We are four days and a few hours from MLB’s trade deadline, which is set for this Friday, July 30 at 3 p.m. CT.
The Cubs have 10 players on their active roster who will be free agents after 2021: Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo, Zach Davies, Matt Duffy, Rex Brothers, Adam Morgan, Dan Winkler, Robinson Chirinos and Ryan Tepera. Also on the active roster with 2022 options and/or buyouts: Andrew Chafin, Craig Kimbrel and Jake Marisnick. Free agents in the organization, either in the minor leagues or on the injured list: Jake Arrieta, Kyle Ryan and Jose Lobaton.
That’s a lot of players who are very likely going to be gone from the Cubs in 2022.
So “break up the core” could be an operative phrase this week — or not. Here’s why.
First, look at the trade the Pirates and Padres made Sunday:
Source confirms the Pirates have received infielder Tucupita Marcano, outfielder Jack Suwinski and right-hander Michell Miliano from the Padres in exchange for Adam Frazier and appx. $1.4 million in cash— Alex Stumpf (@AlexJStumpf) July 25, 2021
Adam Frazier is a very good player who was the starting second baseman for the NL All-Stars this year. He is making $4.3 million this year, which means the $1.4 million the Pirates threw into this deal is pretty much his remaining 2021 salary. So Pittsburgh is paying Frazier to play for the Padres and they got three middling prospects (though Tucupita Marcano is listed as San Diego’s No. 5 prospect by MLB Pipeline).
So, seriously: Apart from Kimbrel, what are the Cubs going to get as a possible return for any of the core players, many of whom are either having bad years or have been performing poorly for the last couple of months? The Cubs are very unlikely to pick up salaries for traded players; one of the things they managed to accomplish in the Joc Pederson trade was to get the Braves to pick up all of Pederson’s remaining salary for 2021 and his 2022 buyout.
Anthony Rizzo? The ESPN Sunday Night Baseball crew was convinced he’s headed to the Red Sox. But... despite the homer he hit Sunday, Rizzo is having the worst year of his career. His OBP is down; before 2020 his career OBP was .373. Since then? .342. Before 2020 his career SLG was .488. Since then? .424. The Cubs aren’t going to pick up the approximately $6 million left on Rizzo’s contract for this year. So what could you get in return? It might be more worthwhile to keep him and make him a qualifying offer. The draft pick the Cubs would get in return might turn out to be a better player. On the other hand, Rizzo might accept the QO.
The same is likely the case for Javier Báez, who is having a good power year (22 HR, .482 SLG), while the rest of his numbers are down. There also doesn’t seem to be an obvious landing spot for him.
Bryant? Yes, he too homered Sunday, but since June 1 KB is hitting .183/.277/.344 (24-for-131) with five home runs. His home run Sunday was his first since July 3. If you are a team looking at him, do you want to risk that he’s going to hit like that for two more months?
I circle around these players over and over and I keep coming back to the idea that the only ones with real trade value are Kimbrel and Chafin — and Chafin had a bad outing Saturday which was likely witnessed by multiple scouts. Do they risk trading for him and he reverts to the mean? Chafin has always been a good relief pitcher — but he’s never quite been THIS good. Perhaps these two could go in the same deal. On the other hand, Kimbrel has a $16 million option for 2022 that looks like a bargain right now. If Hoyer is serious about a “retool” rather than a “rebuild,” why not keep Kimbrel at that price? The Cubs currently have only about $40 million in contracts committed to 2022, for Kyle Hendricks, Jason Heyward and David Bote.
One other player might have some trade value, though it’s likely minor. Zach Davies has pretty good number in 16 starts since May 1: 3.12 ERA, 1.327 WHIP, only six HR in 83⅔ innings. He pitched well for the Padres last year and it’s entirely possible they might want him back. (No, the Cubs are not going to get Victor Caratini in return.)
It’ll be an interesting week and I believe that if the Cubs do make deals, they might not do anything until after Thursday’s game, an afternoon contest against the Reds at Wrigley. When that game ends around 4:30 p.m. CT on Thursday, they’ll have 22½ hours until the deadline the next day. That ought to be a busy time for Hoyer & Co. Remember also that the old style of waiver deal in August no longer exists. Teams can no longer waive players, see who claims them and try to work out a deal. Teams can still waive players in August (and anyone acquired before August 31 is still postseason-eligible), but if another team claims that player they cannot back out, that player is theirs. So there will be fewer such deals in August, if any.
As always, we await developments.