At this point, we have hit most of the likely sellers for this year's trade deadline. We've looked at the attractive pieces who could exit Oakland in the next week, Phillies ace Cole Hamels, and a bevy of options for solidifying the fifth starter job over the next two months.
To be sure, we haven't addressed all of the trade possibilities out there. What might the Cubs be willing to surrender to acquire David Price? Could the Cubs pry Chris Archer away from the Rays if Javy Baez and Kyle Schwarber came knocking together? And do the Milwaukee Brewers have any semblance of an organizational plan or philosophy? Some questions will just remain unanswered.
I'm not here to address the outstanding unknowns of this wonderful week. I'm here specifically to say what my hopes are for the trade deadline this year. I'm staying as absolutely realistic as possible here, so without further ado, let's take a look at what I think would make a perfect week for the Cubs to close our July.
Transaction #1: Tigers trade SP David Price to Blue Jays, Orioles, or Astros
Let me start by saying this: I still think that it is much more likely that the Tigers are buyers at the deadline than sellers, regardless of media reports. They have basically the same odds of securing a Wild Card berth as any other non-division leader in the American League and given the age of their roster, they'd be foolish not to pursue it. Christopher Ilitch's desires notwithstanding, I think Mike Ilitch makes the call and they buy a big piece instead of selling.
But if Price leaves Detroit, I hope he heads out to another American League club. That way, the Cubs (i) would be able to sign him in November without forfeiting a draft pick, and (ii) wouldn't have their own playoff odds impacted by Price's presence on a competitor.
Transaction #2: White Sox trade SP Jeff Samardzija to Pirates
The ability to sign Price this November without losing a draft pick would be nice, but it would be even nicer if multiple top-flight starting pitchers hit the market without compensation attached. I'm not pretending that Samardzija is on Price's tier in terms of performance, but I expect Shark to get $20 million annually this offseason, so it would be nice to see him dealt as well as a means of adding another truly-free free agent starter to the supply.
This dream sees Samardzija dealt to the Pirates for an obvious reason: the Cubs are highly unlikely to catch Pittsburgh anyway, but presumably the Pirates would shed some of their prospect depth in order to acquire Samardzija, something that should have medium- and long-term benefits for the Cubs. Given that the Cubs and Pirates would meet up in a one-game playoff assuming both clubs secure Wild Card spot -- a massive "if" at this point -- Samardzija would be highly unlikely to face the Cubs as the Pirates would want one of Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano, or A.J. Burnett to have the honors.
Transaction #3: Padres trade LF Justin Upton to Pirates
Upton also figures to be expensive and he's basically a perfect fit for a Pirates club suffering from Gregory Polanco's struggles in right field. Upton is the big bat needed for the middle of the Pittsburgh offense, and he'd also come with the added benefit of gutting a useful piece or two from the Pittsburgh farm.
(Non-)Transaction #4: Reds do not trade SP Johnny Cueto, SP Mike Leake, and OF Jay Bruce
This is a pipe dream. Cueto is as good as gone and Leake probably is too. Bruce may very well stay. As a Cubs fan, I'd much rather see the Reds only receive whatever player they draft at the end of the first round next summer for Cueto than the prospect haul they'll surely receive when they deal their ace. Leake won't command much from a buyer, but he'll net Cincinnati something. I'd rather that the talent leave the National League Central without other talent flowing in to replace it.
(Non-)Transaction #5: Mets and Giants do nothing
Both teams could probably justify standing pat, but I'd be surprised if either actually did so. Both are nipping on the Cubs' heels for the final playoff spot right now, and both have obvious needs: the Mets need a corner outfielder to produce like they thought Michael Cuddyer would and the Giants need a starting pitcher given the terrible results they've gotten from Ryan Vogelsong, Tim Hudson, Jake Peavy, and Matt Cain this year, especially considering the injuries to Cain and Peavy. Money is very likely a factor for both clubs: the Giants payroll jumped from $96.3 million in 2010 to an astounding $173.2 million this year, so it remains to be seen if they can absorb a further increase, whereas the Mets' financial woes are well-documented at this point. Both clubs standing pat would favor the Cubs.
Transaction #6: Cubs trade RP Edwin Jackson to any team willing to absorb any amount of his contract
I was fully in favor of the Edwin signing when we gobbled him up after narrowly missing out on Anibal Sanchez prior to the 2013 season. Unfortunately, as we all know, Edwin never got on track with the Cubs and he scuffled his way into the bullpen abyss this season. There's still a big arm and a power slider to work with, so I wouldn't be stunned to see Edwin find a nice role in some team's bullpen this year. Might a club be willing to drop $1 million or so to find out? We can hope.
That's it. You may have noticed that I don't list the Cubs as acquiring any players above, and that's no accident. Late July pricing requires a premium, something I'm generally averse to the Cubs paying. But as we've discussed multiple times, the Cubs' biggest problems (shortstop, center field, fifth starter) are as likely to be filled internally with improvements from Starlin Castro and Dexter Fowler as well as health from Tsuyoshi Wada as they are with additions from outside the organization. The lineup appeared in need of a big bat and then Kyle Schwarber showed up. It's tough to envision a season-changing acquisition at this point whose cost justifies the move.
I'd be all for a trade that brought Chris Archer or Sonny Gray to Chicago, but since I'm awake, I won't pretend that the Cubs might pony up the cost to make such an acquisition.
That said, there is one transaction that could actually happen that I would pursue:
Transaction #7: Cubs trade CF Dexter Fowler and 1B Dan Vogelbach to Angels; Angels trade SP Sean Newcomb and RP Trevor Gott to Brewers; Brewers trade CF Carlos Gomez to Cubs
You can play around with the prospects changing hands, but the basic parameters of the trade involve the Cubs flipping two months of Fowler into a year and two months of Gomez at a well-below market rate and the Brewers flipping Gomez for a couple of badly-needed arms. In this scenario, the Angels turn a pair of useful prospects into two months of Fowler and Vogelbach's future.
It's a weird-looking move. I appreciate that. And Gomez doesn't fit what the Cubs seek in offensive players as his hyper-aggressive approach can get him into trouble. At his worst, he doesn't get on base and stifles his own power. At his best, he draws an average number of walks and hits for great power. Regardless of how his bat is going, his speed is of the game-changing variety and he's a super-premium glove in center field. Under contract for just $9 million in 2016, Gomez buys the Cubs another year in their search for their center fielder of the future in addition to bringing star-level upside, even if he shows inconsistent utility thereof.
The justification for the Angels is simple: Mike Trout is the MVP and Kole Calhoun has been great, but their third outfield spot has been a disaster as Matt Joyce simply cannot produce. Their lead on Houston in the American League West is tenuous, so Fowler's addition could pay huge dividends. Plus, they get Vogelbach to strengthen their offense going forward, potentially providing a real protecting bat for Trout in the lineup with Albert Pujols and Calhoun.
The Brewers? I just don't know what to make of the Brewers. I have no idea how they feel about Gomez or what plan they have as a franchise. This price suggests that they're tired of Gomez and want to move him for a couple of nice pieces as part of a longish rebuilding process. Gott could anchor their bullpen for six years while Newcomb has the pedigree to be a rotation workhorse by late 2016. But if they think Gomez is an MVP contender like he was in 2013, this price gets laughed off. Thing is, I wouldn't pay much more than this for him. It's a tricky situation.
(As an aside: the good folks at Baseball Prospectus see Gomez as a star still despite his humdrum 2015. They have the Cubs offering a monster package of Fowler, Javier Baez, Carson Sands, and Jeimer Candelario for Gomez. Remove Baez and Sands and I'm interested.)
I could also see a deal centered around Gomez coming to the Cubs with Fowler shipped out to Minnesota or Kansas City. Both clubs have short-term needs in the outfield. The Twins have Torii Hunter and Aaron Hicks without a third banana while the Royals are missing Alex Gordon badly: since moving into the starting lineup on a full-time basis, Jarrod Dyson has been exposed as was feared to the tune of a .176/.300/.176 line over a week, an admittedly tiny sample.
I don't expect the Brewers to move Gomez, and as a result, I'd like to see the Cubs stand pat, waiting for the return of Wada to solidify the rotation and Castro's reemergence to help the offense. With Javier Baez a week away from returning to game action, perhaps he becomes the big August addition.
Regardless, the Cubs are positioned well to compete for a Wild Card spot without spending big this July. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer built a good team; let's see how it goes.
With that in mind, we get to this:
(Non-)Transaction #8: Cubs do not trade anyone on their Major League roster or any of the following: SS Javier Baez, SP Duane Underwood, RF Eloy Jimenez, SP Dylan Cease, SP Carson Sands, SS Gleyber Torres, SP Trevor Clifton, RP C.J. Edwards, SP Jake Stinnett, SP Erling Moreno, SP Jen-Ho Tseng, RP Pierce Johnson, RP Armando Rivero, or C Victor Caratini
That list is absurdly long, but here's the point: if the Cubs make a deal, I don't want to see them pay deadline prices and move top prospects for the right to do so. Of course there's a point at which the deal would be great (say, if the Phillies moved Hamels for Sands, Clifton, Johnson, and Caratini), but deadline prices don't work that way. The only way waves and waves of talent arrive on shore is if they're still in the system. With a bevy of starting pitching options coming on the market in a few months, let's hold our chips and use our cash.
Of course, I'd be ecstatic with this one move...
Transaction #9: Cubs sign CF Eddy Julio Martinez
...but that's a conversation for another post.