Part 2 of this series takes us to the team I consider the most likely trade partner, the Oakland Athletics. These clubs have a history, most notably last summer’s blockbuster trade that sent Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the A’s in return for Addison Russell. We all know how that panned out. The A’s lost a heart-breaking Wild-Card game to Royals who rode that momentum all the way to the World Series. The A’s then shipped Samardzija to the White Sox, Hammel returned to the Cubs in free agency, and the Cubs now retain one of the best young players in the game in Addison Russell. Don’t tell me Billy Beane won’t want to make up for that now that the two club’s positions have been somewhat reversed. It is now the A’s who have what the Cubs need as they should be sellers after under-performing in the first half to the tune of a 41-50 record.
The Cubs need pitching and a veteran outfield bat. The A’s have both in Scott Kazmir and Ben Zobrist. Kazmir is a veteran pitcher who currently holds a 2.56 ERA and after a year away from baseball in 2012, has rebounded nicely. He should command a decent contract in free agency but would be a nice arm for the Cubs to add that could bolster the rotation. Package him with utility man Ben Zobrist, a Joe Maddon favorite from his days in Tampa, and would it be too crazy for the Cubs to entertain dangling Javy Baez or Billy Mckinney and a few other prospects to make this happen. A perfect marriage is somewhere with these two teams as the A’s would love to replenish their farm system after last season’s trades hurt them in the long run.
Verdict: Pull the trigger! (So long as Kyle Schwarber is NOT included in any deal.)
The last trade partner is also the most intriguing in terms of upside as any deal here would carry great risk but also great reward. It’s no secret that the Cincinnati Reds are going to be sellers at the deadline and after the All-Star game is over and the hoopla in the Queen City dies down, I expect that talk to intensify with the likes of Johnny Cueto, Aroldis Chapman, and Jay Bruce all being dangled as trade bait. Neither pitcher will be cheap to acquire and that means that the price paid will most likely be for a rental; always a gamble as Oakland can attest to firsthand after last year.
Do the Cubs want to risk Schwarber or Baez in a Cueto deal? It would be a “wild card” move in hopes of making the Wild Card game, but would that be worth it if Cueto walks at season’s end? It’s never easy making these kind of decisions, but my gut says there would have to be more than just Cueto in any deal for prospects to afford the Cubs some insurance. This is intriguing and there will be many teams who jump into the Cueto market, but the Cubs do have pieces, it’s just a question of whether or not a move can be made that doesn’t trade on the Cubs future in favor of the now.
Verdict: Up in the air.
As you can see, there are a lot of potential trades and an equal, if not greater, amount of speculation out there. Ultimately, I think the Cubs will make a few moves but nothing that rocks the boat too much. Just a few pieces to stabilize the pitching staff and provide some depth, while picking up a veteran bat from somewhere. My instincts tell me that none of the Cubs top level players or prospects will be made available in any trade with the exception of Javy Baez. I think Theo Epstein wants to see what he has in this club for a full year before making the tough decisions on Starlin Castro, Kyle Schwarber, etc. Hopefully, a few teams get desperate to offload some players and the Cubs can stay healthy. The next two weeks will tell us a lot. Enjoy the ride!