Monday, September 25, 2023

Chicago Cubs Outlook Less than 72 Hours From The Trade Deadline


The Chicago Cubs currently sit at a disappointing 50-51 mark, 8.5 games outside of first place. An 11-game losing streak paired with long slumps from oft-consistent sluggers found the Northsiders going from early June buyers to potentially holding an estate sale size sell-off. With the Brewers holding on to a sizeable lead on the division and the two national league wild card slots all but settled – consolation prize among the latter in the battle for the NL West, trading away stars for the Cubs is no longer a question, rather a certainty. While the thought of moving on from “The Core” is unsettling for much of the fanbase, it is time to face what has seemed inevitable for a few years now.

What Has Happened So Far

The first Cub on the move this month was left-fielder Joc Pederson. After signing a 1-year deal in the offseason, the outfielder was shipped off to Atlanta on July 15 for minor league slugger Bryce Ball. While this move had less of an impact on the team’s future, it was a sign of what would come as the Cubs look to turn expiring contracts into pieces that may impact the future.

During the Cubs’ dramatic walk-off win against Cincinnati on Monday night, Andrew Chafin was sent on his way to the Athletics for two prospects, OF Greg Deichmann and RHP Daniel Palencia.

This year, Chafin was a force for the Cubs, sporting a 2.06 ERA across 43 appearances, emerging as a fan favorite while doing so. Given the need for arms during a playoff race, the Cubs’ smart move is to retain as much as they can for formidable members of their bullpen that may not be a part of the team’s uncertain future.

On Deck – Who Might Be Shipped Out Next?

Jed Hoyer on what he has to do this month and best fall“This will not be a rebuild by any definition” – Bruce Levine @MLBBruceLevine

Cubs Most Likely to be Traded:

1A. RHP Craig Kimbrel – Kimbrel is in the middle of one of the most brilliant seasons of his storied career, finally pitching like the top of the line closer the Cubs signed him to be. In 39 appearances, Kimbrel boasts a 0.49 ERA and has converted 23 of 25 save opportunities. As a result, the 2021 All-Star will easily be the most sought-after closer on the market. His ability to put a contending team over the hump this year with another club-controlled year next season should surely net the Cubs a large return. A potential price tag likely includes a top 5 prospect from whichever team he lands on with potential for another top 10 prospects to be included.

1B. 3B/OF Kris Bryant – After years of media-fueled contract extension chatter, the Cubs remain in the same position as their star player. While Cubs’ faithful still dreams of an extension keeping Bryant in Cubbie blue for his career, the risk of letting the former NL MVP walk with no return is not justifiable. Bryant’s versatility has been on full display this year as he has started at least 10 games at 3B, 1B, and all three OF spots. He also has experience at numerous spots in the batting order ranging from leadoff through the 5-hole. Jed Hoyer may have commanded a larger return for KB a year or two ago, but his bat still carries the ability to change the playoff race instantly. The Cubs can expect a similar return to Kimbrel here – a top 10 prospect should be a starting piece in any trade package with the potential to draw a top 5 player in a bidding war.

3. RHP Ryan Tepera – Tepera slides in as the next logical trade piece as he has produced a 2.91 ERA across 43 appearances and is on a very friendly $800,000 expiring contract. Along the same lines as Chafin, relievers are too valuable at the trade deadline; swapping him for a few young prospects should be a no-brainer.


4. 1B Anthony Rizzo – As the unofficial “Captain” of the team and longest-tenured Cub, this move should upset many fans. However, letting Rizzo play for a contender for a few months may be one of the best moves the Cubs can make right now. I say this as there is strong potential for a move similar to the 2014 Jason Hammel and 2016 Aroldis Chapman deadline deals. Rizzo is a Cubs uniform for life makes sense, especially given the lack of minor league talent below him at first base. If the Cubs front office plays their cards correctly, Rizzo could net the team a fair return of young talent and still sign a free-agent contract to return to Chicago in the offseason.

5. Utility Players: OF Jake Marisnick & 3B Matt Duffy – Both veterans are currently on 1-year deals with the club. The Cubs may elect to keep both players and allow them to audition for the 2022 roster, but if a true fire sale happens, these are two names to keep an eye on as they could nab the Cubs some longshot prospects worth gambling on.

What to Look for in the Future

One notable player left off the above list is SS Javier Baez. The reasoning for this is despite his name has coming up in trade discussions, the Cubs would be wise to hold on to him for the remainder of the 2021 season. There is a real chance for management to market the team’s future around Javy. A few months of allowing Javy to be the main superstar allows for the opportunity to see if he and Willson Contreras can prove they can still play at superstar levels and keep fans in the stands. A strong performance to close out the season would give Baez the ability to earn a sizable contract to stay with the team while still giving the Cubs a first-round compensatory pick should he leave in free agency. A true win-win scenario should the front office decide to go this route.

Potential New Core

One of the positive things to come out of a sell-off will be the opportunity to see what is in store for 2022 and beyond. The Cubs still have many intriguing players on the roster that can benefit from more playing time this season. Second baseman Nico Hoerner and outfielder Ian Happ are two key pieces of any future Cubs starting lineup. A potential Rizzo departure would grant Happ the opportunity to audition for starting 1B. More consistent at-bats for these two and other players such as David Bote and Patrick Wisdom can paint a much better picture of how competitive the team will be in a year or two.

Brennen Davis is another name that may be stuck in fans’ brains as early as this September. Fresh off a Future’s Game MVP, Davis has been on a tear in Double-A with 9 homers in 42 games for Tennesee. After a slow start, he has shot up the overall prospect rankings this summer. He may be starting in the OF for the major league club as early as next year. Giving him some major league at-bats as summer winds down is not out of the question. If the trade deadline leaves the Cubs with a thin bullpen, they have the option to test out some of their younger arms at the highest level. LHP Brailyn Marquez is the current top prospect in the minor league system and seems unlikely to pitch this season but should be a key member of the 2021 rotation spearheaded by Kyle Hendricks.

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