Like the set earlier this week, I like to review third party trade rankings this time of year just to see how non-Cubs-attached folks are thinking about the relative trade value of the players the Cubs may have on the market.
To that end, CBS’s R.J. Anderson dropped his top 30 trade candidates, ranked into tiers of potential impact. As always, these are tricky exercises, because you have to incorporate the likelihood that a player is actually traded into the value equation (otherwise, you’d have Sandy Alcantara or Aaron Judge or Shohei Ohtani or whoever at the top, and I don’t think they’re getting traded any time soon (although, wouldn’t that be interesting if the Angels decided to go nuts … )).
For Anderson, the top tier of trade candidates goes five deep, and includes just one rental in the group: Willson Contreras. The other four are controllable guys, two of whom seem likely to be traded (Luis Castillo and Frankie Montas), and two of whom seem much less likely (Bryan Reynolds and Sean Murphy).
Right after Contreras on the list, and just outside that top impact tier, is Ian Happ:
“Happ has always been overshadowed by the Cubs’ other homegrown hitters, so why would it be any different here at the end of the line? He’s been a reliably above-average hitter throughout his career, posting an OPS+ above 100 in all five of his completed seasons (including three where he finished above 110), and he’s made some encouraging gains this season. He’s reduced his whiff rate to the lowest of his career, which in turn has caused his strikeout rate to plummet to a career-best 21 percent. (To think, it wasn’t that long ago he was striking out in 36 percent of his trips to the plate.) That’s the kind of development that could elevate Happ to a higher level of production on a consistent basis. He has another year of team control remaining, so a club who believes his arrow is indeed trending upward should act now.”
The reliever tier starts at number 21, which seems a bit low given the way impact, back-end relievers are always valued at the Trade Deadline, but that’s probably nit-picky. Cubs closer David Robertson is the only reliever included in this group, but both Mychal Givens and Chris Martin are name-checked as guys who could also slot in. Robertson was chosen, however, because the’s the closer. Fair enough, and his value – barring a dramatic shift – will indeed be a good bit higher than Givens and Martin.
The final tier on the list includes the guys who could be good and impactful, but who come with at least one big question market. That’s where Drew Smyly shows up (number 27), which is pretty darn fair given how good he’s been over the last calendar year … but also given that he’s coming off a long-term absence for an oblique injury. I actually tend to think the potential trade value on Smyly has a wide range depending on what he’s able to do with his final start or three before teams come calling.
Check out the full set of rankings and tiers from Anderson to get more of a lay of the land. The biggest picture takeaway remains this: dang this market is terrible if you’re a buyer. There just aren’t that many obviously-available, obviously-impactful players on the market this year. So far.