The Rundown: Seeking Trade Fits for Contreras and Happ, Best Yet to Come for Top Draft Pick Horton, Soto Wins Home Run Derby, Schwarber Victimized Again
“Go down, Miss Moses, there’s nothin’ you can say. It’s just ol’ Luke and Luke’s waitin’ on the Judgment Day.” – The Band, The Weight
There’s growing suspicion that Willson Contreras and Ian Happ have played their last games at Wrigley Field as members of the home team. Looking at the second-half schedule, Chicago opens with a three-game set in Philadelphia before returning home for a brief two-game homestand against the Pirates. After that, they play the Giants in San Francisco before heading to St. Louis for a series that starts on deadline day.
With just those two home games between now and August 5, the Cubs may be in final negotiations to trade their two veteran stars this week. It’s still tough to grasp that Jed Hoyer will move Contreras, especially after selecting pitchers with nine of their first 10 draft picks this week. That sure presents a great case for keeping the longest-tenured Cub, but, by many accounts, that’s not part of Hoyer’s plan.
With that in mind, I thought I’d look at trade scenarios. I don’t like doing these, but they do make for wonderful banter in the comments section, and besides, I’d rather not write about last night’s Home Run Derby. Las Vegas oddsmakers have made the Astros the prohibitive favorite to land Contreras, but the Rays, Mets, and Giants are possible fits as well. Happ will be sought by half the league, with the Yankees, Brewers, Phillies, Cardinals, Braves, and Rays being logical fits, but don’t sleep on the Orioles. They could trade Trey Mancini only to replace him with Happ.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s Rundown, I believe the way the Cubs have drafted indicates that Hoyer will slightly pivot and seek players that are major league ready or close to it. It’s not unprecedented. Last year he traded Craig Kimbrel for Codi Heuer and Nick Madrigal, though both are injured right now. The Cubs should do well trading their two All-Stars and could force an overpay for Contreras if the Mets and Astros are hungry enough.
Despite what the betting lines say, I still believe the Mets are the favorites to land the veteran backstop, followed by the Astros, Giants, and Rays. Brett Baty would be a nice get for the Cubs and maybe they can pair someone like Mychal Givens with Contreras to swing that deal. Another interesting name in that system is outfielder/third baseman Mark Vientos. He’s got some swing-and-miss issues, but he sports 60-grade power. Vientos is also a lousy fielder, so he’s probably destined for DH. Before you ask, Francisco Álvarez and Ronny Mauricio are unlikely to be available.
I’m not a fan of Houston’s system, but catcher Korey Lee would be an obvious target. Righty Shawn Dubin is a closer in the making and he has the kind of profile Chicago’s front office seems attracted to these days thanks to his power fastball and wipeout slider.
The Giants system is also relatively weak. Heliot Ramos could be part of a decent package for Contreras, but the Cubs already have Christopher Morel who has a similar game, though Morel is a better player. Righty Gregory Santos has a 70-grade fastball and his slider is equally electric. He’s on a path to being San Francisco’s closer as soon as next season, but he also served an 80-game suspension in 2020 after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. Lefty R.J. Dabovich is also somebody to keep an eye on.
The Rays system is no longer the powerhouse it once was, though first baseman Curtis Mead is a contact-over-power batter who rarely strikes out. The raw power is there, but he’s more likely to drive doubles into the gap and still has some projection left at just 21 years old. Second baseman Xavier Edwards is intriguing and Cubs fans will love his hit tool. Of course, we said that about Madrigal last year. Both players sport 20-grade power, though Edwards can absolutely fly. Tampa Bay has four shortstop prospects among their top 10, so if they’re trading from strength, Carson Williams, Greg Jones, Willy Vasquez, and Carlos Colmenarez are probably all available.
Just because it’s a fun story, I’ll make the Orioles the favorites to land Happ though the reality is they’re probably not. Grayson Rodriguez and Gunnar Henderson are off-limits, and third baseman Colton Cowser isn’t going anywhere either because Baltimore just isn’t there yet. Kyle Stowers is a bat-first left fielder with some pop who could become a fan favorite. I like shortstop Jordan Westburg a great deal, too.
Though the Yankees are listed as a favorite to land Happ, I don’t see why Brian Cashman has to make a move like that. I know he wants to get rid of Joey Gallo, and the switch-hitting Happ would be a great replacement. I’m sure Happ would love playing with Anthony Rizzo again, too. Catcher Austin Wells might be available, but he’s not going to stick behind the plate. I like LHP Ken Waldichuk a great deal but the Yankees don’t really need any additions, so I don’t see a fit.
The Phillies are probably looking for relievers, but Happ will make them a better team due to his versatility. Like the Mets, they’re also a team that won’t be afraid to trade their better prospects. That said, the cupboard is pretty bare. Catcher Logan O’Hoppe is a grinder and I like him a great deal. Outfielder Johan Rojas is a potential five-tool player who could play centerfield and bat leadoff. There’s not much else in that system.
The Cardinals and Brewers are probably not legitimate options since Happ carries an extra year of team control, and I discussed the Rays above. The Braves’ top prospect is LHP Kyle Muller and he should be the target even if he’s not getting moved. Atlanta’s pitching-heavy system features more finesse than power, but Tucker Davidson and Freddy Tarnok are a little intriguing. I really like Tarnok, who could be this year’s version of Caleb Kilian.
Cubs News & Notes
- With his days as a Cub potentially numbered, Contreras spent some time reflecting on his career ($) with Patrick Mooney of The Athletic.
- The All-Star catcher told media members that he “has a feeling” this will not be his last All-Star Game in a Cubs uniform.
- The Contreras brothers will bat back-to-back in tonight’s game.
- An accelerated trajectory made Cade Horton Chicago’s first-round selection in this year’s draft.
- The Cubs may have taken their third pitcher and their second shortstop of the class in the same selection with third-round pick Nazier Mule. If anything, the dude is a well-polished interview.
- The Cubs have created an arms race of sorts with a very pitcher-heavy draft thus far.
Odds & Sods
Julio Rodríguez is good at baseball.
Julio Rodríguez shows in Home Run Derby why he's a future face of baseball https://t.co/C8gF3IDlph pic.twitter.com/RHLWZJ2nDB
— Sporting News MLB (@sn_mlb) July 19, 2022
How About That!
Juan Soto won last night’s Home Run Derby, walking it off in every round.
Soto mentioned that trade rumors have left him a bit uncomfortable because the Nationals previously said he wasn’t going to be moved this year.
Kyle Schwarber was victimized by another Home Run Derby controversy. ESPN seemingly omitted one of Schwarber’s home runs in OT, prematurely handing Albert Pujols the win.
The players from both squads gave Pujols a nice moment during last night’s festivities.
Ben Joyce is bringing his 105 mph fastball to Anaheim. The Angels selected the Tennessee righty in the third round.
Baseball’s slow demise under the stead of Rob Manfred continued this week with unpleasant viewing experiences during the Futures Game and the first two rounds of the draft.
Even The Onion is piling on Manfred.
A senate judiciary committee is seeking answers from Manfred on MLB’s antitrust exemption.
Happy Diamond Birthday to 670 The Score. Bidding goodbye to your twenties is never an easy task, but take it from a guy nearly twice your age, the best is yet to come. I listened that first day when Tom Shaer launched Chicago’s first all-sports talk radio format. Dan McNeil, Mike North, Dan Jiggetts, Terry Boers, and Brian Hanley were a big part of my day once I started my post-college career. I really loved the Mike Ditka interviews back then.
“Everything I know I learned after I was 30.” – Georges Clemenceau
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— Mitch Rosen (@MitchRosen670) July 19, 2022
Tuesday Morning Six-Pack
- Bears GM Ryan Poles is coming dangerously close to putting the Bears into a perpetual rebuild. That works well for Billy Beane and the Athletics but doesn’t translate well to the NFL.
- The University of Notre Dame is seeking $75 million in annual payouts in its quest to remain an independent football team.
- If you’re wondering why a sportsbook is attractive to organizations such as the Cubs, check out how much sports betting business Colorado did during the NHL’s Stanley Cup Finals.
- Federal officials sentenced former mayor Jason Lary of Stonecrest, GA to four years and nine months in prison Wednesday on charges that he used pandemic relief funds to pay multiple personal expenses, including his lakefront home’s mortgage and an associate’s political advertising costs.
- Inflation is causing many Americans to seek second or third jobs to pay for stuff like gas and food.
- Singer/songwriter Don McLean loves when we sing “American Pie” at karaoke or last call, and a new documentary dropping on Paramount TV today explores the true origins of the song. Is it possible it’s really not just about Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and The Big Bopper? There’s a lot more to the story than you think.
They Said It
- “I really believe in the law of attraction. I used to say to my mom and dad like, ‘When I get to the big leagues, I will get a big house. I will get a few cars. And we’ll get a fucking helicopter.’ My mom used to laugh, but I used to say it almost every day, to be honest. I was like, ‘Mom, I want to have a house where I can land helicopters on the rooftop.’ My mom used to laugh at me, ‘OK, OK, keep dreaming.’ That was part of my way to think almost every day. When I played Little League, I was just thinking of being Miguel Cabrera or Derek Jeter or A-Rod.” – Contreras
- “We haven’t seen the best of [Horton].” – Kantrovitz
Tuesday Walk-Up Song
This 1991 song by The Ocean Blue is one of the best pop songs you’ll ever hear, though you might be unfamiliar with it since it never charted. It sold just 150,000 copies, which is a shame. Martin Scorcese is reportedly a huge fan of this Hershey, PA band and has used some of their other songs in his movies.