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What’s next for the Cubs after the Andrew Chafin trade?

Three days to the 2021 trade deadline. What, if anything, will the Cubs do next?

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Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images

The Cubs traded Andrew Chafin to the Athletics Monday evening, their second deal of a 26-man roster player this month (Joc Pederson the other).

This, you know, and BCB’s Tim Huwe will have some thoughts on the players received in the Chafin deal coming up at 10 a.m. CT.

No doubt, this deal has prompted speculation on who the Cubs would deal next. Feel free to continue that sort of speculation, but I wanted to call your attention to this Patrick Mooney article in The Athletic, which makes this statement in the headline: “If this is not a rebuild, then the Cubs should copy the Red Sox again and go after free agents.”

Here’s the key passage of Mooney’s article, in my opinion:

In preparing Cubs fans for the possibility of a massive sell-off at Friday’s trade deadline, president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer also dismissed the idea of another full-scale rebuild at Wrigley Field. Hoyer, a New England native who got his start in professional baseball by working out of Fenway Park’s basement offices, pointed to Boston’s performance over the past decade: Four division titles, four last-place finishes, three top-seven draft picks, two World Series championships and a 92-win pace this season.

That wasn’t just public messaging before the All-Star break. It’s how club officials are internally thinking about this transition period.

So if you think the Cubs are going to deal Kris Bryant, Javier Báez, Anthony Rizzo, Craig Kimbrel and others and thus do a full teardown, I think you’re incorrect.

While it is true — especially after the return for Chafin — that trading Kimbrel could bring a huge haul of prospects and/or MLB-caliber players, if Cubs management is actually thinking about not doing a “full-scale rebuild,” why not exercise Kimbrel’s option and keep him a Cub in 2022? He is having an historically great season and I don’t see any reason he couldn’t do that again.

Yes, it is possible, if not likely, that the Cubs will trade one of the “core” players (Bryant, Báez and Rizzo). If I had to pick just one, I’d say it’ll be Bryant. He seems the least likely to stick around and sign a contract extension to remain a Cub, and several teams appear interested in him, either as a third baseman or as the super-utility guy he’s become this year for the Cubs. Trading Bryant would likely bring a better return than keeping him, giving him a qualifying offer, and getting the draft pick they’d get when he rejects the QO.

This has been discussed here before, but I suspect that if Rizzo and Báez are Cubs after Friday, they’d both be given QO’s and both would accept — with the possibility that long-term extensions could be offered and accepted. Both are having somewhat down years, both have had minor injury issues, but both could return to previous form.

The Cubs could also deal other pitchers from a bullpen that was really good up until a few weeks ago. Ryan Tepera seems the kind of pitcher other clubs might be interested in. Remember that Tepera was released by the Blue Jays and signed to a deal by the Cubs before 2020. The Cubs got Chafin for a random minor leaguer. There are guys like this all over baseball and at least over the last couple of years, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have gotten good at identifying and signing them. Trade Tepera, Dan Winkler if you can at this point.

It’s three days until the trade deadline at 3 p.m. CT Friday. There will be more Cubs action on the trade front. Of that I am certain. Who those swapped players will be, we will soon find out.