The Chicago Cubs, just two weeks ago, no-hit the mighty Los Angeles Dodgers to improve to 43-33 in a tie for first place in the American League Central. Now, it appears they will be sellers at the Major League Baseball trade deadline.
The Cubs are “open for business,” The Athletic reported Friday, saying the North Siders have begun the process of selling at the deadline. What exactly that means is unclear at this point, of course, but there’s no denying the amount of front-end talent that team possesses. That alone will make them one of the most interesting teams leading up to the July 30 deadline.
Chicago probably played over its head to get to a point of contending, but an 11-game losing streak effectively ended the Cubbies’ season. Now, president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer has to take a long, hard look at what pieces make sense as long-term fits and which ones will yield the biggest return.
That second part is where a team like the Red Sox comes in. Boston entered the season with similar expectations to the Cubs, but Alex Cora’s bunch has exceeded those preseason predictions. They are one of the best teams in baseball by record, but they are not without flaws. At the very least, there are areas that could use an upgrade.
In no particular order, here are some of Boston’s potential deadline needs:
Relief help (because everyone could use another reliever)
Does that make the Cubs an ideal trade partner? Let’s look at some of Chicago’s more intriguing options and maybe some more sensible ideas, too.
UTIL Kris Bryant
Go back two weeks ago, and Bryant looked like an MVP candidate in the midst of a renaissance season. He’s still having a nice season, with 16 home runs and 43 RBIs to go along with a 132 OPS+. In addition to that production, Bryant’s biggest allure to a team like the Red Sox should be his positional versatility. Bryant has started 10 games at first base, 10 in center field, 14 in left, 20 in right and 24 at third. For a team like the Red Sox that values versatility and also has room for improvement at first base and outfield, Bryant seems like a perfect fit. Whether the Red Sox have enough prospect capital to acquire the free agent-to-be is another story. Teams like the Mets or Blue Jays, which have been connected to Bryant in the past, might make more sense, but it’s at least worth a call for Chaim Bloom.
1B Anthony Rizzo
Relatively speaking, this might be the most likely scenario, assuming Chicago is willing to move Rizzo. A left-handed-hitting first baseman is a perfect fit for the Red Sox, and Rizzo’s intangibles are an added bonus for a team that now expects to contend for a World Series. Rizzo hasn’t had the greatest of runs the last two seasons, and his 116 OPS+ puts him slightly above league average. He also will be a free agent at the end of the season after reportedly turning down a contract extension earlier this year. Given his relative lack of production and contract situation, he could be a cheaper alternative to Bryant. The Cubs have to decide to trade him first, though. Even if they do shop him, it’s possible he’s part of a bigger deal. Two executives told The Athletic that Chicago’s best chance to maximize its return would be to package expiring deals, for which Rizzo is a candidate. If that doesn’t happen, though, Rizzo should be on Boston’s list.
RP Craig Kimbrel
The Red Sox don’t necessarily need bullpen help, but they’re obviously familiar with Kimbrel, who is having an otherworldly season. However, ESPN’s Buster Olney’s sources recently suggested teams like Houston or Oakland are more likely landing spots for the right-hander.
SS Javier Baez
File this under “Can’t hurt to ask.” Baez is the Cubs’ best player, but he’s also going to be a free agent this winter. Even so, he’ll likely require a decent haul, which might be too rich for Bloom’s blood, especially considering the ongoing efforts to rebuild the farm system. Oh, the other problem: Baez is primarily a shortstop now, and the Sox have Xander Bogaerts. However, Baez finished second in MVP voting in 2018 when he made 75 starts at second base. That would one helluva middle infield, but it very much seems like a pipe dream.
SENSIBLE SECOND TIER
SP Zach Davies
The 28-year-old is unlikely to be the difference-maker for any contender. However, innings are innings, and someone has to get outs in the regular season. The Red Sox starting rotation has also exceeded expectations. Can that last for an entire season? That doesn’t feel like a risk you want to try and take if you think you can contend. Boston has also been incredibly healthy in the rotation, and that also is the sort of thing that regresses to the mean eventually. Davies takes the ball more often than not, too, leading the Cubs with 18 starts just a few years after making 31 starts. He led the league with 33 starts in 2017. His durability is probably his best asset; Davies has a 4.82 FIP this season which would be the highest of his career, the same can be said for his 4.7 walks per nine innings. But as a depth option? Not terrible.
RP Andrew Chafin
The mustachioed southpaw is having a career year. Chafin has allowed just six runs on 18 hits in 37 2/3 innings as of Friday. He primarily has been used as the eighth-inning guy this year, and he has excelled in that role. He has yet to allow a run in 23 eighth-inning appearances. He also has a mutual option for 2022, so he might actually be one of the sneaky-best pieces Hoyer and the Cubs can move. A dependable left-hander would take Boston’s bullpen to an even higher level.
OF Joc Pederson
He’s not having a great year, but he has shown it at spurts throughout his career dating back to the Dodgers. His average exit velocity is still above league average, even if it is a slight dropoff from his career. He’s hitting more fly balls than any point in his career and is using the opposite field more than he ever has. Could dropping him in Fenway turn things around? It could be worth a shot while adding outfield depth in the process. The Cubs also have used him as a leadoff hitter for most of the season, which has been a bit of an issue for the Red Sox this year.