There is no arguing that Juan Soto is the center attraction of all things Trade Deadline right now. Players like Soto, at age 23 and with multiple years of control remaining, simply do not get traded. There are atypical circumstances regarding the Washington Nationals’ sale – and Soto’s rejection of a monster extension offer – that have led us to this moment, where one guy is pretty much 90% of the trade market. Of course, it’s still possible he isn’t traded, and Jeff Passan’s latest underscores the uncertainty about whether a Soto deal even happens.
You should always read Passan, and he has a rundown of the latest rumors across baseball, with just a week to go before the deadline. The top is dominated by Soto stuff, as you’d expect, and it’s a lot of open questions.
What stood out to me, though, is just how central the Chicago Cubs are, once again, to the Trade Deadline. Passan says that, unless the Red Sox decide to sell (apparently still not expected), “the Cubs are the biggest non-Soto team to watch at the deadline. They’ve got the best bat in [Willson] Contreras, the best relief pitcher in David Robertson and the best all-around, cost-controlled player in Ian Happ.”
We already know about Contreras’s and Robertson’s spots atop their own rental markets, but it’s interesting to hear Happ included as his own kind of top player.
Moreover, Passan drops something of a big line, via his sources: “Two things have become clear in the past week as trade talks picked up: Almost everyone wants Happ, and the Cubs are likely to trade him, according to sources.”
Almost every contender wants Happ? I mean, it does have some logic to it, since most of the contenders need an outfield bat (it’s been so thinned this year), and Happ can play multiple outfield spots if necessary. An extra year of team control is also always attractive in these kinds of trades. And the Cubs are “likely” to trade him at this point? Well, if he’s being THAT highly valued on the market, how could the Cubs not explore it?
We’ve known all along that Happ, even with team control through 2023, was a possible trade candidate. His value right now is arguably as high as it has ever been, or ever will be. But because of that extra control, we also knew that the Cubs would trade him only if the return was too good to turn down. Yes, the Cubs can still compete in 2023 without Happ – they have outfield depth and left field is a spot where you can make some short-term hay in free agency – but it would certainly be more difficult. And I think the Cubs do want to compete in 2023.
Is it possible, then, that the Cubs already know they’re going to be able to get one of those “too good to turn down” offers for Happ? That’s one way to read this report from Passan.
Again, I’m not saying it is a surprise that the Cubs are considering a Happ trade – we’ve known that for months. I’m just a bit surprised by the apparent likelihood of a trade. I think I woke up this morning feeling like it was more of a 50/50 proposition.
Given the possibility of pairing Happ with another player, as we’ve discussed before, maybe the possible returns here are so substantial that keeping Happ, however much we might like him, is not the right path for the Cubs. That would be all the more true, by the way, if Soto doesn’t wind up traded, since that would take a clearly superior trade option off the market. Happ – who has broken out to the tune of a .282/.367/.445/127 wRC+ slash line this year – might just be surprisingly valuable on this particular trade market, and the Cubs are not going to sit back and miss out on an outsized opportunity.
Still, for fans, it would be yet another sad scenario to think about, even as Ian Happ, himself, is clearly contemplating the possibility: