With an underperforming tandem at DH, a lengthy IL trip in store for James McCann, and their tenuous grasp on the NL East, the New York Mets have emerged as the most obvious trade partner for the Cubs on Willson Contreras. Whether or not they’re willing to admit that is a different question entirely.
The latest from the MLB rumor mill …
More Willson Contreras Chatter
Jon Heyman jumped on 670 The Score to discuss the Cubs and the trade deadline, providing a (very) loose understanding of what the Cubs might expect in exchange for Contreras when a deal does get done:
“I think they should get one really good prospect or two pretty good prospects,” Heyman said. “He’s one of the better guys who is going to be traded this trading season. He’s right up there with Josh Bell of the Nats and the pitchers.”
I wouldn’t try to decipher what “one really good prospect” means, because we won’t be able to. That was likely purposefully vague. Instead, the takeaway here is how well he’s valued across the league. Despite the understandable reluctance to integrate a new catcher mid-season, Contreras is generally considered to be one of the top trade targets at the deadline. Last season, rental position bats netted the Cubs some guys that were just outside top-100 prospect consideration, but who had the potential to get there with a development stride or two: Pete Crow-Armstrong (Javy Báez and Trevor Williams), Caleb Kilian and Alexander Canario (Kris Bryant), and Kevin Alcantara (Anthony Rizzo).
If the Cubs do as well on the Contreras trade as they did on any of those three deals, you’ll probably be very happy … you know, sometime in the future. For what it’s worth, Sahadev Sharma has suggested he does believe the Cubs could land a current top-100 type in a Contreras deal. And given how well Contreras is hitting + the DH in both leagues, I tend to think he’s right.
Heyman also added that Contreras is “clearly” considered one of the top-5 catchers in all of baseball, calling him “outstanding” trade bait. But he also said this:
“It’s a little unusual that to this point (the Cubs) haven’t even really tried to keep him. And you gotta wonder why that can be. Obviously, the Cubs have not been big spenders in recent years. That could be it. I don’t know. Do they not love him as much as the rest of the league does? I’m not sure. It’s a little strange that they’re just going to trade him and that’ll be it. You know, uh … he’s pretty good.”
Contreras also thinks it’s unusual and hopes he’s here for a lot longer than just the next few weeks. “I hope this is not my last time wearing the Cubs jersey, to be honest,” Contreras said, per the Chicago Tribune. “I don’t see myself going anywhere else, but this is business ….”
He added “I would love nothing more than play for the Chicago Cubs the rest of my life,” Contreras said. “Obviously those kind of things are out of my control, but I’m really excited and proud and humbled to be a Chicago Cub.”
While we’re on it, the very first question and answer in The Athletic’s Cubs Q&A deals with the impact of Contreras and the countervailing forces of agreeing to an extension at this point. If you want to see Contreras in a Cubs uniform again, your more realistic path is a surprise re-signing this offseason. But with Yan Gomes working well behind the plate and P.J. Higgins’ bat and versatility, I just don’t know if the Cubs are going to dish it out for Contreras next year, either. This is – most likely – the end of the line. Unfortunately.
Reds, Dodgers Discussing Luis Castillo Trade
Few teams are quite as certain sellers as the Cubs, but the Reds are one of them. And Luis Castillo is their primary trade chip, perhaps the most attractive chip on the market, ahead of even Willson Contreras.
Castillo comes with one additional year of team control and has been lights out this season: 2.92 ERA over 12 starts. And the vultures have started circling:
The Dodgers have plenty of talented starters already, including Julio Urias, Tony Gonsolin, and Tyler Anderson. But Walker Buehler (strained forearm) is on the 60-Day IL, Dustin May had Tommy John surgery, Andrew Heaney is on the 15-day IL for the second time this year, and Clayton Kershaw is often dealing with some kind of injury (and has been on the IL once already this season). Point being, they know they need a starter for this year (at least) and they have the prospects to acquire someone of Castillo’s stature.
In the meantime, several other obvious starter trade candidates are currently injured, including Tyler Mahle, Kyle Hendricks, and Frankie Montas. But Ken Rosenthal has a list of unexpected arms who could reach the market soon: Johnny Cueto (White Sox), Pablo Lopez (Marlins), Zach Plesac (Guardians), Mike Clevinger and Blake Snell (Padres), and maybe even Carlos Rodon (Giants) or Noah Syndergaard (Angels), among others. A lot of that depends on how the next few weeks go.
Could the White Sox Become Sellers?
I tend to think the White Sox would try very hard to convince themselves NOT to become sellers at the deadline, but they haven’t been over .500 since May, and their chances of winning the division (35%) or making the playoffs (49.2%) are as low as they’ve been in a very long time. As crazy as it is, maybe they could wind up sellers?
So Jon Morosi is opening the topic for debate, citing potential trade candidates like Jose Abreu, Josh Harrison, Lucas Giolito, and Jonny Cueto. Again, I sincerely doubt this – and one rival GM told Morosi no way – but it’s out there:
Obviously the potential impact here would be far more than schadenfreude – the White Sox would take an obvious buyer off the market, and convert it to a seller.
Yankees Want an Outfielder
From a report at USA Today: the Yankees are “closely scouting” David Peralta of the Diamondbacks, reportedly as a backup to their primary target – and theoretical Ian Happ competition (any interest in Rafael Ortega out there?) – Andrew Benintendi. But that’s hardly their only set of options.
Here’s a different Yankees-outfield rumor, regarding Michael A. Taylor, among others.
Here’s Jon Heyman saying Andrew Benintendi, Ian Happ, and Anthony Santander might all be trade deadline targets. And here’s Ken Rosenthal on why the Yankees need to go all-in at the trade deadline.
So to recap, that’s Bob Nightengale, Jon Morosi, Jon Heyman, and Ken Rosenthal all touting the Yankees apparent aggressiveness, particularly in the outfield, at the trade deadline, with four names coming up, and many more presumably in the fold. Just something to keep in mind, as we approach the deadline. I think Happ is as good of a target as anyone else on that list, but I also hope he is not traded.
(Brett: From the perspective of “I like to watch players I like,” I don’t want Happ traded either. But I wanted to slide in here to say that I’ve come around to the idea that, if the Cubs aren’t extending him this month, then you might not ever have a more valuable time to trade Happ. And while losing him would ding the chances of competing in 2023, the outfield – especially left field – is arguably the one spot where the Cubs could afford to take this opportunity and figure out a way to back-fill for 2023, either internally or in free agency. I think the Cubs have to at least be open to jumping if a big offer comes their way from an outfield-desperate contender.)
Odds and Ends and MLB Rumors
- In a relatively surprising, albeit understandable, report, rival executives reportedly believe the Brewers are willing to listen on sell-side trades this deadline, including deals for Josh Hader (more on that later), Kolten Wong, and catcher Omar Narvaez. I’d say I’ll believe it when I see it, but apparently they think they can make these trades and still compete in the NL Central this season. That would be a tough call to make.
- Separately, Rosenthal’s latest Baseball Show podcast at The Athletic is also full of trade deadline chatter, including Rosenthal’s take that Orioles should be sellers AND buyers this deadline, and the Padres trading some money to the Mets in the form of Blake Snell or Eric Hosmer (something we’ve discussed a bunch with respect to the Cubs).