Today, we are exactly one week out from the trade deadline, and the velocity of rumors has picked up dramatically. And with so many of the top trade targets on the market (Willson Contreras, Ian Happ, David Robertson, and Mychal Givens chief among them), the Cubs are not likely to save it all for the last day. At least, that’s what history tells us. The tricky part, however, is how often each of those guys have been floated as part of a package deal.
We’ve already discussed deals centered around Contreras and Happ, as well as either one of those hitters with either reliever (those have mostly been Padres/Mets rumors, but there are a number of teams for which that sort of deal could make sense. I’m fascinated to see how Hoyer spaces out these trades.
Please Trade Xander Bogaerts, Boston
The Boston Red Sox have been doing a whole lot of losing lately. At the start of this month, their playoff odds were up to 78% per FanGraphs. Today, that’s down to 30.3%.
“Amid the injury-pocked collapse and Boston’s descent toward the bottom of the AL East, the possibility of the Red Sox becoming sellers has become increasingly realistic, sources said …. Combine the Red Sox’s place in the standings with their chances in the postseason against better and more talented teams with their injured list, which is longer than a CVS receipt, and the impetus to sell is clear and strong.
That matters to us Cubs fans for a few reasons.
First and foremost, that could mean J.D. Martinez is hitting the market as perhaps the best available hitter. That could impact the market for Willson Contreras, who is likely to DH (at least a little bit) for whichever team he winds up on. Similarly, the availability of starter Nathan Eovaldi could push someone like Drew Smyly further down the hierarchy of attractive targets.
But the most interesting angle, in my estimation, is what happens with Xander Bogaerts.
The talented shortstop would almost immediately become the best player available on the market (outside of Juan Soto), which could obviously impact teams looking at the Cubs hitters as alternatives. But despite that conflict (if there even is one for such totally different players), I’m actually rooting for a trade.
In case you missed the news, the MLB and MLBPA were unable to come to an agreement on an international draft this week, which means the qualifying offer situation remains unchanged heading into this offseason. That also means that if the Cubs were to sign Xander Bogaerts this offseason, it would cost them their second highest draft pick, which, uh … figures to be quite high given their relative place in the standings.
HOWEVER, if Bogaerts were to be traded at the deadline, he’d become ineligible to receive a qualifying offer and make him that much more realistic for the Cubs.
I tend to think the Cubs prefer Carlos Correa all things considered, but Bogaerts is very likely a close second. And having a credible fallback option could help them negotiate a more reasonable deal (with either player) this winter.
But here’s the rub, via Passan: “Rival executives anticipate that even if Boston unloads a half-dozen players, Bogaerts, the star 29-year-old shortstop, won’t be among them, even though he’s set to hit free agency this winter.”
Let’s watch this one closely.
Maybe the Astros Aren’t as Quiet as They’ve Seemed
Before the trade season kicked off in earnest, the Houston Astros were considered one of the obvious landing spots for Willson Contreras given their anemic offensive performance behind the plate. But as soon as rumors started trickling out, we learned that they were being very resistant to the idea of moving Martin Maldonado out of his spot behind the plate. And with Yordan Alvarez crushing the DH role, the fit suddenly seemed less clear.
And as a matter of fact, I’ve barely seen any direct Astros rumors at all. There wasn’t NOTHING but it just didn’t seem like they were all that active. Well … not anymore.
At ESPN, Jeff Passan has two key reports regarding Houston’s overall aggressiveness, as well as their interest in Willson Contreras, specifically:
- “Whether it’s Bell, Contreras or someone else, selling teams say the Astros have been extremely aggressive and that they will be a better team by Aug. 2.”
- “…and Houston Astros have been in contact with the Cubs about the 30-year-old free agent-to-be, sources said….
This is the first time I’ve seen any direct reporting of Houston’s interest in Contreras. It’s always been a no-brainer, so it seems those earlier reports may have just been a smokescreen.
Teams Calling About Contreras
In addition to the Houston Astros, Jeff Passan says the New York Mets have been in contact with the Cubs on Contreras (which still strikes me as his most likely landing spot), but the San Francisco Giants are “poking around on catching options” too.
Here are some of the recent headlines on Giants/Mets stuff, with respect to Contreras:
- Giants: Could the Cubs Target MLB-Ready Talent Over Prospects in a Willson Contreras Trade?
- Mets: The Cubs and Mets Match Up So Well, But Maybe Only for a Bigger Trade?
- Mets: Are the Mets Finally Willing to Admit How Badly They Need Willson Contreras?
- Astros: Lukewarm Stove: deGrom Wants Atlanta? Selling Free Agents on the Cubs’ Future, Biggest Sellers/Buyers, Contreras Suitors, More
All of those posts are especially important now that we know all three teams have called the Cubs about a deal.
I tend to think the Rays could still check in on Contreras, especially now that they know they’ll be without Mike Zunino for the rest of the season. But Ken Rosenthal did just say today that “a play for Cubs catcher Willson Contreras does not appear to be a priority.”
Rays Scouting Cubs
Of course, he followed that up with “… but the Rays are not afraid to swing big,” reminding us that a year ago, the Cubs and Rays had the framework of a deal for Kris Bryant and Craig Kimbrel in place.
He also mentioned that the Rays have been among the teams scouting the Cubs available relievers, which is not a surprise, but is certainly nice confirmation.
It’s not like this is preferable to being buyers, but it sure is nice to know the Cubs are so prominently featured ahead of the deadline. They really should be able to land the right deals.
Odds and Ends:
- MacKenzie Gore is dealing with elbow soreness, which could dramatically limit the Padres’ ability to use him in a deal for Juan Soto. However, I do think the Cubs would still GLADLY take a pitcher of his pedigree in a deal, and in fact, this might be the only way they could have ever gotten him in the first place (not unlike PCA’s injury last season).
- The new playoff format should make the Braves and Mets *especially* aggressive at the trade deadline, given that whoever does not win the division, will likely face the Padres in the best-of-three wild card round. Not great.
- The Twins are looking for starting pitchers at the trade deadline, but aren’t expected to land near the top of the market. Maybe that could make someone like Drew Smyly a possibility? Just speculating there.