Jump to content
North Side Baseball
  • Multiple Reports Say Cubs More Likely to Trade Marcus Stroman Than Cody Bellinger


    Matt Trueblood

    With the MLB trade deadline just six days away, the Cubs are hotter than they have been since mid-June. They've won six of their last seven games, and have five more against weak opponents before the deadline. That's creating a lot of uncertainty about what they might do, but national reports are starting to bring their thinking into focus.

    Image courtesy of © David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

    Cubs Video

    Over the weekend, The Score 670's Bruce Levine reported that the Cubs are more likely to trade Marcus Stroman than to deal Cody Bellinger. Those two are the Cubs' most famous and intriguing trade chips, should they undertake any version of selling at the deadline, but it's Bellinger (and his scorching July) who has generated more widespread buzz.

    Still, Levine is plugged-in, and his report was not to be taken lightly. Sure enough, during an appearance on the same station Tuesday, Jon Morosi said the same thing. Morosi mentioned that "at least seven or eight" teams are in the market for rental starting pitchers, whereas finding a fit for a position player is always a bit trickier. He also highlighted the fact that, unlike Stroman, Bellinger is eligible to receive a qualifying offer after this season, giving the Cubs an opportunity to get something back for him even if they don't trade him. 

    To complete the trifecta, Ken Rosenthal sounded the same notes in his latest notes piece on The Athletic. When those three people say the same thing, it's a good bet that it's a sound report. Notably, none of them said that the Cubs won't trade Bellinger, and none said they will definitely trade Stroman. They only sketched the probabilities of either deal by setting them in relation to each other. We have no reason to doubt them, but the door is still wide open to them all being wrong.

    For now, though, let's grant that they're right, and discuss whether and why that makes sense. It's easy to identify the fact that Bellinger can be tagged with the QO and that Stroman can't, which makes for a handy talking point. Further, Stroman effectively has a $21-million player option for 2024, so dealing him would pass the risk that he gets hurt and ends up as dead money on next year's books to his new team. 

    Those lines of thinking overlook the payoffs of each possible trade, though. That the Cubs can give Bellinger the QO sets a floor for their asking price, and the fact that he can't unilaterally opt for big money on this deal next season ensures that that asking price won't be dampened by any teams who get queasy in the face of a little risk. Stroman's circumstances give the Cubs much less leverage. We saw the Giants hold onto Carlos Rodon at last year's deadline, because a similarly pricey option deterred teams from paying what San Francisco wanted for him. Stroman isn't nearly the injury risk that Rodon was (and always is), but interested teams will certainly use Stroman's option against Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins.

    If the Cubs end up as sellers, Bellinger will bring back a much stronger return than will Stroman. Thus, if they're sellers, they should absolutely trade Bellinger, even more certainly than they should trade Stroman. If they're buyers, though, they should absolutely retain Bellinger, because they can't stay in contention without him and because they can always get a draft pick for him after the season, whether their bid for the postseason pans out or not. 

    That leaves the question of whether trading Stroman could still make sense for a buying version of the Cubs. That's a thorny question, for multiple reasons. Firstly, from a logistical perspective, a Cubs team positioned to contend and trying to reach the playoffs would need to have a replacement for Stroman in order to deal him. Presumably, an acquiring team would be unwilling to provide that player, because they'd be getting Stroman for that very reason. That leaves two possibilities:

    1. A separate deal to acquire a starter (probably one with more team control) from a team not looking to contend this year; or
    2. Calling up at least one of Jordan Wicks, Ben Brown, and Hayden Wesneski to fill out the rotation.

    I wrote on Sunday that Wesneski should take Drew Smyly's place in the rotation, anyway, so promoting him might fall into the category of necessary but not sufficient. The team would be taking a huge leap of faith by inserting a rookie, no matter which one it be, into the rotation vacancy left by one of their co-aces, in the heat of what they would be hoping would develop into a pennant race. Wicks has only recently reached Triple A, and Brown has been tantalizing but brutally inconsistent there. 

    Thus, the most realistic scenario in which the Cubs trade Stroman but not Bellinger is also one in which they go make a trade to land an established, controllable starter to take his place. That's viable, because the team has depth and an impending roster crunch in the farm system, and because trading Stroman would only add to their trove of prospects. However, it's a delicate balance to attempt to strike. The 2021 Mariners traded Kendall Graveman, their closer, to the rival Astros, and though they acquired a useful reliever in that very deal, the move torpedoed the esprit de corps and led to their failure to end their 20-year playoff drought. The 2022 Brewers learned nothing from that, and traded Josh Hader for useful pieces, including a viable replacement for Hader. It had an equally deleterious effect on morale.

    Maybe the Cubs are materially mentally tougher than those teams, but they're just as actually thin as those teams proved to be. Trade Stroman, and the planning fallacy comes into play in a huge way. They might acquire an ostensibly or plausibly solid replacement for him, but there's a good chance that the gambit would turn out badly, and that the team would have set itself back by trying to be too clever.

    The front office's position is unenviable. They have five more games, really, to make a decision about whether to buy or sell, and those five games are taking on an artificially inflated importance that could lead to bad decisions. They do have a few potential avenues that involve a middle ground between buying and selling, but those options are fraught. Stroman is more likely than Bellinger to be dealt, but in reality, it ought to be either both or neither who wear Cubs uniforms on the other side of August 1.

    Think you could write a story like this? North Side Baseball wants you to develop your voice, find an audience, and we'll pay you to do it. Just fill out this form.

    MORE FROM NORTH SIDE BASEBALL
    — Latest Cubs coverage from our writers
    — Recent Cubs discussion in our forums
    — Follow NSBB via Twitter, Facebook or email
    — Become a North Side Baseball Caretaker

     Share


    User Feedback

    Recommended Comments

    Featured Comments

    The logic here completely makes sense, not disagreeing with that, but I find it funny that the pitcher who is publicly lobbying to stay here and get an extension is the one likely to be traded and the hitter who signed here for 1 year to improve his market value and has Scott Boras as an agent is the one more likely to stay.  Again, I get it especially with the QO on the table for Bellinger, but its funny on the surface.

    Edited by UMFan83
    • Like 1
    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    59 minutes ago, UMFan83 said:

    The logic here completely makes sense, not disagreeing with that, but I find it funny that the pitcher who is publicly lobbying to stay here and get an extension is the one likely to be traded and the hitter who signed here for 1 year to improve his market value and has Scott Boras as an agent is the one more likely to stay.  Again, I get it especially with the QO on the table for Bellinger, but its funny on the surface.

    Stro can stay another year if he wants to, can't he? I love his athleticism and gamesmanship. I hope they can get something worked out that is mutually agreeable to Stro and the Cubs. It kind of sounds to me like the Cubs are not interested though. 

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    16 minutes ago, CubinNY said:

    Stro can stay another year if he wants to, can't he? I love his athleticism and gamesmanship. I hope they can get something worked out that is mutually agreeable to Stro and the Cubs. It kind of sounds to me like the Cubs are not interested though. 

    He's not going to turn what's likely going to be like a 4/100 or 5/125 deal in FA to stay with the Cubs on a 1/21 deal. I don't care how much he likes Chicago.

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    As someone else has mentioned, I think the optimal situation here is that you somehow trade Stroman for the best prospect you can get, replace his production by trading PCA+ for an available starter (preferably with some additional years of control), then sign Bellinger to a 5 year deal.  Obviously the order those things would have to happen in makes it highly impractical and unlikely, but that's my ideal scenario even with the talk of the underlying stats being a little suspect for Bellinger.

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    17 minutes ago, mul21 said:

    As someone else has mentioned, I think the optimal situation here is that you somehow trade Stroman for the best prospect you can get, replace his production by trading PCA+ for an available starter (preferably with some additional years of control), then sign Bellinger to a 5 year deal.  Obviously the order those things would have to happen in makes it highly impractical and unlikely, but that's my ideal scenario even with the talk of the underlying stats being a little suspect for Bellinger.

    • Trade PCA+ for Ohtani
    • Win the damn thing
    • Re-sign Ohtani and Belli

    Easy peasy

    • Haha 2
    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    1 hour ago, ILMindState said:
    • Trade PCA+ for Ohtani
    • Win the damn thing
    • Re-sign Ohtani and Belli

    Easy peasy

    I'm not trading anybody for Ohtani - short of there being some rock solid assurance that he is signing an extension - which I don't believe will be possible.  Once he's a free agent?  Give him the deed to the city and the location of Capone's vault.  I do wonder how long he will continue to pitch so you may not get the player you are signing for much of the contract...but horsefeathers it.

    I'm not trading PCA.

    I'm all in on re-signing Bellinger - no deed to the city but you can let him know where Capone's vault is.

    I reserve the right to amend my opinion if the Cubs win all games prior to the deadline.

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    5 hours ago, mul21 said:

    As someone else has mentioned, I think the optimal situation here is that you somehow trade Stroman for the best prospect you can get, replace his production by trading PCA+ for an available starter (preferably with some additional years of control), then sign Bellinger to a 5 year deal.  Obviously the order those things would have to happen in makes it highly impractical and unlikely, but that's my ideal scenario even with the talk of the underlying stats being a little suspect for Bellinger.

    This is very risky …. I do not want Belli on a 5yr contract unless we have an opt out

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites



    Create an account or sign in to comment

    You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

    Create an account

    Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

    Register a new account

    Sign in

    Already have an account? Sign in here.

    Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...