Is it Time to Consider Trading Core Players as Cubs are at a Crossroads?

First, I would like it to be known this isn’t a bash Bryant piece. Kris Bryant is and will be an elite player for quite some time before he begins his decline. As a matter of fact, I would argue his best days are ahead of him with anyone who says different. However, I’m going to dare suggest the possibility of trading him. I won’t stop just there. I am also suggesting that if this team continues to descend and fall out of the playoff race they should start taking bids on everyone including big names like Willson Contreras, Kyle Hendricks, and even the heart and soul of the team Anthony Rizzo. I know the hardcore homer fans who wave Cubs pom poms with blind loyalty are not going to want to read this, but it is the responsible thing to do. You have to weigh all options.

Now, by making all these players available I am not suggesting they have to trade em all and tear it down to the studs and take on a rebuild like we saw when Theo Epstein first took over the team. Quite the contrary. I’m merely suggesting in seeing what kind of haul you can get for some of these guys. Just look at some of the trades that happened here in town.

We’ll start with the Cubs. They got Jake Arietta and Pedro Strop for Scott Feldman a vet the Cubs acquired for pennies on the dollar in free agency and could not wait to flip. The trade also included low level prospect catcher Steve Clevenger who has done very little for the Orioles and in the league. On the other side of town the White Sox made two deals that set their rebuild up for success. One with the Chicago Cubs who were desperate for pitching and traded away one of the top prospects in baseball at the time and one of the best young pitching prospects. The Sox got Eloy Jimenez who ranked the 8th best prospect in MLB’s top 100 at the time of the trade, and Dylan Cease ranked 63rd from that very same top 100 plus two other lottery tickets who have not panned out to date. The Cubs got Jose Quintana who has been disappointing more than not since the deal. A huge gut punch at this point in the trade to anyone who has any level of investment with the Cubs.

Another is the White Sox’s fleecing of the Washington Nationals by trading locker room outcast and a dick beyond even that of which being a dick is judged and strange weirdo Adam Eaton for 2019 All star and Cy Young hopeful Lucas Giolito, Raynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning. At the time of the trade Giolito was the #3 prospect according to MLB.com and Lopez was 38th. That alone for a player like Eaton would be a huge win, but Dunning has surpassed Lopez as the better prospect. This, after Lopez had a pretty successful debut season bu has regressed some this season. Dunning did have to go through Tommy John surgery this season but these days that surgery is as common as the cold and almost as easy to remedy albeit through surgery and intensive rehabilitation. Before going down he was impressing in the minors. At the time of his surgery nearly 4 months ago he was ranked the 80th prospect by MLB.com.

Than there was the Chris Sale trade. The Cubs don’t have a pitcher of his caliber but Hendricks paired with another current player might bring back a similar haul. The Sox got Yoan Moncada the #3 prospect at the time of the trade, current #16 prospect Michael Kopech along with throw in’s Alexander Basabe and Victor Diaz. Basabe has not impressed but Diaz has an arm that can reach 100 MPHs but has had injury issues. Players like Bryant, Rizzo and Contreras and yes, dare I even suggest Javy Baez, can all bring in similar hauls. Again, not suggesting they trade them all. In the case of Baez and Contreras the Cubs may be able to fill their spots with two of their only top 100 propsects in SS Nico Hoerner the #52 prospect and #76 prospect C Miguel Amaya. Both players may never reach the same level of pros that Baez and Contreras have but figure to represent their positions well at the major league level.

I would rather the Cubs not trade any of those players but it’s conversations like these that have to be made and apparently are being made by the Cubs heiarchy which was confirmed by Cubs President of baseball Operations Theo Epstein in an interview on the score, (the Cubs flagship radio station) and sounding very discouraged with the team.

“But you find out a lot about what people are made of during stretches like these,” Epstein told the station. “It obviously can’t continue. It’s not acceptable. There have been too many words about it and not enough action.”

He also went on to say that everything was on the table which includes selling. Now it’s doubtful that they will go full on rebuild as I mentioned earlier and just sell off some pieces to retool and get back into the championship discussion next season. They could make some minor tweeks selling off once heralded prospects who are now either failed prospects like Addison Russell, Albert Almora, and even Kyle Schwarber in a package deal of sorts or they can trade a player of significance and get a huge haul of highly touted prospects close to the major league level. Hell, they can probably still get good value from Jose Quintana as he has a large sample size of success, is still fairly young (30), is left handed and will eat innings and profiles as a pitcher that can be 3rd best on a staff and thus someone who will pitch in playoff games. He’s also someone who will still be under contract on a very cost effective deal for next season too. So buying teams won’t be getting just a rental.

If the Cubs do fall off and look like a team that can’t get past the National league powers such as the Dodgers and the surging Nationals and Braves this is the year to do it too. The contending teams have some of the best prospects in the league. There is a huge possibility of these teams over paying for decent pieces to the puzzle. Those same teams can give up a bounty for a difference maker in the lineup and on the field or in the rotation and the bullpen too with guys like Pedro Strop and even recently acquired closer Craig Kimbrel. All could fetch a nice piece or two in return as bullpen arms are highly coveted in a post season run.

The Rays have eight of the top 100 players on MLB.com’s list of top prospects including the number one prospect in SS Wander Franco. The Rays could use some production from the SS position so if the Cubs did consider parting with Baez they can ease the pain of the loss by acquiring Franco and maybe 2 or even 3 more of their top prospects. The Astros have 5 top 100 prospects including 3 in the top 10 although they don’t need much as they are loaded but you can always upgrade and fortify your chances. The Twins have 4 top 100 players, the Braves have 5 in the top 100, The Rangers have 2 you may acquire in a more minor deal. The A’s have 3 in the top 40 of the top 100. Nationals have 2, Yankees have 2, Cleveland has 3 on the list. Dodgers have 3 in the top 51, and if teams like the Rockies, Diamondbacks and yes even the White Sox surge into contention by the July 31st deadline you can get some of their best prospects too.

There are also players outside of the top 100 who can be very good players in some of these stacked farm systems. The Cubs can get guys high end prospects who are almost ready to make their big league debuts who will be cost effective to offset some of the losses you may get when the Cubs top players become free agents as early as the 2021 season. That’s another consideration the Cubs have to make. They may end up losing some of these players anyway and have to settle for the end of the first round compensation picks they’d get back for their loss. If you can get better for them now that has to be contemplated.

Of course, there is the more likely scenario of the Cubs righting the ship, getting healthy and buying rather than selling. They can even do a buy transaction and get a prospect back instead of a vet for say a Schwarber to the Rays to DH who can help this season for example. Epstein also said in the same score interview I mentioned earlier that he believes both Brandon Morrow and Ben Zobrist will return to the team before seasons end. That would be like acquiring players for a playoff run with post season success which could be huge for a post season run. That, with the return of Cole Hamels likely in August sometime could make the Cubs a very tough out in the playoffs with a deep bullpen and stacked top of the rotation with possibly a young contributing arm in Adbert Alzolay.

This isn’t a panic piece urging the Cubs to sell, sell, sell. This is a just an in case things don’t work out scenario. It may be time to make some difficult decisions to put the team in the quickest and best possible position to get back in the picture with baseball titans such as the Astros, Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox, Athletics, the surging Nationals and Braves, the up and coming Twins for championships. There are also teams who have a great chance of contending as soon as next season in the Padres, White Sox, Mariners and the Tigers who all have deep systems with players ready to make their major league debuts. That’s not even including their division rivals who are no slouches and teams you have to beat to win the division to make the playoffs which is the preferred path to avoid the wildcard play-in game.

With the Cubs set to make a mint with their new TV deal and all the other real estate ventures they set up around the ball park and all the advertisement and merchandise deals they will have the financial resources to buy themselves out of bad contracts and into good ones. So, acquiring prospects may not be all that important. However, if they at any point show they are not deserving of the trust of the front office to make a deep playoff run and buy rather than sell, the responsible business decision may be the hardest ones they’ve ever made with this organization. So things aren’t as dire as they seem. There’s still plenty of time left to right this ship and surge into the world series and win another ring. Even if they do sell off cherished players it’s very likely the Cubs will be back and improved to set up another window of success.

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