By: Alex Patt
Rumors continue to swirl in regards of who Theo Epstein is interested in. This is the time before the deadline where any sort of interested target is talked about regardless of how realistically possible it is to get them. The Cubs got their main guy so far which was Jose Quintana, a controllable young pitcher with talent but there are a few more gaps that may be filled by the time the deadline reaches.
When it comes to pitching, both the pen and rotation are still being talked about. When it comes to starters, the names Sonny Gray, Justin Verlander and most recently Yu Darvish come up. Gray, 27, is the youngest one with a controllable contract that would probably be the best fit of the three. However since the farm is diminished now due to the other trades, it would likely be more difficult. Many teams are reportedly in on Gray including the rival Brewers as well as teams like the Yankees.
Verlander has been talked about for some time which seems odd but there are things to consider. He is 34 and coming off an almost-Cy Young season in 2016 yet is struggling this year with a 4.54 ERA / 1.47 WHIP / 4.27 FIP. He is under contract until 2020 and will be making $28 million this year, next year and 2019 which is not club-friendly like Quintana. It is right not to want to give up valuable assets for him at this point, however the Cubs may be able to snag him IF the Tigers sell him to them as a “salary dump” deal only giving up mid-range prospects. Theo will likely not give up any MLB ready assets or even their remaining top guys like Candelario for him but taking on the money would be much better considering the team is not exactly strapped for cash.
Yu Darvish was a name mentioned in the Cubs interest but considering he would be a rental with his contract that seems unlikely and Theo may just be pushing the market. Darvish while talented is over 30 and has had injury problems on top of that so that seems like just talk. All in all when it comes to pitching it seems more likely reliever moves will be made. There were talks on twitter about looking in Zach Britton which may be another far-fetched dream but cannot rule it out all together. If there was a Mike Montgomery-like deal that is very likely going to happen and would make a lot of sense. The pen has a solid ERA but is struggling with walks lately and reinforcements are good to have.
One deal that may seem more likely is the veteran backup catcher. Alex Avila of the Tigers is being talked about a lot. According to Bob Nightengale, Tigers GM Al Avila has had the most interest from the Cubs regarding his son to make a deal. He is having a career year at the plate with a .286/.411/.914 slash and 11 homers which makes his value a bit higher than normal but it would be a good fit for the Cubs who could use a veteran backup behind Contreras now that Montero is gone.
One of the things we have done of the years is expect the unexpected from Theo, but we also know now that there is a limit considering the lack of assets in the farm now compared to before. Will be an interesting couple of weeks, but I have a feeling Alex Avila will be catching for the Cubs when this is all said and done.