12:16pm: Schwarber, Baez and catching prospect Willson Contreras are likely off-limits in trade talks, though the same might not be true regarding Soler, according to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times.
8:48am: The Cubs’ Jason Parks was at Yankee Stadium this week to scout the Bombers’ all-world bullpen trio of Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances, reports George A. King III of the New York Post. Chapman, who’s in a contract year, could be a rental for the Cubs. Miller is under contract through 2018 at a palatable $9MM, while Betances is making the league-minimum salary of $507,500 and is controllable through arbitration for three more seasons. Betances seems the least likely of the three to go anywhere, but the Yankees are willing to listen to offers for him, according to King.
With a league-best 42-18 record, the Cubs clearly aren’t a team rife with flaws. One area of concern, though, is their bullpen, which could use another dominant arm to join the excellent late-game duo of closer Hector Rondon and setup man Pedro Strop. A few other Cubs relievers – namely Trevor Cahill, Travis Wood and ex-Yankee Adam Warren – have done well to prevent runs so far this year, but their peripherals suggest serious regression could be on the way. That isn’t the case for any of Chapman, Miller or Betances. All three have more than lived up to the hype this season in fanning a combined 128 batters, issuing a paltry 14 walks and surrendering 17 earned runs in 71 1/3 innings. Of course, given their importance to the Yankees – who have climbed back to .500 and sit three games out of a Wild Card position – it’s certainly not a sure thing any of them will switch uniforms prior to the Aug. 1 trade deadline.
In the event the Yankees do decide this isn’t their year and elect to put their star relievers on the block, it would likely take one or more enticing young pieces to land a member of the troika. The Cubs have plenty of quality youth in their farm system, which ESPN’s Keith Law (Insider required and recommended) ranked as the league’s fourth-best group entering the season. World Series-contending Chicago probably wouldn’t want to weaken its major league depth by moving the likes of Javier Baez or Jorge Soler, however, and the Post’s Joel Sherman reported last week that the Cubs are not interested in dealing injured catcher/outfielder Kyle Schwarber for Miller. It stands to reason they wouldn’t move him for Chapman, either, though it’s unknown in Betances’ case.