As we approach August 1, we will preview what each team is projected to do in advance of the non-waiver trade deadline. For a complete listing of our previews, click here.
Chicago Cubs: 52-34, 1st in the NL Central
Things couldn’t get much better for the Chicago Cubs, who sit at 52-34 and have built a sizable lead in the National League Central. They opened the season 27-9, with only three other teams in history having more success over their first 35 contests.
Hiring Joe Maddon in November 2014 has proven to be valuable, and President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and his staff have built a roster that should keep the Cubs in the playoff discussion for the next few seasons.
Chicago was able to top the Pirates and Cardinals to advance to the National League Championship Series last season and has positioned itself to make the playoffs again in 2016.
Expectations were seemingly high in Chicago, but the club has consistently played well enough to have the Pirates and Cardinals focusing on the Wild Card standings.
Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester have anchored a Chicago starting staff that has pitched to a 2.97 ERA, which is the best mark in baseball. Despite a few injuries, the lineup has produced routinely, scoring 448 runs, second to only the Red Sox.
The bullpen has been Chicago’s biggest concern, though it hasn’t been too problematic. The unit has pitched to a 3.82 ERA, which ranks 12th in baseball.
Chicago has had success in the absence of Kyle Schwarber, who is on the 60-day disabled list with a torn LCL and ACL in his left knee, and has been without Dexter Fowler, Jorge Soler, Clayton Richard, Chris Coghlan and David Ross. However, the injuries haven’t had a significant impact on Chicago’s performance.
It seems the Cubs have already prioritized bullpen depth and will be open to adding a top arm or two in the coming weeks.
What moves have they made so far?
Chicago hasn’t been too active on the trade front to this point but did make a few minor deals.
The Cubs acquired Giovanni Soto from the Indians in exchange for cash considerations, but Soto has appeared in only six major league games this season, none of which came with Chicago. Over 31.0 innings with Chicago’s Triple-A affiliate, Soto has pitched to a 5.23 ERA and 5.06 FIP.
On June 9, the Cubs added Chris Coghlan to their roster in exchange for Arismendy Alcantara. Coghlan is currently on the disabled list with rib-cage soreness and wasn’t having much success before the injury. Over 19 games with the Cubs, he’s batting .194/.356/.306 without a home run or RBI.
Are they buyers or sellers?
Even if they struggle for bits of the second half, the Cubs will likely secure a playoff spot. As a result, the team will be adding to its roster in the coming weeks.
Chicago’s bullpen would benefit from an experienced setup reliever, though there aren’t many options. Fernando Rodney could have been considered for a reunion before the Padres traded him to the Marlins.
Hector Rondon has saved 13 contests and pitched to a 1.84 ERA, and Pedro Strop (3.27 ERA) and Travis Wood (2.97 ERA) have, for the most part, been reliable. Still, the addition of another reliever would allow Joe Maddon to shorten games.
The starting rotation will likely remain in tact, but the Cubs could consider upgrades in the back-end. Adam Warren has pitched to a 4.11 ERA over 30.2 innings, and Jason Hammel has posted a 3.46 ERA over 96.1 innings. The Cubs might continue to use a six-man rotation in the second half, which would make another starter valuable.
Expect the Cubs to explore many pitching options at the deadline, with both starters and relievers in consideration. The team is also exploring outfield upgrades, with a strong market of players available.
Who will they target?
The bullpen appears to be the only clear issue for the Cubs, who have several pieces that can be moved if a top reliever is pursued.
Yankees lefty Andrew Miller is reportedly atop Chicago’s wish list, although it’s unclear whether New York is open to moving him. The left-hander told reporters he believed a deal was unlikely earlier in the week.
Miller, 31, has pitched to a 1.43 ERA and 1.90 FIP over 37.2 innings. He won’t be a free agent until 2019 and is in the second year of a four-year, $36 million deal he signed entering 2015.
The Cubs could consider Aroldis Chapman, but he would be a short term option due to his impending free agent status. Dellin Betances is drawing interest, but the Yankees don’t seem open to trading him.
With Rodney already off the market, the Cubs could consider Braves closer Arodys Vizcaino, though the organization reportedly isn’t interested in a reunion.
For starters, Chicago has been scouting Rich Hill, who could be an intriguing option if the club wants to upgrade its starting rotation. Hill has pitched to a 2.25 ERA and 2.57 FIP over 76.0 innings with the Athletics, who are in a position to sell this summer. The Cubs could also take a look at some of the Rays’ available starters, due to Maddon’s connection with many of those players.
The Cubs have scouted Athletics outfielder Josh Reddick, who was drafted and developed by Epstein in Boston years ago. Kansas City and many other teams are in on Reddick, though the A’s are also said to be discussing an extension with him.
The Cubs don’t seem open to the idea of moving Schwarber, Baez, or Willson Contreras, but prospect Jeimer Candelario could draw interest.
If the Cubs wanted to watch as other teams are active leading up to the deadline, it probably wouldn’t be much of an issue. Chicago has proven it can win with its current roster and can only get better.
While they might consider remaining dormant, the Cubs will likely add a top reliever before the deadline. Miller would make the most sense, since he is controllable, but every option will be discussed. The Yankees haven’t shown too much interest in moving him to this point.
Barring a huge setback, the Cubs are in a position to win the division. A trade or two would only make them more of a threat.