In the first two installments, I looked at what the Cubs could use to strengthen the team. The short answer is: a reliever for sure and a starter would be really good. Under perfect circumstances, a hitter could be added, too.
In this article, we'll look at the AL team by team to see how likely they are to sell and what players they may put on the market that could help the Cubs.
Teams that will not be trading:
These are the teams that in a position where even a losing streak before the break will not convince these teams to sell. Generally, that's the teams at the top of the divisions.
In the AL East, Baltimore, Toronto and Boston are all in win-now mode. Each of them has made huge investments to reach the playoffs this year. Each of them is within two games of the division lead and are the two current wild card teams in the AL.
In the AL Central, Cleveland has a 6.5 game lead and will be looking to add bats, not trade pitching.
In the AL West, Texas has built a big lead. They've done it on smoke and mirrors, but they won't be trading anyone away before the deadline.
Teams that may or may not sell:
There are six teams within 5.5 games of the wildcard leaders in the AL. Houston, Detroit, KC, Chicago, Seattle, NY are all right around .500 and within shouting distance of the playoffs. The circumstances around these teams vary quite a bit. They should all be included in the analysis in case they lose ground on the wild card.
Teams that are going to sell:
These are the teams that are well out of reach of their divisions or the AL wild card. There are four teams currently in this position - Oakland, LA, Tampa and Minnesota.
So, let's start from the bottom and work our way up. For each team, the focus will be on the players who are judged to be not only of value to the Cubs, but also someone that their current team may be willing to trade.
Minnesota: 20 GB (Division) / 17.5 GB (Wild Card)
Although Minnesota will be selling, it is hard to see who they may trade. The only expensive reliever on the team (Glen Perkins) is out for labrum surgery. There are some intriguing arms, but they are likely too inexperienced to be of interest to the Cubs and too cheap for Minnesota to give up in a trade. There is really nothing from a starting pitching perspective that would be of interest, nor any position players that would be of interest and also available. Except for one strange rumor...
- Fernando Abad - 1 year/$1.25M (2016) - ML service: 4.073 (to begin the year)
- Abad would likely be the best lefty in the pen, but he is not a huge upgrade over Travis Wood. His walk rate has gone up each of the past two years and he struggled mightily to keep the ball in the park last year. His numbers are just okay this year. Since he has another year of control and is on a cheap contract, it is likely that Minnesota would want a decent prospect for him. But since he has just one more year of control, he is someone they would likely be willin to move. Just can't see him being worth anyone in the top tiers of the system.
- Robbie Grossman - 1 year (2016) - ML service: 1.095
- I have no idea why there is a rumor out there that Grossman might be available. With just one year of service time coming into 2016 and having spent part of the year in the minors, Grossman has five more years of control remaining after this year and is still on a minimum contract. He is not young anymore at 26+ years old, but has broken out this year in a significant way. His line of .279/.416/.461 so far is excellent and his approach at the plate fits exactly what the Cubs look for in a player with his 18.9 % walk rate. I don't know what Minnesota would ask for in return, but Grossman would be an excellent acquisition for the outfield mix now and in the future.
Tampa: 17.5 GB / 15.5 GB
Tampa could be a one stop shop for the Cubs. They have been linked in trade rumors over the winter, with Tampa reportedly very interested in Baez and Soler. They have an elite reliever and a number of interesting starting pitching options that would fit for 2016 and beyond.
- Brad Boxberger - 1 year/$0.5192M (2016) - ML service: 2.109
- He's not the reliever you want the most from Tampa, but he's likely to be the one that is most available. He's been injured in 2016, so he will need to establish himself healthy before a trade could be made. But he would be an addition to the pen for this year and the next several as he will only have 3+ years of service after this season. Boxberger unquestionably has wipeout stuff, but he sometimes has trouble staying in the strikezone. Because of health and command issues, Tampa would be selling low on Boxberger. With his cost so low, they may choose to hold onto him and let him prove himself healthy before trading him over the winter or next season.
- Alex Colome - 1 year/$0.5217M (2016) - ML service: 1.118
- This is the reliever you want. He would be outrageously expensive, though, as Tampa has absolutely no reason to move him. But he provides elite production from the back end of the pen, has a healthy arm and would be a huge boost to the relief corps now and for many years to come.
- Chris Archer - 6 years/$25.5M (2014-19), plus 2020-21 club options - ML service: 2.156
- 14:$0.5M, 15:$1M, 16:$2.75M, 17:$4.75M, 18:$6.25M, 19:$7.5M, 20:$9M club option ($1.75M buyout), 21:$11M club option ($0.25M buyout)
- Archer finished 2015 as one of the elite arms in MLB. He got off to a very rough start this year, walking too many people and giving up an alarming number of home runs. He's still walking too many, but the home run rate has come down each month to a workable level. He would be very expensive to acquire with his contract at very reasonable prices through 2021. Tampa would likely have to be blown away to make a deal. Given his production issues so far this year, it may be hard to make an offer large enough to entice Tampa to accept. But this would be a huge move to boost the rotation.
- Drew Smyly / Jake Odorizzi / Matt Moore
- I won't go into contract details on these guys, but all could be viewed as mid-level options to improve the rotation. They've all shown the ability to strike hitters out while controlling the strike zone. But they are all suffering from giving up way too many home runs this year. The front office could roll the dice on any of these guys and they'd all represent an upgrade on Hammel.
- Alex Cobb
- Cobb is working his way back from TJS and just made his first rehab start on 7/7. It seems unlikely that he would be ready in time to be traded before the deadline, but if he is performing well in his rehab starts, it is possible the Cubs would take a chance on him for this year and next. After 2017, Cobb will be a free agent. If Tampa could get a good return for him, it is likely they would move him.
Los Angeles Angels: 16.5 GB / 13 GB
Unless you buy into the improvements from Matt Shoemaker, this would all be about convincing the Angels to trade a generational player in Mike Trout. If they decided to sell, the Cubs could offer as much or more than any team out there. It would be worth it. None of the relievers that they would sell are worth the price (Huston Street) of their contract or the price it would take (Cam Bedrosian).
- Matt Shoemaker
- For a series of about five game this season, Shoemaker was remarkable. For the rest of his career, he's been *good* on the mound. But he is dirt cheap, is controllable for another five years and has an injury history. It is hard to see a deal that makes sense for both teams.
- Mike Trout
- There are very few deals for position players that make sense for the Cubs. It would have to be a very special player they are getting in return to make it worthwhile. Putting Mike Trout in the middle of the order with Bryant and Rizzo would be nearly unfair to the rest of baseball. Let's make it happen. It would probably take something along the lines of Schwarber, Soler, Almora and Vogelbach to get the Angels to jump. Do it if they'll take it.
Oakland 15.5 GB / 12 GB
It's too bad Sonny Gray has collapsed this season. And that Sean Doolittle cannot stay on the mound. But there is still one stop shopping involving another former Cubs prospect and a quality reliever.
- Ryan Dull (rookie)
- He's not the most *exciting* name out there (rimshot, please!). But his performance in his rookie year has been outstanding. Why would Oakland trade him? He doesn't have a huge arm. He wasn't one of their top 10 prospects coming into the year, so he doesn't have a huge pedigree. Given his cost and years of control, they probably wouldn't trade him on his own. But he would make an outstanding addition to a bigger trade.
- Liam Hendriks - 1 year/$0.5234M (2016) - ML service: 2.038
- On the surface, Hendriks 6.15 ERA would suggest he isn't someone the Cubs should be interested in. But he has a track record of success and peripherals that suggest his second half performance will be much stronger. I don't think the Cubs would go after him alone, but he would be a very nice addition to a deal for a starter.
- Rich Hill - 1 year/$6M (2016)
- Hill has a story familiar to many Cubs fans. "One Pitch Rich" came up with the Cubs and succeeded in the rotation for a time. But he always played on the fine edge of having enough control of his curve and fastball combination. He disappeared from MLB for years and resurfaced down the stretch as a dominant pitcher for Boston last year. During this offseason, he took a one year deal with Oakland to prove his newfound success was not a fluke. And he has gone out and proven it this year. With a 2.25 ERA and 2.67 FIP, he has been one of the best pitchers in MLB so far this year. With Oakland out of the race and Hill on a one year deal, it is more a matter of time before he is traded than a question of if it will happen.
That's it for tonight. Tomorrow I'll look at the teams in the middle to see what pieces might fit from those teams for the Cubs. Then we'll turn our attention to the National League.