Unlike most of the posts I put up, even those about a minor-league signing or the latest rumor, I take no joy in the list that follows. You see, like Theo Epstein, I have a difficult time letting go of players I’ve seen come up and help the Cubs. As such, I’d prefer they all stick around while the organization allocates more money to add to the supporting cast.
But since the Cubs are operating more like Hallmark or Lifetime than Netflix, bringing in actors who are past their prime and looking for a rebound, big spending isn’t in the cards. And unlike the Dennis Rodman 30 for 30 I just watched, I’ve got a sinking feeling we’re not going to hear too much about rebounding this coming season either.
More likely when it comes to driving the performance of the club is that we’ll be following a new collective of prospects and potential stars that come over as the result of trade(s). Operating under what appears to be a strict mandate to limit payroll, very possibly even to get below the $208 competitive balance tax threshold, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer will have no choice but to swing deals. The Cubs are already projected to exceed the CBT as things currently stand, so they can’t add even journeyman infielders without first clearing money.
And that’s before finding a way to maintain a slush fund for mid-season acquisitions, something the Cubs have always done. Unless one of their more highly paid players takes an unpaid sabbatical again, the luxury of adding impact talent during the season may be out of the question.
Anyway, the point is that at least one player from the current roster is going to have to be traded. Absent anything else of note taking place around the team, that naturally led me to put together a
completely subjective definitive ranking of Cubs players most likely to be traded this winter.
1) Kris Bryant
Even though I can’t express more strongly how much I am against this, the Cubs don’t seem to care how I feel. Between the market for third base and their need to cut salary, Bryant has remained at the forefront of trade rumors from the the time the last out of the season was recorded. Before any deal is done, however, Josh Donaldson needs to find a new home and Bryant’s service-time grievance needs to be settled.
The arbitrator just got final briefs on the hearing and isn’t expected to rule until sometime in January at the earliest, so maybe it will drag out so long that the Cubs will have no choice but to work out an extension. Except that would require them to spend money, so yeah. I’ll be shocked if the Cubs get adequate value back for KB, but what do I know.
This probably seems like a weird one, but Q is looking more attractive every day as the market for starting pitching explodes. Though lefties Dallas Keuchel and Madison Bumgarner have significantly higher profiles, their respective $18.5 million and $17 million average salaries make Quintana’s $10.5 million look like a steal.
If the Cubs can get value for the southpaw, they could replace him in the rotation with any number of internal options to save money.
3) Ian Happ
Though he’s unfairly maligned for his second half in 2018, Happ has been an above-average run-producer in the majors and his versatility is desirable. Perhaps another team sees in him a guy who can hold down an everyday spot, though he’s not making much money and isn’t likely to draw a massive return. Shouldn’t the Cubs hold onto him then?
Probably, but it’s possible Happ helps to push another deal across or headlines a smaller deal if the Cubs are looking for some pitching prospects.
The Cubs have passed on opportunities to move Schwarber in the past and likely will again this winter, but he’s drawing plenty of interest and is projected to make about $9 million in 2020. His performance down the stretch was better than even Nicholas Castellanos and may promise even bigger things to come. That also means it could promise even bigger offers from other teams.
He is down a few spots, as I’d have had him at Nos. 1 or 2 a month ago. With news that MLB and the umpires have agreed to a deal that would usher in the implementation of an electronic strike zone, however, the framing issues that have dogged Contreras may eventually be a thing of the past. Not to mention the Cubs hired catching guru Craig Driver as their first base coach, ostensibly to make Contreras even better behind the plate.
Because catchers are at an extreme premium and Contreras’ particular skill set doesn’t figure to age particularly well, there’s still a possibility he is moved for a king’s ransom.
6) David Bote
This probably could have been up there with Happ, but Bote doesn’t have as much versatility in the outfield and isn’t a switch hitter. As such, he just isn’t as valuable and doesn’t figure to anchor any sort of deal. He could factor as part of something bigger.
He’s not expensive in terms of raw cost, but Almora’s anemic production makes anything above the league minimum a little difficult to handle. He would likely benefit from a change of scenery and another team might see value in that even if it’s only enough to part with a low-level prospect.
If the Cubs really want to get salary dumpy, there’s nothing dumpier than moving the remainder of Heyward’s contract. Of course, they’d probably have to eat at least half of it or include enough in offsetting talent to make it worth the other team’s while. Not much of a salary dump at that point, is it?
They’d have to find a perfect fit, but it’s not out of the question for the Cubs to get a taker for Heyward.
9) Javy Báez
The Cubs were supposed to be sitting down with Javy’s camp to talk about a long-term deal during the Winter Meetings, but that either didn’t happen or the sides made no headway. It’s impossible to rule out a trade, but there’s not as much impetus to seek one out since he’s so much cheaper than Bryant at this point.
10) Anthony Rizzo
This is how you’d know the Cubs are more intent on cutting costs than building a team fans can get behind. Rizzo’s agent was nonplussed by the lack of traction on extension talks, so maybe the relationship isn’t entirely rock-solid. It’s hard to imagine them actually making this move, but no one is untouchable and we’re not ruling anything out until the games get started.
Even though I didn’t enjoy it, this list is for entertainment purposes only and probably varies greatly from what you’d come up with on your own. If you feel so inclined, go ahead and make up your own list and share it below. If you don’t feel so inclined, well, I guess don’t.