By Todd Johnson
With less than three weeks left until the MLB non-waiver trade deadline, the Cubs have yet to make a move. They have been shuttling players back and forth between AAA Iowa and Chicago frequently to fill in DL stints, occasional spot starts, and to rebuild the bullpen. At one point, there were three relievers from AAA in the Cubs’ pen.
The main reason the Cubs have not gone out and made any kind of deal is that the brass is unsure of the exact needs. Yes, they could need a starting pitcher to replace Yu Darvish and he could be healthy by the end of the month or early August. That kind of uncertainty could be detrimental if the Cubs don’t make a move and Darvish can’t go. Then again, they could look like geniuses if they hold off on a deal and he is healthy.
While pitcher Drew Smyly is close to returning from the DL and beginning his rehab games, the Cubs could rely on him, which is a huge gamble considering the severity of TJS. He would be a better fit in the bullpen than as a starter.
Asa result, the Cubs are going to wait until the final week or few days before they make a deal due to Darvish’s health and/or the performance of Tyler Chatwood.
If and when the Cubs do make a deal, there are a few questions that need asked.
- Do the Cubs have enough to go get a Jacob deGrom or other elite starters?
- Do the Cubs have any untouchables when it comes to prospects?
- What value might other teams see when examining Cubs prospects?
Do the Cubs have enough to go get a Jacob deGrom or other elite starters?
In order for this to happen, the Cubs would have to include major league talent, maybe even as many as two current MLB position players, in addition to prospects. If I was the GM of another team, I would want Victor Caratini in a deal. Switch hitting catchers don’t grow on trees, let along one that can actually hit. Utility guy Ian Happ is another name that other teams will surely bring up.
deGrom is signed through 2020. The Cubs would be getting a top of the rotation starter for 2.33 years. That might be something the Cubs can’t pass up. If it was on minor league prospects alone, the Cubs do not have that elite MiLB position prospect(s) the Mets crave.
In theory, part of me wants to make that deal because of how dominant deGrom can be. Cub fans saw it in 2015. It might be worth trading some of that young MLB position player depth for a clear-cut #1 guy. Key word there is “might.”
In reality, the Mets probably want more than what the Cubs would be willing to part with. It would be a miracle if Theo could pull it off, but at what cost?
One part of me says “no.” That lasted for about two seconds. Then reality kicks in. After the Jose Quintana trade of almost exactly a year ago took the Cubs’ top two prospects followed by the Avila/Justin Wilson trade that took another two, the prospect cupboard was emptied of four top 100 guys. It’s been a year and the Cubs still don’t have a top 100 guy on any prospect list. However, three are close.
Adbert Alzolay was getting a lot of pub over the winter and before a lat injury spoiled his season. Miguel Amaya is on pace to crank out 20 HRs in the Midwest League at the age of 19. On the other hand, Amaya might be on his way to Myrtle Beach soon at the rate he is performing. You can also add in recent first round pick Nico Hoerner who looks very polished so far.
Based on their potential, these three would be the only ones who could be off the table in any negotiations.
What value might other teams see when examining Cubs prospects?
That depends on what the other team is looking for in a trade. Do they want immediate impact, guys who are close to MLB-ready? Or do they want players with higher ceilings but are willing to develop that talent?
Tennessee and Iowa have several prospects who are close to MLB ready. Some, like David Bote, Mark Zagunis, and Duane Underwood are close to ready now. Others, like Jason Vosler, Trevor Clifton, and most of the AA roster need another year of seasoning before they could join a major league roster.
However, if you want the players with the highest ceilings, they can be found from Mesa on up to Myrtle Beach. They are extremely raw as prospects but are quite young at 18 and 19 years old. On the other hand, it is going to take 3-4 years before they will be ready. But when they are, they could have a big impact on a MLB roster.
Based on past trades, Theo might go out and make an under the radar trade for a pitcher who can both start and relieve. The cost of such a deal is something the Cubs could easily absorb as the price would be minimal.
There’s still a lot of time left and a only a few things to figure out with regards to pitching before the deadline. If the Cubs do not make a deal before the August 1 deadline, they can still make a deal by the end of August as long as the player they seek clears waivers. That option is more likely to happen considering the health and performance of the Cubs’ pitching staff.