moves!) could shape the next 4-5 years of the Cubs. Better get it right.
The Cubs’ Most-Wanted
For however much focus we will necessarily keep on the Cubs four core position players this week (Kris Bryant, Javy Baez, Anthony Rizzo, and Willson Contreras), each of whom could plausibly be traded, none of them are drawing as much interest as a couple relievers, at least according to Bruce Levine’s sources.
Here’s Levine’s report at 670 The Score:
“For now, the Cubs players drawing the most interest on the trade market are star closer Craig Kimbrel and reliever Ryan Tepera. More than six teams have inquired about both pitchers, sources said.”
There’s not really any surprises there, as Craig Kimbrel has pretty much always been *the* most desirable trade deadline target (among the pieces that are very certain to be moved), but it is nice to hear that as many as six teams have inquired about him. That’s a healthy market.
It’s also it interesting to hear that Ryan Tepera, not Andrew Chafin, is drawing the second most interest on the Cubs (if I’m interpreting Levine correctly). Sure, Tepera is back to being lights out, as he’s tossed 5.2 scoreless innings, with just 3 hits, no walks, and 9 strikeouts since his IL stint at the end of June. But from where I stand, Andrew Chafin is an equally high-leverage, as-durable, left-handed, full-inning reliever with a longer track record of success before this season. Shouldn’t there be at least as much interest in Chafin as Tepera? I suppose it’ll come down to the preferences of the market and the makeup of the bullpen of the acquiring team, but I’d bet you could do as much or more with Chafin than Tepera in the postseason. He’s just more established.
In any case, all three relievers are among the very best available, and the Cubs should be able to do well with them at the deadline.
I would say "more than people expect," but I think people have finally adjusted their expectations upwards appropriately. Chapman level? Prob not. Pretty close? Yes. https://t.co/GvpaNQ5NRv
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) July 26, 2021
Chicago’s One-Stop Shopping
At MLB.com, Mark Feinsand tells us not to be surprised if the Cubs find ways to package some of their assets together to secure a greater overall prospect return. And, indeed, I am fully on board with that approach. I’d add that spending whatever cash it takes to the same end should be a part of the Cubs plans. Whether that’s taking on a bad contract in return (like, say, Eric Hosmer?) or sending cash along with their tradable assets (like the Pirates … no, really, they did that), the Cubs need to focus on the best possible return they can get *without* money being part of the equation.
And as we all know, the Cubs have pieces along the infield (Baez, Bryant, Rizzo), behind the plate (Contreras, (Robinson Chirinos?)), in the rotation (Zach Davies, Trevor Williams), and in the bullpen (Kimbrel, Tepera, Chafin, etc.), so … there really should be no limit to the possibilities for a team that wants to try to land multiple pieces.
As an aside, which I bring up only because I see the question a lot (and Feinsand addressed it, himself): No, I don’t think the Cubs should try to stick someone like Heyward in any of these deals at the deadline, even if they can. In fact, that’s the exact opposite of what I want them to do. If anything, the Cubs should eat the Heyward money. Now. Later. Whenever. Trade him in the offseason. DFA him. Whatever. Don’t reduce the prospect package you’d receive at the deadline just to save some of the sunk cost of his contract. This is a once (or twice)-in-a-decade opportunity to add a ton of talent all at once. The player return needs to be the focus.
Brewers Wants and Needs
Like Brett, I just can’t see the Brewers and Cubs coming together on almost any trade right now, let alone one for the Cubs most recent MVP, Kris Bryant.
I'm not saying a KB trade to the Brewers is impossible, but I will say that if there were a way to short those 4/1 odds, I would be betting my house on it. https://t.co/686A8I1zdi
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) July 26, 2021
In addition to Kris Bryant, the Brewers’ biggest deadline needs according to Robert Murray (high-leverage relief help and a first baseman) do overlap with the Cubs most tradable pieces. In fact, Anthony Rizzo is name-checked, specifically, in Murray’s latest at FanSided, but pretty much only to say that while he’d be a great fit, it’s very unlikely to happen.
Still, though, that’s Bryant, Rizzo, and high-leverage relief help. And just because the Cubs won’t likely deal with the Brewers on any of those fronts, doesn’t mean this isn’t notable. After all, if the Brewers buy away competition for those Cubs pieces, Hoyer’s overall market standing should improve.
And to put a bow on this, Murray has also heard that the Brewers are seeking third base help (that would be the Bryant angle), mentioning Trevor Story and Josh Donaldson as possible targets: “We have affordable pitching and in our situation,” one high-ranking Brewers executive said,”we should be doing whatever it takes to go for it and take advantage of this window.”
Oh, and a random Kris Bryant note, while we’re here: Jon Heyman reminds us that while position players are likely to net less than their pitching counterparts at the deadline, being a “star” (he names Bryant and Story) and being “versatile” (he names Bryant and Whit Merrifield) will help.
Seeing as Bryant is the only one spanning both categories, it’s possible that he might net one of the bigger returns at the deadline. And that’s perhaps especially true, because, for better or worse, I’m still not certain the Rockies are actually going to trade Story.
Starting Pitcher Market
We’re going to navigate through a few different sources here, each a small piece of a much-larger starting pitching puzzle. Try to stay with me.
According to Heyman, “almost all contenders” besides the White Sox and Astros, “are prioritizing starting pitchers at the trade deadline.” Jon Morosi gets a little more specific, naming seven contenders that are “active in the starting pitching market now”: Yankees, Red Sox, Giants, Dodgers, Padres, Astros, and Phillies.
But it’s Mike Petriello who’s got my attention. He points out that with Max Scherzer hurt, Kyle Gibson badly struggling through his last three starts (15 ER, 22 hits, and 12 walks in last 17.1 IP), and no one convinced the Twins (Jose Berrios) or Rockies (Jonathan Gray) are actually going to trade their most marketable starters, the starting pitching supply is FAR lower than the demand, possibly leaving Michael Pineda, Zach Davies, and Tyler Anderson as the most attractive, definitely available starters. Oof.
But it wouldn’t be the trade deadline without conflicting information, so I’ll add that “multiple rival executives” believe that the odds of a Berrios deal have gone up now that the Twins have failed to extend Byron Buxton (Robert Murray). And Jon Morosi seems to have similar intel:
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 26, 2021
Either way, it’s starting to feel more unlikely that Zach Davies makes his start against the Reds on Wednesday.
Odds and Ends
• An unnamed team recently checked in with the Nationals on the availability of Carter Kieboom (whom we’ve connected speculatively to the Cubs in theoretical Bryant deals over the past year+), but have found that the Nationals do not want to trade him and very likely will not before the deadline. Obviously, everyone has their price, but it seems the Nationals may be turning their attention towards the future, which, they seem to hope, will include a more productive Kieboom.
• Raisel Igelsias (Craig Kimbrel) and Alex Cobb/Andrew Heaney (Zach Davies) could provide some competition for the Cubs on the pitching market. But the Angels haven’t decided which direction they’re headed just yet.
Angels trying to decide course. Could move Cobb/Heaney and still try to compete by promoting Detmers/Rodriguez. Trade of Iglesias would signal deeper concession. Trout still not healthy, and team mostly just bullies poor clubs – 23-8 vs. those below .500, 26-41 vs. .500 or above.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 26, 2021
• Starling Marte is still out there and likely to be traded by the Marlins, though it’s less certain on Miguel Rojas. The Reds still need a shortstop, but they’ll have to beat the Cubs this week if they hope to be buyers come Thursday/Friday.
Marlins working on moving Marte, Duvall, relievers…but when teams like Reds ask on Miguel Rojas, they continue to decline. And the Reds badly need a shortstop, Rojas or Nick Ahmed
— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) July 26, 2021