The Cubs are currently on a six-game winning streak, and while everything is fine and dandy right now, they’re just 10 days removed from being swept by the Reds, leaving most thinking this Cubs team just doesn’t have the same magic they did in 2016. Make no mistake, this Cubs team is good. Very, very good. But like all contenders at the trade deadline, the Cubs will likely find themselves gaining a new face come July 31.
Despite somewhat down seasons from Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant, the offense seems to be clicking on all cylinders, leading the National League in runs per game and having scored at least five runs in their last eight games. The starting rotation appears to be set for the foreseeable future, and the Cubs just don’t have the player capital to acquire a front-line starter without severely gutting the young core of position players.
That leads us to the bullpen. The Cubs own the sixth-best bullpen ERA in baseball, even with Brandon Morrow and Carl Edwards Jr. missing time, and a slew of Triple-A relievers riding the Des Moines/Chicago express shuttle. However, the Cubs rank ninth in innings pitched by relievers this year and are first among current playoff-contending teams. This team will need to add another reliable reliever for the playoff stretch (and hopefully beyond), one that Joe Maddon can call upon instead of someone like Brian Duensing or Luke Farrell. That said, here’s a list of players that the Cubs could potentially be targeting come this trade deadline.
Manny Machado: I would be shocked if Machado is in a Cubs jersey on August 1, but until he actually gets traded, it seems like Machado will perpetually be linked with the Cubs. The Orioles are a dumpster fire right now with glaring holes at a number of positions; they onlysit 32.5 games behind the Red Sox for first place in the American League East. Machado is hitting .311/.378/.565 with a 151 wRC+. He’s already been worth 3.0 fWAR this season, even if his defense has been lackluster since demanding a positional move to shortstop. Machado will be a free agent at the end of the season, and while it’ll cost a pretty penny to get him, he is undeniably the best bat available at the deadline this year.
Zach Britton: Like his Oriole teammate, Britton will be a free agent at the end of this season. Britton ruptured his Achilles in the offseason, causing him to sit out until the middle of June. The southpaw’s velocity is down this year, averaging 94 miles per hour on his sinker after registering an average fastball velocity of 96.9 from 2015 to 2017. Britton is still working his way back to becoming the dominant reliever he once was, as he currently owns a 5.53 ERA and a 1:1 K/BB ratio. Britton is only one year removed from a 2.89 ERA season with 15 saves, and he’s two years removed from one of the best seasons ever posted by a closer. If Britton can get back to full health, he’s as a top five reliever in baseball and a good buy low candidate.
Blake Treinen: Treinen doesn’t get the recognition he deserves since he plays his home games in Oakland, but Treinen is having a stellar season for the Athletics. The 30-year-old sports a 0.86 ERA while striking out nearly 11 batters per nine innings. Treinen’s average fastball velocity is a tick above his career average, sitting at a cool 97.6 miles per hour this year. Although Treinen turned 30 on June 30, he still has three more years of control via arbitration. Since the start of the 2016 season, Treinen owns a 2.64 ERA with 38 saves and a 160 ERA+. The A’s currently sit at 47-39 and are seven games back of the Mariners for the second American League Wild Card spot, so they don’t pass the eye test of a surefire seller. However, the A’s are overachieving a bit, as their Pythagorean record suggests they should be 44-42. If I had to bet, I think the A’s will be sellers come the last week of July, and a trade of Treinen would be contingent upon them deciding to sell. Treninen won’t come cheap, but Theo Epstein’s prior history of working with Billy Beane could come into play here.
Kyle Barraclough: Similarly, to Treinen, Barraclough won’t be a free agent until after the 2021 season. Although Barraclough’s fastball velocity is down nearly two miles per hour this year from his career norms, Barraclough is having one of the best years of his career. The former Cardinals draftee sports a 1.17 ERA and eight saves, both career best for him thus far. Even though Barraclough’s velocity is down, his BB/9 is at the lowest rate of his career (4.5), and he’s still striking out 9.9 batters per game. Barraclough’s peripheral numbers suggest he’s due for some regression, he owns a 3.24 FIP, a 90.1% left on base percentage, and an absurdly low .141 BABIP. Nevertheless, Barraclough has been a steady force in the Marlins bullpen since his debut in 2015, owning a 2.55 ERA, 1.207 WHIP, and 11.7 K/9 over four seasons.
Brad Hand: Undoubtedly the crown jewel of the reliever market this season, Hand has been one of the most dominant relievers in baseball since he converted to a fulltime bullpen role in 2016. The 28-year-old’s average fastball velocity is at the highest mark of his career, sitting at 94 miles per hour from the left side. Hand has a 3.12 ERA this year, converting 23/27 save opportunities with a 12.94 K/9. Hand is under control for two more years for $14.5 million total, with a $10 million team option for 2021. Hand will be one of the most sought-after players at the deadline this year, and while it isn’t a guarantee the Padres will move him, he’ll probably cost the Cubs one of Albert Almora Jr., Ian Happ, or Kyle Schwarber if he makes the move to the North Side.
Adam Ottavino: If the Rockies continue to flounder around .500 over the next few weeks in an underwhelming National League West, they may decide to sell some of their premier players, including Ottavino. Ottavino is having the best season his career, and even though he’s a free agent at the end of the year, he would be a force in the later innings for the Cubs. Ottavino owns a 1.88 ERA with a 14.1 K/9 thanks to a whiffle ball slider that he throws nearly 50% of the time. The Rockies may try to make to make a push for the playoffs this year while Nolan Arenado is still wearing purple, after all, they’re only five games back of the Diamondbacks for first place in the NL West. These next two weeks will decide if the Rockies are buyers are seller, and if they do decide to sell, Ottavino could have an Andrew Miller like effect for whatever team he pitches for.
Seth Lugo: Five of his past seven appearances have been as a starter, but prior to Noah Syndergaard landing on the disabled list, Lugo had been working out of the bullpen. Before transitioning to the starting rotation in late May, Lugo owned a 2.48 ERA with a 9.37 K/9 rate, going two or more innings 10 of his 20 appearances out of the pen. The 28-year old won’t be arbitration eligible until 2020 and won’t be a free agent until 2023, so the Mets may very well decide to make Lugo unavailable, especially if they were to deal one of Jacob DeGrom or Syndergaard. But Lugo’s multi-inning versatility and elite spin rate make him an ideal target for this Cubs front office.
Would you trade for one of these players? Or someone else? Or stand pat?
At the deadline, the Cubs should trade for...
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Someone else (leave in comments)
No one — they’re good enough to win with the team they have