Cubs eye upgrades, but Deadline blockbuster doubtful

August 27th, 2020

The Cubs have built a reputation for pulling off impact trades in recent years with the World Series in their sights. Halfway through this abbreviated campaign, the North Siders are firmly in the postseason picture, creating a situation in which Chicago would normally be eyeing big moves.

As the Cubs plan for September and October in this season's unique circumstances -- while keeping 2021 and beyond in mind -- whether the club will pull off anything major ahead of Monday's 3 p.m. CT Deadline is uncertain. Even so, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein is searching the market for possibilities.

"It's certainly a complicated landscape this year," Epstein said recently. "There are a lot of years when we know we have an impactful move or two in us, and it's a question of finding it and executing on it. This year, the moves might be more complementary and there might be some internal solutions."

An important wrinkle to this year's Trade Deadline is that teams can only trade players who are part of their 60-man player pool (assigned either to the big league team or the alternate site). Clubs are permitted to include players to be named later in trades, however.

Additionally, scouts have not been allowed to attend games in person, so all assessments of prospects have been done based on provided video and data and past knowledge.

Here is a look at the Cubs' situation as the Trade Deadline approaches:

Buy/sell/hold: Given their strong start and the urgency to win another World Series with the current core group, the Cubs would fall into the buyers category. That said, a big-ticket move might not be realistic in the current climate. Chicago is more likely to target ways to improve around the edges of the roster.

"We're not limiting ourselves," Epstein said. "We've done pretty big trades at the Deadline most years. But the smaller moves where you get incrementally better in a couple different areas, especially that address certain needs, can make a big difference as well."

What they want: has missed a chunk of time this season due to a left wrist issue. has underperformed and dealt with his own stint on the injured list. Those developments are among the reasons behind Chicago's issues against left-handed pitching. So, a complementary right-handed bat is likely on the Cubs' wish list.

In the bullpen, the Cubs are very right-handed heavy, with Kyle Ryan serving as the lone lefty in the group at the moment. Activating from the IL and moving him to the 'pen temporarily could be a way to gauge the possibility of him helping shore up that area. Otherwise, Chicago may look for relief arms to help against left-handed batters.

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What they have to offer: At the South Bend (Ind.) alternate training site, the Cubs have a group of prospects, including MLB Pipeline Top 100 players in lefty (No. 73) and outfielder (No. 83). Perhaps a more realistic trade chip is catching prospect , given the Cubs' depth at that position.

There have been trade rumblings for the past couple years about core players like Bryant or , among others, but subtracting from the key Major League group seems unlikely given the Cubs' goals this year. The offseason is when talk about those types of names will probably gain steam.

Chance of a deal: 40 percent. The uncertainty surrounding the Cubs' financial picture, the team's future plans and the rigidity of the current roster make it hard to envision a blockbuster deal. Maybe a smaller trade is coming, but there are still obstacles in this unprecedented 2020 campaign.