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It’s July. Trade season has begun. What does that mean for the Cubs?

A minor swap was made Thursday, kicking off the annual trade deadline month of deals.

Tim Locastro, the first MLB player traded in July 2021
Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

I had some things to do on Thursday, and left without my phone. When I returned, I noticed a very minor trade had been made. While I'd planned on using a different intro, the Tim Locastro trade serves as a nice intro to the July trade season. Even this minor deal means the season of deals has begun, and could soon swing to swaps involving the Cubs.

Locastro is a veteran. I'm not entirely sure what role he will fill with the Yankees, or if he'll fill that role well. As much as anything, I wanted to see what trade return Locastro would bring. A reliever in Double-A Ball, Keegan Curtis could fill that role in Double-A Tennessee if he had been sent to the Cubs, or shore up the bullpen in High-A Myrtle Beach. Look at his numbers and decide. Either way, if added to the Cubs, Keegan Curtis would have put the Cubs atop the leaderboard in Keegans.

The rest of this is how I expect the rest of July to go, with an inexact starting point. I imagine most of the players on the Cubs’ big league roster (especially with expiring contracts) have values attached to them. If any team exceeds that in a trade offer, a quick once around the league happens, and a trade is submitted to the league. A name I like to use as a hypothetical is Dan Winkler. If someone offers more than the level of value, a trade becomes quite likely.

Keegan Curtis, for instance, was a late draft choice (22nd round) in 2018, but has already advanced to Double-A. That's good time for a late pick. Will Curtis appear as a big leaguer? Possibly not or probably not, but it's unlikely Locastro would contribute significantly into the future for Arizona, either.

To pivot to a Cubs example, Matt Mervis and Ryan Reynolds share time at first base and DH for Myrtle Beach. They get regular time. They're not horrible. However, it is conceivable a team has a better first baseman in Low-A. If someone in the league was willing to give up a first baseman better than either one of them, for Winkler, that might work. Teams are limited to 180 players in a pipeline (stateside, off the 40-man roster), and adding an upgrade to two players at once might be tempting. Hypothetically.

Unless the Cubs ricochet back closer to first place over the next six or eight games, and even if they do, figurative "price tags" might be embedded into player trade discussions.

One name to discuss is Joc Pederson. Both New York teams are aware of their outfield weaknesses, and Pederson could help either. Or the White Sox, possibly. Quite a few teams are ordinary in spots, and Cubs could help many teams, if the offer is targeted enough. The better the player, the higher the return, but losing players who have expiring contracts to no return seems absurd, especially if internal replacement options exist.

For instance, if an outfielder were dealt for a possible prospect return, Michael Hermosillo could get a (well-deserved) MLB call-up. He's been fantastic with the I-Cubs (.351/.463/.584 in 77 at-bats, with four home runs and five stolen bases). He’s 26 years old and a Chicago-area native (Ottawa, IL). If he is MLB-valid, the Cubs would be able to retain him for the foreseeable future. However, for the call-up to happen (and be worth bothering with), Hermosillo would be best served with some realistic playing time.

One other angle to play is the DFA Portal game. With so many teams on the verge of losing quality to waivers, having an available spot (officially or unofficially) seems useful. If someone is better than "the last guy on the bubble," make the move.

Yes, trading players would diminish the quality of the 2021 team, and that will infuriate season-ticket holders and Marquee viewers. The die, though, will have soon been cast. A team with four All-Star level talents at league minimum rates will have a chance at October success. It happened before, and when the salaries bumped up, the production bump wasn't the same. May the next prospects be useful.

What will be the "ask" for any current Cubs player? Who will be the first players traded? When? What is the likelihood the new additions will reach Wrigley? (Probably remote, though not zero.) Hopefully the Cubs play much better against the Reds, and in the upcoming homestand.

Otherwise? Any expiring contract might as well be traded, barring extenuating circumstances.