Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Cubs’ Top Trade Target Injured, Plus Huge Market Update

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You know the scoop by now. The Chicago Cubs entered 2024 with raised expectations after finishing just one win shy of a playoff birth. Shota Imanaga was signed, Michael Busch was traded for, Cody Bellinger was re-signed, and the belief was everything else needed to win was in-house. That’s how Jed Hoyer likes it.

The season started hot. The Cubs took two of three at home against the Dodgers and followed that up with a winning West Coast trip. Nobody had the Cubs outside of the top ten in their power rankings. This team was well on its way.

Then, the Cubs suffered injury after injury, almost like a contagious disease. The season that started so well was hanging on the hope of the young replacements coming up. While they tried to hold their own, the veterans weren’t doing their part to help. The bullpen was collapsing. The downward spiral was fast and fierce.

Now, after an abysmal 10-18 May, June is not starting much better. The Cubs just dropped three of four to the Cincinnati Reds, and second place in the division is separated by just half a game between four teams. The Brewers are comfortably clear of the mess by seven games.

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Cubs Have Needs The Trade Market Can Provide

The Cubs need a catcher that can produce both offensively and defensively. Miguel Amaya and Yan Gomes are batting under .200 and liabilities behind the plate. They have struggled to keep the ball in front of them and cannot throw out baserunners. While Miguel Amaya’s offense has improved over the last couple of weeks (.276 average over his last 29 at-bats), Jed Hoyer’s assessment of him being the catcher of the future has not panned out. At best, he is a mediocre backup option.

Consistency out of the bullpen has been tough to come by for the Cubs as well. Hector Neris leads the team with nine saves, but they’re never clean and easy. We’ve also seen the pen give away their fair share of leads, which isn’t squarely on them. The offense needs to do their part and score more than one or two runs. Nonetheless, the Cubs would love to have a solidified closer and add depth to a depleting bullpen. That’s what bit them in their downfall last season.

The Cubs lack power on this offense. Cody Bellinger, Christopher Morel, and Seiya Suzuki are all struggling to give the Cubs the long balls they are capable of. The Cubs are slugging just .372 as a team, well within the league’s bottom half. Their collective batting average is just .220, fifth-worst in baseball. They need to hit, but they need to hit the ball out, too.

Baseball is in full swing, and we have entered the warm summer months. With that, the trade market and rumor mill will be heating up just as rapidly. The Cubs and their needs are a big part of how this season will unfold. There is still a possibility they are not buyers, but all indications are they’re looking to compete in a wide-opened National League.

Rockies Catcher A Top Target, But Left Last Night’s Game Early

The Colorado Rockies are once again near the bottom of the overall standings. While that usually means a team is open for business and ready to sell away top talent, don’t be so sure. Per Jim Bowden of the Athletic, the team isn’t looking to be too aggressive in shopping players.

The biggest name on the Rockies that has been involved in rumors with the Cubs is catcher Elias Diaz. You may remember him from hitting the home run in last year’s All-Star Game, which gave the NL the win and won him the game’s MVP award. Well, he’s continued on the path of being an excellent catcher in baseball.

Diaz has just five home runs this season, but he is batting .303 with an OPS of .791. If you’re counting at home, his average is over 100 points higher than Miguel Amaya’s and almost doubles Yan Gomes’. His defense generates a +5 run value, according to Baseball Savant. Amaya and Gomes combine for a value of -7.

It has already been rumored that the Cubs have had conversations with the Rockies about Diaz, but things may be put on the shelf for a couple of weeks. Diaz pulled up running to first last night due to a lingering calf strain. He is currently day-to-day. The Rockies hope that an IL stint is unnecessary. Quite frankly, so do the Cubs.

The Next Two Weeks Will Tell The Story Of The Blue Jays

Speaking of catchers, the Toronto Blue Jays have one that’s pretty good, too. Danny Jansen is batting .264 this year with five home runs and an OPS of .815. What the Jays plan to do at the deadline is very up in the air. But the rumors are swirling about some big names being available, and the Cubs are right in the middle of it.

This past weekend, a report came out that the Cubs have had “private conversations” with the Blue Jays about first baseman Valdimir Gurrerro Jr. and his availability on the market. The above-mentioned Jansen and shortstop Bo Bichette have also been in trade rumors. However, according to Jim Bowden of The Athletic, Blue Jays General Manager Ross Atkins does not think it makes sense for them to trade these guys away. They’re still technically in the race for a Wild Card spot and hope to extend these players.

Like the Cubs, the Blue Jays are in a stretch of important baseball. The next two weeks could determine whether they are in the hunt or whether it makes sense to bow out and plan for the future. It’s also rumored and on the table that GM Atkins could be fired before the deadline, which would all but guarantee a Blue Jays’ fire sale.

Gurrerro Jr. would be a dream catch for Jed Hoyer if he becomes available. Vladdy still has a year of team control before becoming a free agent, so the Cubs wouldn’t have to pay him as much. It’s a move that tells fans the Cubs are going for it. Then, Hoyer can act like he wants to re-sign him after 2025 and wait until 2026 to explain the length of the contract and the value year-to-year being the reason they pulled out. It’s genius. The only other hiccup is what the Cubs would give up to acquire him. We know Hoyer loves his guys.

Obligatory Cubs, Pete Alonso Rumors

Vladimir Gurrerro Jr. would bring power and slug to the North Side of Chicago, plus the guarantee of an extra year. But what good is a trade market without rumors of the Cubs talking to the New York Mets about Pete Alonso? They go together like a shot of Malört and an ice-cold Old Style.

If the Mets do shop Alonso, his bat will be the most powerful on the market. Heavy hitters (contenders) will be calling on him, especially if they feel first base is a weakness. Jim Bowden of The Athletic mentions the Cubs as a top suitor, along with the Houston Astros, Seattle Mariners, New York Yankees, San Francisco Giants, and Minnesota Twins.

The Cubs’ advantage over all those teams is a better farm system. They have a deeper player pool to explore and make deals with than any other team in baseball. They currently own the rights to seven of MLB’s Top 100 Prospects.

The disadvantage of an Alonso trade is the overwhelming likelihood that this move would be for a half-season rental. The Mets have not shied away from their intentions of re-signing Alonso after the 2024 season. Alonso has also expressed his interest in playing in New York for the foreseeable future. Additionally, this Cubs regime doesn’t pay superstars superstar money. They bank on players simply wanting to come to be on the Chicago Cubs and play at Wrigley Field.

Whatever the moves are, the Cubs have to make splashes with big moves to put themselves back in the race for the World Series. If not, they’ll either end up where they were last year or finish with an even worse record. The Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies, and Atlanta Braves are all once again head and shoulders above the rest of the NL. However, all you have to do is get into the dance. Then, anything can happen.

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