If the Cubs really do become sellers at this year's Trade Deadline, and decide to move one or more of their star players … who are the buyers?
These are some of the possibilities.
Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Báez and Craig Kimbrel all make for extremely interesting trade targets. Let's find them some potential landing spots.
MLB.com's analysts came up with six contending teams that could make a big splash by trading for one or more of the Cubs' big names, and created a deal for each of those teams.
Here are the trade proposals. (All stats mentioned were entering Friday.)
El Mago makes A's shortstop problem disappear
Why it could work: The A's need a shortstop more than anybody. Their offensive production from the shortstop position is the second-worst of any team (only the Pirates have gotten less), and by far the worst of any playoff contender. Oakland's wRC+ at shortstop is just 61 … 100 is league average. Offseason acquisition Elvis Andrus, who's started 82 of the A's 89 games at short, just hasn't been the answer.
So it's time for a new trade. Báez is a boom-or-bust hitter -- high home runs, high strikeouts -- but he's been more boom than bust this season (21 homers, 107 wRC+). His power hitting would go a long way for the A's, who've only gotten two home runs from their shortstops all year, tied for the fewest of any team. Báez is also a highlight reel-type defender; Andrus has been below-average.
The Cubs would get a quality shortstop prospect in Davidson -- the 23-year-old switch-hitter was the A's first-round Draft pick in 2019 who has power potential, above-average speed, a strong arm and good athleticism. Add in an intriguing pitching prospect in Criswell, a hard thrower who flashes plus secondary pitches with a slider and changeup, and maybe you have a deal.
Who says no: More likely the Cubs. They're probably not going to get everything they'd want for Báez. Javy is a fan favorite in Chicago and at his best he's a superstar shortstop, but he's a rental, and you can see the risk in going out and trading for him and his Major League-high 112 strikeouts and hack-at-everything approach at the plate. Davidson and Criswell are top-10 prospects for the A's, but they're not ranked in MLB's Top 100 overall, so they might not pry El Mago away from Chicago.
-- David Adler
Giants fortify ‘pen for playoff push
Why it could work: The Giants have arrived ahead of schedule and find themselves in great position for a playoff berth (84.2% postseason odds, per FanGraphs), but trying to hold off the talented Dodgers and Padres to win the NL West and avoid a winner-take-all Wild Card Game. The motivation should be there to act, and while San Francisco’s bullpen has not exactly been a problem (3.31 ERA, tied for second in MLB), it’s also low on firepower (22.9% K-rate, 25th). Kimbrel has been sensational this season and not only would give the Giants a shutdown closer but also free up submarining righty Tyler Rogers and lefty Jake McGee to pitch more in high-leverage spots earlier in games.
The bonus with Kimbrel is that he’s not a pure rental. The 33-year-old has a $16 million club option for 2022, so the Giants could have him for two playoff races and postseasons. Even so, it may be hard for Chicago to land the sort of prospect they gave up (Gleyber Torres) to acquire Aroldis Chapman in 2016. With that said, the 19-year-old Harrison has an up arrow next to his name, as the 2020 third-round pick has struck out 76 in 46 2/3 innings this year in Class A. Castro (3.22 ERA in Triple-A) could provide immediate bullpen support, and Davis (currently on the injured list) has torn up Triple-A around a few cups of coffee in MLB.
Who says no? Probably the Cubs. While Chicago no doubt would prefer to move the rest of Kimbrel’s contract, it could also pick up his option and then trade him this winter. With less sense of urgency, perhaps the Cubs hold out for a more elite prospect or one who’s big league ready.
-- Andrew Simon
'Welcome to the Mets.' For real this time?
Why it could work: Back in January, amid swirling rumors that he was on the verge of being dealt, Bryant received a text from a Connecticut area code with that cryptic “Welcome to the Mets” message. It turned out to be baloney, of course, but the Mets and Cubs did indeed discuss Bryant quite a bit, and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be discussing him now.
Despite great difficulty on the injury front, the Mets have had one of the most reliable pitching staffs in baseball this season. It’s the offense, surprisingly, holding this club back from being truly World Series-caliber. The Mets average a mere 3.6 runs per game – second-worst in all of MLB going into Friday before an impressive showing vs. the Pirates. It should go without saying that Bryant is the type of bat capable of bringing everything up a notch. It will be interesting to see how quickly third baseman J.D. Davis can round back into form upon his expected return from a hand sprain early in the second half, but Bryant also has the versatility to augment the outfield and spell Pete Alonso at first when needed.
And for the Cubs, this return featuring the Mets’ Nos. 8, 9 and 11 prospects, per MLB Pipeline, exceeds the value of the Draft pick compensation they’d receive if/when Bryant signs elsewhere.
Who says no? Probably the Mets. Bryant will have around $6 million remaining on his 2021 salary at the time of the Trade Deadline. And while the Mets can add that to their tally while staying under the luxury tax threshold, they might want to make multiple moves that complicate the equation. For the Cubs to swallow any salary would require more in the prospect realm from the Mets. Generally, it can be difficult for the trade value and name value to match up with rental position players.
-- Anthony Castrovince
Yankees go for it, Cubs land controllable slugger
Yankees get: 1B Anthony Rizzo, LHP Andrew Chafin
Cubs get: 1B Luke Voit, SS Oswald Peraza (Yankees' No. 4 prospect)
Why it could work: The Yankees are in desperate need of a left-handed bat, so adding Rizzo to the lineup would help balance a very right-handed group. As a bonus, Rizzo also brings better defense at first base. New York’s bullpen has been solid, but GM Brian Cashman knows there’s no such thing as having too much pitching, so Chafin would add more depth to the formidable group.
For the Cubs, Voit would be the Rizzo replacement the club will invariably have to seek after this season, giving them control of the 30-year-old slugger through 2024. Peraza is a toolsy 21-year-old shortstop who can do a little bit of everything. Although the Cubs have two shortstops among their Top 5 prospects (Cristian Hernandez and Ed Howard), Peraza – who is playing at Double-A – is closer to being big-league ready than either of them.
Who says no? The Cubs. Voit's club control is appealing, but he profiles as a future DH, which isn’t yet officially a lock to come to the National League on a full-time basis. Given Rizzo’s importance to the fan base, the Cubs will hope to get more in return for him, while Chafin could be a highly sought-after arm in a bullpen-needy market.
-- Mark Feinsand
The Cubs deal with a very familiar foe
Why it could work: Let’s have some intradivision fun!
There’s no love lost on the diamond between the Brewers and Cubs, but perhaps they can see eye to eye on the trading block. Milwaukee is as pitching reliant as any division leader, but that pitching staff -- led by its big three of Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta and Brandon Woodruff at the front and the two-headed monster of Josh Hader and Devin Williams in the back -- has proven itself to be championship caliber. The Crew could ride those arms through October (a la the 2019 Nationals) if its offense just pitches in a little more; the Brewers own a National League-worst .220 team batting average as former leaders like Christian Yelich and Keston Hiura search for answers. Bryant obviously represents a huge upgrade over Luis Urías at the hot corner, and, given Jackie Bradley Jr.’s offensive struggles, the Brewers would benefit from rotating his bat into the outfield, too.
Meanwhile the Cubs seem intent on a quick “reload” instead of a complete 2012-style teardown. Ashby just got his first taste of the bigs (albeit a bitter one), and his big strikeout numbers in the Minors could help address the glaring lack of swing-and-miss in Chicago’s future rotation plans. Quero could be a promising catching prospect should the Cubs also choose to deal fellow Venezuelan Willson Contreras.
Who says no? The Cubs, who will probably need to pay down some of Bryant’s remaining 2021 salary to convince a team to trade for him months before he hits free agency. Paying out of pocket to send him to a fierce division rival would likely be too much for the Wrigley faithful to stomach.
-- Matt Kelly
Blue Jays add a proven closer
Why it could work: The Blue Jays are in third place in the AL East behind the Red Sox and Rays, sporting one of the most dynamic offenses in baseball. The Jays’ 112 wRC+ ranks second in the Majors behind only the Astros. Hitting hasn’t been an issue, but run prevention has been, especially in the late innings. The team signed Kirby Yates in the offseason, but he ended up needing Tommy John Surgery before the season even began. The team has had seven different pitchers record at least one save, with Jordan Romano leading the way with six. There’s no question that a more certain option at the end of games would put the team in a better spot, and allow them to use Romano, who has been good, with a 1.76 ERA, in other high-leverage situations.
Plus, Kimbrel has a club option for 2022, when the young team is likely to be competitive yet again. That means he could be closing out postseason victories for Vlad Jr. and company for two straight years.
Who says no? Likely the Cubs, who might want more of an MLB-ready prospect, or even try to ask for one of Toronto’s players who has already reached that level, like Alek Manoah. Until we know whether the Cubs could be making these trades with an eye towards 2022 or 2024, it’s hard to know if they’d take a clearly-rebuilding trade package like the above, with two prospects whose ETAs are 2023.
-- Sarah Langs