The Athletic’s baseball staff came together to create a trade deadline status check, separating all 30 clubs into one of four buckets: (1) Buyer, (2) Leaning Buyer, (3) Leaning Seller, (4) Seller.
The Cubs are just one of seven definite sellers, alongside the Orioles, Reds, Tigers, Royals, A’s and Nationals. In other words, it’s shaping up to be a seller’s market by way of scarcity, which works out well for the Cubs. Also working out for the Cubs? The fact that even some of those definite sellers don’t have as many rental trade pieces.
The biggest trade chips for teams like the Orioles (Cedric Mullins), Reds (Luis Castillo, Tyler Mahle), Tigers (Gregory Soto), Royals (Scott Barlow), Marlins (Pablo Lopez), A’s (Frankie Montas), and Pirates (David Bednar, Bryant Reynolds) all come with multiple years of control remaining. In many of those cases, that makes a trade this month far less likely, pushing the market even further in the seller’s direction.
The Cubs, by contrast, have plenty of rentals available – most notably, catcher Willson Contreras, closer David Robertson, relievers Chris Martin and Mychal Givens, and starters Drew Smyly and Wade Miley (if they heal up in time). There’s also Rafael Ortega, who isn’t a rental, but isn’t even arbitration eligible until 2024.
Point being, the Cubs may be the most attractive shop in town.
So What About the Cubs-related Buyers?
After all that, you won’t be surprised to learn that there plenty of buyers listed in that article at The Athletic, more than I’ll acknowledge below. But among the teams that could line up well with the pieces the Chicago Cubs have (and are not the Brewers or Cardinals) …
- The Red Sox “biggest need” is bullpen help, and we already know they’re looking for someone with experience in a big market and in the postseason (hello, David Robertson).
- The White Sox “need left-handed power and left-handed on-base ability.” That sure sounds like Ian Happ, the Cubs switch-hitting left fielder who has a top-15 OBP in MLB this season and plenty of power. And now that the Cubs and White Sox have completed two massive trades in the last four years, I don’t think we can shrug this off anymore.
- For the Guardians, “catcher remains the most glaring spot on the diamond,” and they’re not looking for a long-term answer, because they love the development of prospect Bo Naylor, who was recently promoted to Triple-A. This could be a perfect outcome for the Cubs, if they want to trade Contreras and get a shot at re-signing him this winter (though that’s extremely rare).
- The “Astros could upgrade offensively at catcher … with the Cubs’ Willson Contreras … as clear options from non-contending clubs.” We’ve heard this a dozen times, and it’s usually followed by but they don’t want to replace Maldonado. So I really don’t know.
- The Rays “could use a catcher … and could really use a (rental) bat.” Again, Contreras is a catcher and the top rental bat on the market.
Replacing Chris Taylor at the Deadline
The Los Angeles Dodgers are going to make the playoffs – and they almost always have another random stud to call up when they’re in need – but they are also playing hurt at the moment. Mookie Betts was back from his cracked ribs for just a few innings before Chris Taylor fractured his foot. And according to Taylor, he’ll be out “longer than initially expected.” And even though Betts is back, he’s playing through discomfort and expects to for some time. Beyond that, Edwin Rios is on the IL with a strained hamstring, and Kevin Pillar is out for the season with a fractured shoulder.
On top of all that, Justin Turner (99 wRC+), Max Muncy (91 wRC+), and Cody Bellinger (88 wRC+) are all underperforming (though Turner has turned it way up in the last two weeks).
They’re still a top-tier overall team, but according to Fanian Ardaya (The Athletic), “Potentially replacing Taylor could add to the Dodgers’ shopping list for next month’s trade deadline.”
I still don’t know how much the Cubs intend to market Happ at the deadline — I tend to think he’s totally available, but only if they’re relatively overwhelmed by an offer (by contrast, Evan Altman has heard that they will aggressively shop Happ, and Altman is a smart guy) — but he is probably a pretty attractive outfield bat for any team that loses a starter to an injury. The fact that he can (in a pinch) play all three outfield spots and is also a switch hitter makes him pretty darn marketable, too.
Padres Need Offense:
Along those same lines, the Padres simply must find a way to improve at the deadline, and they’re also looking for some offensive help.
“Instead, a punchless offense — which accounts for about half the payroll — is failing to give the starting rotation a chance. The Padres have scored in only eight of their past 54 innings. They have held a lead in just two of those innings. Tuesday, they scored on an error and a sacrifice fly that was caught in foul territory.”
“Even if the Padres call up the likes of Luis Campusano, Brent Rooker or Esteury Ruiz, they will need to acquire at least one veteran, impact hitter.”
The Padres, of course, will need to get out from under the luxury tax (they have just $600K worth of space) if they want to make a significant addition. Happ isn’t expensive, but he is making $6.85M this season. Rafael Ortega ($738K) is a less impactful, but more affordable option.
There’s a whole other angle to this too, in case you missed it:
Teams in on Frankie Montas and Luis Castillo:
Injuries aside, Frankie Montas and Luis Castillo are shaping up to be two of the deadline’s most coveted targets, and the Dodgers, Blue Jays, White Sox, Mets, Astros, Giants, and Yankees could be their top suitors.
(It’s really too bad injuries have slowed Kyle Hendricks, Wade Miley, and Drew Smyly … the Cubs might’ve gotten a haul this year, given the total dearth of starting pitcher trade options).
In any case, after losing Hyun Jin Ryu (TJ surgery) — and almost losing Kevin Gausman to a comebacker earlier this week — the Blue Jays really need starter depth at the trade deadline and they’re expected to be “one of the most aggressive shoppers” in both the starters and relievers market.
We’ve heard about the Blue Jays aggressiveness already this season, particularly with respect to the bullpen, where the Cubs should be able to help. So keep an eye on them over the next few weeks.
Benintendi to the Brewers?
It’s not really a surprise, but Andrew Benintendi is so totally gone based on these comments from the Royals GM:
“Andrew is a really good player,” (Royals GM JJ) Picollo said recently. “He’s having a great year. If he’s with us the entire year, we’ll be a better team for it. But at the same time, I think if there’s an opportunity that allows us to make us better not only today but more so even moving into the future, we have to be open-minded to it.”
The Yankees are mentioned as a potential suitor for Benintendi, who’s having a really nice season (125 wRC+), but I’ve been seeing the Brewers connected to him a lot (there’s a whole article dedicated to finding a trade match between the Royals and Brewers for Benintendi).
Odds and Ends
- The Cubs were among the four teams scouting the Yankees organization lately, because “they [all] know [GM Brian Cashman] will give up actual prospects to get what he wants at the deadline.” Indeed. Thanks for Kevin Alcantara. Can we interest you in anything else?
- Josh Bell is a pretty attractive trade target, himself, this deadline, but the Nationals may first consider trying to extend him. I explored the desirability of Bell as a Cubs free agent target this offseason, late last month:
- What’s the likelihood of a Juan Soto extension in Washington D.C.?
- And to reiterate, our friend, Evan Altman of Cubs Insider, has heard whispers from industry sources that the Cubs intend to aggressively shop Ian Happ at the trade deadline.