MLBTR Lists Four Cubs Starting Pitchers Among Its Very Early Potential Trade Targets

Although another summer sell-off is more likely than not at this point (strictly speaking, it was more likely than not back in March), I’m not at all ready to flip the switch into “let’s think of every Cubs thing in relation to the Trade Deadline” mode. It is still conceivable that the Cubs could take a big turn in May, and we wind up seeing a team a touch above .500 in early June. All these conversations look very different if that’s the case (well, if they’re winning AND if we can reasonably project a continuation of the winning).

So, that is all to say, I’m not getting into seller rumor mode. I want to see the Cubs win games right now, and my conceptions about what’s happening in games is going to be animated primarily by that fact, rather than future trade value.

That’s not quite the same thing as being honest about the guys who might eventually fall into those conversations, though, and entering into May/June with a good sense of what matters if the Cubs indeed fall out of contention. Fine line. I’ll try to manage it as well as possible over the next month+.

To that point, MLB Trade Rumors took an early look ahead at “potential starting pitcher trade targets” for later this summer, and I thought you would be unsurprised/interested to see that virtually every Cubs starting pitcher comes in for a mention. There are 18 names, and 4 of them are Cubs:

Marcus Stroman, Cubs: Stroman may not be thought of as a true ace, but a 3.02 ERA in 33 starts last year is nothing to sniff at.  Though Stroman’s ERA sits at 5.13 through five starts, his skills seem unchanged.  I generally expect the Cubs to keep Stroman, as trading a player this early into a trumpeted three-year deal is a bad look.  Plus, Stroman is on a three-year, $71MM contract with an opt-out after ’23, which may not hold appeal to certain clubs ….

Kyle HendricksDrew SmylyWade Miley, Cubs: Hendricks’ unique soft-tossing approach has resulted in a 4.90 ERA since 2021, and he has about $27MM remaining on his contract through ’23.  Trading him at this stage would be a disappointing end to a player who has meant so much to the franchise.  On an affordable one-year deal, Smyly is more likely to go, though his skills have been middling since ’21.  Miley has yet to make his Cubs debut due to elbow inflammation, but he’s set to make a minor league rehab start tonight in St. Paul.  While the Cubs in a sense have a starting rotation full of trade candidates, the returns wouldn’t be impressive and the club might elect not to decimate that group without worthy replacements.

Like MLBTR, I don’t see Stroman realistically becoming a trade piece this year for a number of reasons, but not the least of which is the Cubs’ desire to have him in the rotation in 2023. I’m quite certain that was a significant reason for the signing. It wasn’t just about 2022 or about trading him immediately.

The other three may or may not have sufficient trade value by July to really be considered quality trade targets (teams are ALWAYS looking for starting pitching). Smyly would have to keep getting the results he’s been getting since mid-2021 to convince teams it’s not a mirage, and Miley would have to be very healthy between now and then, getting his usual level of results.

As for Hendricks, I don’t know that the Cubs are going to be itching to trade him right now in any case, but even if they were, his trade value at the moment would be negligible. All the concerns we have about his pitching style as he ages, his rough chunks of the 2021 season, and his slow start in 2022 would be held by acquiring teams, too. And are the Cubs really going to trade Hendricks for some flier prospect? I don’t see it. When the organization traded its “faces” last year, they were for really meaningful returns. If you can’t get actual value back, then you don’t trade a guy like Hendricks, who has meant so much to the Cubs. You especially don’t do it with a year remaining on his contract and probably having to eat salary just to get that flier minor leaguer. At that point, you just keep Hendricks and re-evaluate in the offseason.

If Hendricks balls out from here through July, if the Cubs absolutely stink, and if there are meaningful offers on the table? The conversation changes. That does not seem likely, however. And even if that did play out, who is to say the Cubs wouldn’t, at that point, really want to keep Hendricks for 2023?

The Cubs are likely to be obvious sellers relatively soon, which means the various corners of their roster will be evaluated as possible trade pieces. The starting rotation, for as much as has been an issue already this year, will be included in that mix. But projecting who will actually be on the block (with real value) is not a precise science at this point, and digging in deeper than merely teeing up the names is probably unproductive or misleading. We have to see how it goes for a while longer.

written by

Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

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