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If the Cubs make July trades, what could they get for Craig Kimbrel?

It might be time to start thinking about this.

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

I’ve decided to stir the pot a bit early this year. After all, the MLB trade deadline has been bumped up, so I’d better start assessing possible trades earlier. In all reality, it would be nice if mid-July saw the Cubs playing .580 baseball, but I somewhat doubt that will be the case. If the Cubs are languishing in mediocrity in late June or early July, expect a few “veteran for prospect” types of trades. This article looks at the Philadelphia Phillies system for possible trade matches for Craig Kimbrel, if that sort of exchange makes sense then.

“Oh, God, not these, already,” I hear some of you say. The reality is, if the Cubs fail to run off a nine-of-eleven streak soon, the likelihood of trading veterans increases. 2021 being more like 2013 than 2015 grows, loss by ugly loss. Looking at opposing team pipelines for realistic matches seems as useful of a use of fifteen minutes reading as arguing over proper lineup construction.

One method I won’t use is to click down a team’s top four prospects and diabolically demand one of them. It entirely shuts off discussion, and represents far more knowledge of what is being offered than I have. If the Cubs flip a rental piece for team control of a squad’s third prospect, Jed Hoyer probably did rather well. July trades are often for a B-, a C+, and an unknown piece. Awareness of how players do in a yet-unstarted minor-league season will be key. This is to float what the returns could be.

One final sideswipe. While people usually (and understandably) want “known pieces,” any trade for Kimbrel will likely hinge on someone not well known. Kyle Hendricks was the second piece in a swap for Ryan Dempster. Cleveland closer Emmanuel Clase was dealt in a one-for-one as a player to be named later for Brett Nicholas. Then, Cleveland added Clase for one inning of Corey Kluber. If you want an impressive “now” return, you will likely be disappointed.

I will start in the three places I will usually start. I’ll look at the Phillies’ 2020 Draft, their 2019 Draft, and at their Fangraphs prospect list. Getting pitcher Mick Abel would be fantastic, and Jed Hoyer holding out for nothing less would be a stroke of genius if it works. However, I doubt he’d be able to execute it.

The first teenager on the list is centerfield prospect Yhouswar Garcia (No. 14), who the Phillies spent $2.5 million to sign less than two years ago. He’s yet to play a pro game, but that hasn’t deterred Hoyer so far. Just below Garcia is Jamari Baylor (No. 15), a third-round choice in 2019. He’d likely keep a low-stress roster spot until Rule 5 Draft-eligibilty (December 2023), and could be in-line for time at second base in Myrtle Beach this summer. Erik Miller (No. 7) was a college arm from Stanford in the fourth round in 2019. 2019 sixth-rounder Andrew Schultz (No. 41) was a fireballing reliever from the Tennessee Volunteers. If you like a reliever on top, ask for Schultz.

The 2020 list closed with a player I kind of dig. Fifth-rounder Baron Radcliff (No. 35) represents right field, and could be ready to play sooner than a teenager. As he was a college get in 2019, he wouldn’t be Rule 5 Draft-eligible until December 2022, and might be MLB-ready before that. Radcliff has legitimate power. Casey Martin (No. 11) was a useful lead-off man for Arkansas, and might be quick enough to cause trouble in MLB. He went third round in 2020. (They lost their second rounder for signing Zack Wheeler.)

Yemal Flores (No. 20) isn’t eligible to be traded, as he was signed since the last World Series (in January). Gunner Mayer (No. 19) was a fifth-round pick in 2019, and tossed eight innings professionally that summer. Starlyn Castillo (No. 24) was an international signing who debuted stateside with eight innings in 2019.

My hunch is that in this scenario the Cubs would push rather hard for Garcia, fully expecting him to be an unlikely get. My guess would be a combination package in the range of Casey Martin/Gunner Mayer/Baron Radcliff or Jamari Baylor/Starlyn Castillo/Andrew Schultz, with Garcia being the unobtainable piece. If the Cubs get one top five guy? Cool. I dig package deals when the parts of the package have upside, If the Cubs toss in another reliever, they could add another piece, or move up the quality in the pieces they receive.

Which players most interest you, outside the top few on the Phillies list? If you have an organization you’d like me to look at in regard to a trade, post it below.