Lukewarm Stove: Cubs Have the Best Trade Chips, Happ’s Availability, Free Agent Power Rankings, Judge’s Projections, More

We’re still in the early days of the 2022 trade season, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a LOT of useful information out there already. For example, Jeff Passan just released a trade primer of sorts, including 148 “names to know” before the deadline. But don’t be overwhelmed by the volume of players. Among the mass of interesting intel and commentary, there is one key take away specific to the Chicago Cubs.

The Cubs may very well be selling the best rental closer (David Robertson) *and* overall bat (Willson Contreras) at the 2022 MLB Trade Deadline.

On Contreras: “Contreras has snatched the title of best catcher in baseball, and were someone to make gonna-get-dealt power rankings, he’d be No. 1.” Passan, like Mike Petriello earlier today, identified the Mets, Giants, Yankees, and Astros as potential suitors, with a special focus on Houston: “The Astros rank 20th in MLB in runs scored, leaving room for a splash, and there might not be a bigger one to be made this summer than going out and getting Willson Contreras.”

On Robertson: “Of the group above, Robertson is the prize, a revelation at 37 who should fetch the Cubs a nice return by himself or as part of a package.” Aside from stellar numbers (1.66 ERA, 35.3 K%, 85.6 average exit velocity, 26.1 hard%), Robertson is a known name with a ton of experience closing out games for big market teams in playoff races. He’s also as cheap as they come, making just $3.5M total this season (less than half that due after the deadline). That’s about as ideal as a trade chip gets.

So the Cubs are selling the top rental bat as well as the “prize” of the relief market. And that’s not including other potentially valuable pieces (if healthy) like Chris Martin, Mychal Givens, Wade Miley, and Drew Smyly, who also get name-checked by Passan.

But wait! There’s more!

Could Ian Happ Be Traded?

In a grouping of players identified as “potential deadline rockers,” defined as the dozen or so players “whose names and/or production would make them among the more substantive deadline acquisitions,” Jeff Passan lists Ian Happ and Kyle Hendricks. I tend to think a Hendricks deal is particularly unlikely (for a number of reasons), and I’m glad to see Marcus Stroman’s name left out of the conversation, but I do think the Happ discussion is worth having.

Passan provide much with respect to Happ, other than including him next to some impressive players, but he did hint towards the Cubs intentions: “The Cubs’ willingness to deal Happ could depend upon the speed of their refresh/rebuild.”

Happ has one more year of team control after this one, but has also emerged as a potential long-term piece for the Cubs this season. Aside from an average(-ish) arm, his defense in left field has been better than ever, his strikeout rate has dropped down to 20%, and his overall offensive production has been right around the borderline all-star range this season (129 wRC+).

As a 27-year-old switch hitter who has finally proven his ability from the right side of the plate this season (177 wRC+ in ~50 PAs!) and who can play all across the outfield in a pinch, I’d prefer if the Cubs explored extensions over trades, but I do understand the merit in finding out his value to the market. There is something to be said about selling high … but Happ’s underlying performance is so fundamentally different than his best months/years in the past, I would genuinely prefer to hang onto him.

Free Agent Power Rankings

Hopefully, by now, you’ve seen the rumors: The Cubs are potentially going to be big spenders this offseason *and* one GM “guarantees” they’ll leave the winter with one of the big three free agent shortstops.

But who else is available? Well MLB Trade Rumors has you covered with some early free agent power rankings. Aaron Judge takes the top spot – though I strongly suspect the Cubs will not find themselves involved with his market (unless things go VERY well from here on out) and the three shortstops follow in positions 2-4. Steve Adams lists them in Correa-Turner-Bogaerts order but you can probably make arguments for any priority.

Among the starting pitchers, Joe Musgrove takes the top spot, with Jacob deGrom and Carlos Rodon behind him, and don’t forget about Brandon Nimmo – the Mets center fielder who’s actually already been connected to the Cubs once this season.

Willson Contreras ranks 9th.

Odds and Ends:

•   Speaking of Aaron Judge, FanGraphs did a little analysis on his projected performance moving forward and how much he stands to earn in free agency this offseason. The bottom line here is that Judge has improved his stock by as much as $70M in the eyes of the projections. Good for him.

•   If you can get through another think piece on the likeliness/unlikeliness of a Juan Soto trade, Jon Heyman discusses the top-10 trade bait power rankings, including Willson Contreras at No. 7 and Marcus Stroman at No. 9. Heyman keeps throwing Stroman into this conversation, but I really think it would be unproductive to trade him this year. And it’s not like he’s at peak performance, either. If the Cubs really want to move on, there’s another deadline to entertain that discussion. But moving him now would arguably be a bigger punt on 2023 than trading Willson Contreras.

•   In case you missed it, the Diamondbacks were the team to pick up Dallas Keuchel, who was released by the White Sox.

•   Yankees third baseman/outfielder Miguel Andujar has reportedly requested a trade, though the Yankees have basically been trying to trade him for years, and he has been optioned to Triple-A Scranton in the meantime.

written by

Michael Cerami began covering the Chicago Cubs for Bleacher Nation as a part-time contributor in 2015. One year later, he joined Bleacher Nation full-time, covering the Chicago Cubs and Major League Baseball. Today, Michael runs Bleacher Nation, contributing as a writer (Cubs, MLB) and an editor for all sections of the site, including the Chicago Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks, as well as MLB, NBA, NHL, and NFL. In 2019, Michael was the co-host of NBC Sports Chicago's Cubs Post-Game Show Outside the Ivy. You can find him on Twitter/X @Michael_Cerami

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