Saturday, December 3, 2022

Top Cubs Trade Candidates, Who Stays And Who Goes?


More than three weeks into June, the Cubs finally won their first road game of the month (in seven tries.) Rookie right-hander Keegan Thompson pitched another strong game, striking out seven Pirates and only giving up one earned run in six innings pitched. His ERA dropped to 3.10, and he’s turning into the Cubs’ best starting pitcher in the first half of the season. Ian Happ, Patrick Wisdom, and Alfonso Rivas also homered in the game. But even with the win, the Cubs are 17 games below .500 and 12.5 out of the National League Wild Card series. As a result, they will be sellers at and before the trade deadline.

Who Stays and Who Goes?

It’s nice to see veteran David Robertson pitch another scoreless inning. He will undoubtedly be on the move. The big question that remains is if Cubs President Jed Hoyer will pull off another blockbuster, such as trading World Series winners Willson Contreras or Kyle Hendricks, or both before the Aug. 2 trade deadline. After shipping off Craig Kimbrell, Anthony Rizzo, Javy Baez, and Kris Bryant in succession before last year’s trade deadline, everything is on the table. So who will be the first to go? And how many current Cubs will be gone by the time it all shakes out. Here’s my list of top Cubs trade candidates and what it would take to get them.

David Robertson

Likely the first Cub to be traded, the 14-year veteran with 145 career saves is having an excellent season, striking out 12.3 K/9 after missing nearly all of last year following Tommy John surgery. Nevertheless, the consummate pro was asked about the possibility of being traded. Despite his team-first mentality, he understands that reliable; proven relief pictures can fetch a pleasant prospect or two around this time of year.

“You know, I’ve definitely thought about it. I haven’t spoken to anyone about it upstairs. It wouldn’t surprise me.”

Until a trade happens, Robertson is enjoying the ride. With the Cubs up 14-1 in Pittsburgh, Robertson fulfilled a lifelong dream of getting a major league at-bat. You can see from his face that he loved it — and suffice to say, he would not be taking a walk.

For the Cubs, trading Robertson is only a matter of when. The first playoff contender or division leader looking to shore up their bullpen and willing to trade a top-15 prospect likely gets the deal done. Status: GONER

Willson Contreras

Likely the biggest fish ahead of the trade deadline, Contreras is on every contender’s radar. Contreras leads all catchers in home runs, slugging percentage, and OPS (on-base plus slugging.) He’s one of the best catchers in the league at keeping base runners on their toes, not hesitant to rocket the baseball to first base if a player is taking the lead bigger than his liking. Contreras offers a power bat at a premium position, and with the addition of the designated hitter in the National League, his value is the highest it’s ever been. He’s the Cubs’ heart and soul, and no one can deny his hustle and passion for the game.

Are The Cubs Willing to Trade Their Best Player, Again?

If last year was any indication, the answer is yes. Unless Contreras is willing to take a deal that works for the Cubs, potentially similar to the 5-year, $70-million offer the Cubs made Anthony Rizzo last year, which he turned down, Cubs President Jed Hoyer has shown that he’s not afraid to ship off a fan favorite. Hoyer recently said they probably waited too long to make changes to the 2016 World Series core. Add in the fact that Contreras will likely command a $100+ million contract in free agency, and the likelihood of the Cubs shipping out Contreras will grow up until the Deadline. Two young, high-ceiling prospects like the Cubs received in the Rizzo trade or a primary league arm will likely get a deal done. Status: BAGS ARE PACKED

Kyle Hendricks

“The Professor” is now in his 9th season with the Cubs. The 2016 World Series winner is slowly climbing the Cubs record books. His successive win will be his 86th with the team, tying him for 25th all-time. His career ERA of 3.47 already ranks in the Cubs’ top 25. But over the last year and a half, Hendricks’ production has fallen off. Last year’s ERA of 4.77 was well above his career mark of 3.47 and has jumped to 5.43 this year. Hendricks is under contract for $14 million next year, and the Cubs have a $16-million club option for the 2024 season. It would take a massive offer, likely similar to what the Cubs paid for Jose Quintana in their 2017 trade with the South Siders that netted Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease. If Hoyer can secure that return, Hendricks will be on the move. Status: TRADE ALERT NOTIFICATIONS ON

Marcus Stroman

The Cubs’ prized free-agent acquisition this past offseason, Stroman, signed a 3-year, $71-million deal that signaled the Cubs’ window for contending would be this year, if not next. Stroman’s first season with the Cubs has not lived up to expectations. His 2022 ERA of 5.32 is well above his career mark of 3.71. The Cubs are unlikely to cut and run on Stroman, but if a team like the Yankees, Red Sox or Dodgers decides that they have the payroll to add a veteran starter and were willing to give up a top prospect or two, it could get the deal done. Status: HERE UNTIL HE’S NOT

Ian Happ

The Cubs’ second-best hitter this year behind Contreras, Happ, is showing signs of putting it all together. His OPS ranks 20th in the entire league, meaning he’s hitting the ball consistently and with power. His .291 average would be a career-high by a wide margin. Happ is also under contract for next year before hitting free agency in 2024. That begs the question – is Happy too valuable to give up? Or should they sell high on a hitter whose proven streaky in his career? Like Contreras, trading Happ would weaken an already feeble offense, setting back the rebuild. A trade offer would have to include two top prospects, one likely ready for the majors soon. The Cubs can also wait another year before deciding to trade Happ or not. Status: TRADE UNLIKELY, BUT NOT OFF THE TABLE.

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