When the Cubs came up short of the postseason this year, it broke a string of four consecutive appearances. It also prompted the organization to prepare for some major changes. To this point, we’ve heard lots of chatter featuring the team’s biggest stars as trade candidates. But no real change … yet.
It’s a bit of a curious situation. By all indications, the Cubs have reached the internal decision to get under the luxury tax line. There are clear financial incentives for teams to do so, at least every few seasons, to duck the biggest monetary penalties under the current CBA. But … now? After assembling this long-awaited core? And after signing Craig Kimbrel six months ago, in the middle of the season?
We’ve been led to believe that the Cubs baseball operations department feels it must explore deals involving its best players because it simply doesn’t have authorization to spend otherwise. And the status quo isn’t optimal for 2020 or beyond. That situation is rather difficult to square strategically with the Kimbrel signing, which occupied all of the team’s remaining flexibility. But perhaps ownership decided on this course more recently. The team is facing major Wrigley renovation cost overruns, albeit possibly of their own making.
Whatever the background, the situation remains: if the Cubs wish to change their roster, so far as we can discern, it’ll have to come via trade. The Cubs could try to shave some salary associated with the ill-fated Jason Heyward, Tyler Chatwood, and Daniel Descalso deals, though that doesn’t figure to be easy and would cost prospect capital to pull off. With a farm system already picked over for prior additions, any major overhaul will almost certainly require the departure of quite a significant player.
Javier Baez seems more like an extension target than a trade candidate, but we’ve heard loads of talk about Kris Bryant (at least, once his grievance is resolved). Willson Contreras was in the news quite a bit earlier in the winter. Yu Darvish doesn’t seem inclined to waive his no-trade rights, but could Jose Quintana be discussed? Or even Kyle Hendricks? Kyle Schwarber would no doubt be made available in some scenarios. And the team evidently isn’t seeing eye to eye with first baseman Anthony Rizzo; might there be a chance he’s moved?
At this point, we don’t really have great reason to think any particular player is likely to be sent out. Bryant and Contreras certainly occupy in-demand positions, but there hasn’t been a strong rumor indicating that a swap is approaching. We haven’t even heard specific rumors on all of the players listed above, but can the Cubs really take anyone off the table at this point?
There’s still loads of uncertainty, so it’s a good time to ask for everyone’s best guesses. So … will they make a deal? (Poll link for app users.)
And which player is likeliest to be moved? (Poll link for app users. Response order randomized.)