Unless something changes drastically for the Cubs over the next couple weeks, they are going to be buyers here at the deadline. Maybe even before that if they jump the market as we’ve seen them do in the past. One potential outcome that makes a lot of sense either way is Giants lefty reliever Will Smith, to whom the Cubs have previously been connected and whose name was dropped by MLB.com Cubs beat writer Jordan Bastian.
There are a handful of arms that look intriguing in light of the Cubs’ need for an impact lefty in the bullpen. The one that looks like a no-brainer for the North Siders to target is Giants lefty Will Smith. The 29-year-old has been fantastic against lefties and righties, and he is under contract for $4.23 million with free agency looming. That fits the budget and would help the Cubs to avoid shipping off their most-coveted prospects.
Given Smith’s status at the moment as a rental, acquiring him would not require the kind of packages that, say, Andrew Miller or Brad Hand necessitated in recent seasons due to their multiple years of control. It would likely take a couple of prospects, but not the top-of-the-rankings players. Given that landscape, it would probably come down to the Giants’ preference of prospects.
Bastian also noted the need for a lefty bat since it’s become painfully obvious that the offense still doesn’t have the right “shape” the front office has been looking for since back in the 2017 season. Jed Hoyer admitted that the Cubs will look outside the organization for offensive help and Theo Epstein said they’d be proactive in “looking to shore up soft spots on the roster,” one of which is in the outfield.
A recent report from Ken Rosenthal said the Cubs would be interested in David Peralta should the Diamondbacks choose to sell, but the lefty-batting outfielder has battled shoulder issues this season. He’s also posted pretty ugly career platoon splits, carrying a career 74 wRC+ and .289 wOBA against southpaws. Questionable health might lower the price tag for a career .292 hitter with another year of control, so perhaps the value is still there.
Nicholas Castellanos is another intriguing option, though he would be a significant defensive downgrade at either outfield corner. His bat is far more important, though, and the Cubs could really use someone to help them when it comes to putting runners in scoring position and then driving them home. Castellanos has 29 doubles on the season, one more than Kris Bryant’s team-leading total, and could set up the run-producers from the two-hole.
There are plenty of other options out there as well and the market should really take shape here as the second half opens. With just a single trade deadline on July 31, teams are going to have to decide sooner than before whether they’re buyers or sellers. For a surprise team like the Rangers, who are ice skating uphill in a top-heavy AL, that could mean moving players on expiring deals.
One such player is Hunter Pence, who is currently on the 10-day IL and was recently pulled from a rehab assignment after aggravating a groin injury. Combined with his impending free agency, Pence’s availability could reduce his asking price significantly. But he’s also having his best season since 2014 and is on a mere $2 million deal, so the Rangers don’t exactly need to shed salary or settle for a lowball offer.
There are scores of other names out there as well, so feel free to speculate on them at your leisure below. The moral of the story is that the Cubs are going to be active as the deadline approaches. That could even mean calling up Ian Happ, who’s been playing a good deal more second base lately in addition to his primary duties in center.
But since trades are more fun, let’s stay focused on those for now.