2022 was always going to be a rebuilding year for the Cubs. After shipping out Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Javy Baez at the trade deadline last year, the biggest question for Cubs fans heading into the season was would the club resign from the All-Star catcher Willson Contreras? Or would he see a similar fate to Rizzo, Bryant, and Baez?
Will The Cubs Deal Contreras?
Selected as the starting catcher for the National League All-Star Game, Contreras is arguably having his best season as a pro. The Cubs still have time, but unless Contreras is willing to take a hometown discount, something that his 2016 World Series-winning counterparts would not, he’s likely gone.
What Other Cubs Are On The Trading Block?
Contreras isn’t the only Cub on the trading block. Ian Happ is also having one of his best seasons. He ranks 37th in all of baseball in on-base plus slugging (OPS), one spot behind Dodgers’ shortstop Trea Turner and ahead of guys like Giancarlo Stanton, Carlos Correa, George Springer, and Matt Olsen. All those guys have in common is massive, $100-million plus contracts (with Turner set to be the next $100-million free agent this offseason.) Despite being one of the Cubs’ best hitters, it would be short-sided not to take calls on Happ, a notoriously streaky hitter.
Who Stays & Who Goes?
Closer David Robertson is as good as gone. His signing has been one of Cubs’ President Jed Hoyer’s best this offseason and should net an upper-tier prospect from a contender looking to shore up its bullpen. The Cubs could also deal starters Kyle Hendricks and Marcus Stroman, but with a recent injury to the former and an injury-plagued 2022 by the latter, the trade chances are low.
Cubs’ Available Veterans
One of the reasons that Cubs’ catcher Willson Contreras is having his best seasons is the presence of veteran Yan Gomes. The former Cleveland Indians 2016 World Series starter, Gomes, has allowed the Cubs to start Contreras at DH 26 times this season, saving his knees while keeping his bat in the lineup. The Washington Nationals traded Gomes last year to the Oakland Athletics at the deadline. If the Cubs resign Contreras, Gomes could be the top catcher available. Rookie P.J. Higgins, who hit his first career grand slam today, has been hitting well enough since his latest call-up from AAA to be the daily backup.
The left-handed starter, Smyly, is actually in his second stint with the Cubs (though he didn’t make an appearance with the club as he recovered from Tommy John surgery in 2018 before being traded to the Rangers in 2019.) After signing a 1-year, $5.25-million contract (with $2.5M in incentives) this offseason, injuries have played a significant role for Smyly, who just returned from the injured list. He’s made just ten starts, but when he has pitched, he’s done well. His ERA is a respectable 3.80. Add in the fact that left-handed starters / long-relievers are always in demand around the trade deadline, and if Smyly is healthy, he will have value.
The right-handed veteran in his 8th season, Givens has been exactly what the Cubs hoped for when signing him to a 1-year, $5-million contract. His ERA of 3.15 is below his career mark, and he’s striking out more than one batter per inning pitched. Givens has 30 career saves, including five this year, and like David Robertson, gives the Cubs another highly sought-after veteran reliever to offer contenders.
Another right-handed reliever, the Cubs’ signed the 36-year-old veteran to a 1-year. $2.5-million contract this offseason (sense a theme). Martin has performed well this season, sporting an ERA of 3.62 and, like Givens, is striking out more than one batter per inning pitched. The 2021 World Series winner had an excellent postseason with the Braves last year with an ERA near 2. There’s no reason to think a contender won’t trade for him before the deadline.
One of the great defensive shortstops of his generation, Simmons ranks 10th all-time in fielding percentage at the position, according to Baseball Reference. Signed to a 1-year, $4-million deal this offseason, Simmons was shelved by a shoulder injury the first two months of the season, costing him his starting job. But baseball is baseball, and come the postseason; every contender would take an all-time great defensive shortstop to help close out key games.
Everyone who can go should go. If the Cubs don’t have a player’s control over 3 years and their stock is high, then sell. Contreras, Happ, and Robertson are the no brainers that should get you the most. They all have less than 3 years of control, valuable for what they bring (catching, LH power bat, closer) and have peak values. If you can get anything of value or better prospect return for the other players especially if you commit to eating some salary or taking on salary, then they should do that too. I do think keeping Stroman would… Read more »