The Cubs-Padres Buy-A-Prospect Trade Rumors May Come Back, But with a Twist

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The Cubs-Padres Buy-A-Prospect Trade Rumors May Come Back, But with a Twist

Chicago Cubs

The San Diego Padres (46-31) are 1.5 games behind the Dodgers in the NL West and in control of the top Wild Card seed in the National League. Statistically, they have a projected 1 in 3 chance of winning their division, a 90.4% chance of making the playoffs, and the fifth best odds to win the World Series.

That’s all good news for them, because they’ve apparently pushed themselves to the absolute limit financially to win with this roster. As of today, the Padres’ luxury tax payroll is pegged at roughly $229.4 million, just $600K shy of the $230M threshold.

The bad news is that a team in their position — a certain playoff contender, but with a very real shot at taking over their division — really needs to add at the deadline, both to fill in any necessary gaps and also to keep up with the Dodgers, who are a bit better on paper and also willing to make additions of their own.

However, the Padres are reportedly unwilling to exceed the luxury tax threshold, which, well … rock and a hard place.

So we’re going back to a well we’ve drawn from a LOT over the past year or so, but because it’s back again with a new round of rumors and at least one new intriguing name.

Circling back: Will the Padres again seek to complete a trade that cuts salary in the form of a bad contract by attaching a prospect to the deal? And could the Cubs come back to the table? From the sound of it, yes, the Padres will (the Cubs part is TBD). And with some of the same names that popped up last time around.

  • Eric Hosmer is making $20M this season with $39M due from 2023-2025. He’s got an $18M average annual for the purposes of luxury tax calculation. After a red-hot April (197 wRC+), Hosmer is slashing just .238/.293/.328 (74 wRC+) with poor-to-average (at best) defense at first base.
  • Wil Myers is also making $20M this season and has a $1M buyout on his $20M club option for 2023. His luxury tax salary is $13.8M. Myers has missed time with a knee injury this season and is currently on the IL. He has also been very unproductive in his time on the field, slashing .234/.276/.306 (65 wRC+).

These are the two guys the Padres would be most willing to move in any deal, both because they’re routinely unproductive/injured and because they are making enough money to actually make a difference if their salary is moved out. Getting rid of them would be “worth” a very good prospect.

But there’s at least one more name to add to the mix this time around, and that’s starter Blake Snell. And that’s mighty interesting.

According to Dennis Lin of The Athletic, the Padres could look to move Snell (or even Mike Clevinger, though that’s less likely) given their other rotation options and, again, the fact that moving either would save them some money.

  • Blake Snell is making $12.5M this season and $16M next year. He comes with a $10M hit to the luxury tax payroll and has a 5.60 ERA over 7 starts.
  • Mike Clevinger is making just $6.5M this season and comes with a luxury tax hit of just $5.75M. He’s been good when he’s on the field, but injuries have limited him to just six starts so far.

According to Lin, both pitchers could be traded, given the Padres starting depth and the possibility that they could still pursue a starter in trade, but San Diego prefers to trade Snell to Clevinger, even if it would be selling low on Snell.

And all of that brings us back to the Chicago Cubs for a few reasons.

First, in case you forgot, the Cubs and Padres discussed a deal exactly like this (built around Hosmer) last trade deadline. And again over the winter. So it’s not at all difficult to imagine them coming right back to the table one more time. Perhaps, with the Padres’ feet a little closer to the fire, they can get something done this time around.

Second, the Cubs may have exactly what the Padres are looking for – an outfielder. It was the subject of Lin’s latest mailbag at The Athletic, and the Cubs are even mentioned with respect to Ian Happ (though Lin seems to be pessimistic about his availability). Plus, Happ is making $6.85M this season, which is not a TON of money, but obviously the Padres are trying to fit as much in under the threshold as possible.

A more realistic fit, then, might be Rafael Ortega.

The left-handed outfielder is making less than $800K this season and has hit well all season, especially against right-handers. Meanwhile, the Padres outfielders have a 92 wRC+ against RHP this season, 19th in MLB).

San Diego doesn’t need to use their newly-acquired luxury tax space immediately (as in, in the deal in which it was acquired), but that could simplify matters for them. And Ortega is sufficiently good/cheap that a deal for him would provide a safety net if they fail to land some other, bigger fish. Maybe even some leverage in other trade talks.

And lastly, while the point of this deal – from the Cubs’ perspective – would always be about the prospect they’d get as compensation for paying down the salary of whichever player they receive in return, it doesn’t hurt to also get a player you could reasonably use. Eric Hosmer at first base is one we’ve discussed in the past – meh – but don’t you think the Cubs would love a crack at Blake Snell?

Snell, 29, is still young and under control for another season. Yes, he’s struggled of late, but he won the AL Cy Young award in 2018. I’m quite willing to bet the Cubs would love a crack at reestablishing him next season. Note that Snell’s 3.78 FIP this year is slightly better than league-average, so it’s not like the season has been a total disaster. Perhaps he just needs a tweak or two.

So for now, all we know for certain is the Padres’ side of the ledger. But given the Cubs’ apparent financial flexibility, their even stronger desire to add as many prospects as possible, and the previous conversations with San Diego on a deal of this exact nature … I’d keep this in mind as the next few weeks unfold.


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Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami