Breaking Down Some Potential Cubs Trade Targets

Alright, you know the drill. It’s trade season, which means being inundated by rumors and speculation galore when it comes to which team is trading for whom and what they’ll have to give up to get him. Given their competitive position and large-market status, not to mention a little uncertainty with their pitching staff, the Cubs are going to come up frequently in trade talks.

Even though many of the reports end up being smokescreens and/or ways for a team to create leverage for the player they’re hoping to move, there are plenty that have merit. As such, I wanted to take a look at some of the names that have been associated with the Cubs to this point.

And don’t worry, we’re not going to get into actual proposals here, at least not specific ones. That’s a realm for far more adventurous folk and I’ve got neither the desire nor the chutzpah for such dalliances. As such, I figured I’d cobble together a quick primer these players, not all of whom are household names for Cubs fans.

Manny Machado

This deal is pretty much out of the question for the Cubs at this point, though part of the snag this past winter came from the Orioles not wanting him to end up in New York. The Yankees are now reportedly among the frontrunners, along with the Dodgers and Brewers, as the Orioles realize that they’re too far out of the race to worry about anything other than the best possible return.

That’s basically the opposite of why the Cubs are no longer in the hunt, with their needs shifting pretty dramatically in the time since they were first connected with Machado. The two reported centerpieces of a deal, Addison Russell and Mike Montgomery, no longer make sense in return for what could be only a very brief period of Machado in Chicago.

Curtis Granderson/Adam Jones/Derek Dietrich

I’ve lumped these three together because all of them appeared in a recent piece about the Cubs’ possible desire to add a veteran outfielder to the mix. Such a move is unlikely for many reasons, not the least of which is that it wouldn’t really improve the team from a competitive standpoint. Dietrich is kind of an outlier here and feels like something the Marlins fed Jon Heyman to chum the water.

Besides, Dietrich seems a little too colorful — green in terms of experience, red in terms of ass — to fill the leadership bill. That could be my personal bias, since he’s gotten a little test against the Cubs. Granderson is a Chicago guy who’d certainly fit in well from a clubhouse perspective and Jones is still producing well and would surely welcome the chance to join a winner at the tail end of his contract.

The real problem here is that adding an outfielder would basically force the Cubs to jettison one of their current young players, something they’ve been reluctant to do to this point. But as multiple people have reported, the Cubs would be willing to do just that in order to bring back a young pitcher with multiple years of contractual control.

Jacob deGrom

When it comes to controllable top-of-the-rotation starters, deGrom is at the top of the list. There’s still a question of whether the Mets would actually trade him and, if they did, whether the Cubs would have enough to land him. But as Bruce Levine wrote, both Russell and Ian Happ would be in play for the righty with two more years under contract after this one.

JA Happ

Happ has probably been the most persistent name on the rumor circuit, mainly because his age (36 in October) and his team’s standing (Blue Jays are 22.5 game back) make a trade inevitable. He’s also having a career year in some regards, striking out 9.99 per nine innings while walking only 2.89. But have the Jays perhaps waited too long to capitalize?

After giving up five unearned runs Thursday, the aging lefty is up to 25 runs (20 earned) in his last five starts. He’s pitched only 13 combined innings in his last three starts, which brings up several questions about what a team would be getting in the second half.

If the Cubs are indeed in on Happ, which makes sense given the uncertainty in their rotation, they can’t and won’t pay through the nose to get him.

Nathan Eovaldi

One of the hardest-throwing starters in the league, Eovaldi’s 97 mph average fastball is attractive. He was drawing looks from the Cubs several years ago during his time with the Yankees, but that faded when he went down with a torn UCL in 2016. He missed all of 2017 after his second Tommy John surgery (first was during high school in 2007), but is back as a starter with the Rays.

Eovaldi also had a delayed start this season with some “loose bodies” in his elbow, which is something the Cubs are probably familiar with after employing John Lackey. But Eovaldi has looked great since coming back on May 30, pitching at least five innings in each of eight starts. He’s walked as many as two men only once and has struck out five or more in each of the last five.

Because he’s just a ren…er, because his contract dictates that there’s a lack of permanency to Eovaldi’s time with a new team, the Rays can’t really get a premium for him. On the other hand, the fact that he’s only owed the prorated remainder of his $2 million deal means that the Rays can hold out for the best offer.

Since the risk is mitigated by minimal time and salary commitments, this is something the Cubs could really pursue. It’s all a matter of how much they’re willing to spend for a guy to bolster their rotation for two months, which mainly comes down to how confident they are that Yu Darvish can come back.

Chris Archer

This is more like a grandfathered requisite of all Cubs trade talks. He’s been the one that got away for years now, but inconsistent performance and health issues might finally make Cubs fans stop lamenting his absence.

Brad Hand

By all accounts, the Padres are going to ask for a king’s ransom for their All-Star closer, so the Cubs are going to say “Thanks but no thanks” on this one. And with Brandon Morrow and Carl Edwards Jr. back there, not to mention a suddenly-good-again Justin Wilson, would they really spend big on another high-leverage reliever?

I’d like to note here that I made it through this without a hand-job joke. Until now.

Matt Moore

Jesse Rogers reported that the Cubs were scouting Moore, who pitched for Joe Maddon in Tampa years ago. This just doesn’t seem like something they’d do unless the Rangers literally gave him away. Moore’s production has been terrible this year and a move to the bullpen hasn’t dramatically improved things. He misses some bats and walks a lot of guys, not exactly a profile the Cubs need more of.

Adam Conley

Another name from the Rogers piece, Conley is under most fans’ radars because he pitches for the Marlins. He does so quite well, though, and he does it with his left arm. This is his first year as a full-time reliever and his fastball is up nearly six ticks (95.5 mph) from last season as a result.

The 28-year-old will hit arbitration next season and still has three years of control after this one, so both his pitching prowess and his deal will drive his cost up.

Robbie Erlin

Another lefty reliever, Erlin doesn’t have nearly the cachet of his Padres bullpen-mate above. But he’s got a four-pitch mix and can swing into an emergency start if need be, so there’s a lot of value there. The 27-year-old has two more years of control and would offer some depth without much flash.

The Padres might not be willing to part with Erlin if they think they can compete over the next two seasons, so who knows whether he’s really available. But you can imagine Theo Epstein kind of sneaking in behind a Hand conversation and being like, “What about that guy?”

Zach Britton

Several reports had connected the Cubs and Orioles on a Britton deal prior to last year’s deadline, and the two teams may have talked about the reliever this winter as well. It’s possible under the right circumstances, just depends on how much the Cubs would have to give up. Britton is a free agent after this season and would offer a nice high-leverage option at the back end of the pen and the remainder of his $12 million deal isn’t excessive.

There are certainly some other names out there and the chances are good that the Cubs have had conversations on many of them. As Jed Hoyer said the other day, they “are going to be talking to a lot of teams about pitching and pitching depth.”

Expect to hear much more from the Cubs as the deadline approaches, but don’t be surprised when they don’t make much noise before July 31. Some people think they’ll stand pat and won’t do anything, which is entirely likely. What I find more likely is that they’ll make two or three small moves to bolster their bullpen depth.

I could also see some creative waiver-wire deals closer to the end of August right before rosters expand.

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