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2017 MLB Trade Deadline Preview: Chicago Cubs

A look at what the Cubs will do in advance of the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

MLB: Miami Marlins at Chicago Cubs Photo by Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

As we approach July 31, 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, 43-45, 2nd in the NL Central

What moves have they made so far?

The Cubs made the first major trade of the regular season on Thursday, acquiring left-handed starting pitcher Jose Quintana from the White Sox in exchange for their top two prospects, outfielder Eloy Jimenez and right-handed starter Dylan Cease, as well as minor-league second baseman Bryant Flete and first baseman Matt Rose. The move satisfies their biggest need heading into the stretch run, which was controllable starting pitching depth.

As is usually the case with reigning championship clubs, the Cubs have had difficulty holding onto players that they've moved off their 40-man roster this season. On the bright side, they've been able to get return value for three players that they've designated for assignment. The Cubs dealt outfielder Matt Szczur, who had been with the big-league club since 2014 and was one of their longest-tenured players, to the Padres for minor-league right-hander Justin Hancock on May 8. They acquired right-handed reliever Matt Carasiti from the Rockies for lefty Zac Rosscup on June 26. They traded catcher Miguel Montero to the Blue Jays for a player to be named later on July 3.

The Cubs also lost reliever Jake Buchanan—who has since joined the Diamondbacks organization—on waivers to the Reds on May 25. They signed veteran lefty Ross Detwiler to a minor-league contract on June 7.

Are they buyers or sellers?

Now that they’ve traded for Quintana, the Cubs can safely be labeled as aggressive buyers. If they’re looking to shake things up more heavily before the deadline, though, their approach may involve an "addition by subtraction" approach. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports recently reported that the Cubs are considering moving a young position player in an effort to try to jump-start the club, and with six of their eight primary position players being 25 years old or younger, the front office has quite a few options if they want to anoint a scapegoat.

Who will they target?

The Cubs satisfied their biggest area of need, starting pitching, by acquiring Quintana, but they definitely should look to add catching depth and might still look to add another starter as well.

Quintana certainly provides a major boost to the Cubs’ rotation, but Brett Anderson, John Lackey, and Kyle Hendricks are all currently on the disabled list, and none of them have pitched particularly well this season. Jake Arrieta has been good over his first two starts in July, but he hasn't been nearly as consistent in 2017 as he was over the previous three seasons. Even Jon Lester has experienced a drop-off, which was evidenced most clearly when he gave up 10 runs over 0.2 innings in the Cubs' 14-3 loss to the Pirates on Sunday. Their most consistent starter has arguably been Eddie Butler, whom they acquired from the Rockies on the cheap after he was DFA'd shortly before the beginning of spring training.

While swingman Mike Montgomery is a solid depth starter, the Cubs might still need to add another big-league veteran for the stretch run, because their none of their minor-league starters provide much intrigue. If Chicago is looking to add another back-of-the-rotation starter, they could opt to pursue guys like Marco Estrada, Francisco Liriano, Andrew Cashner, Jaime Garcia, or Jhoulys Chacin.

It'd also be wise for Chicago to bring in a veteran backstop to back up or split time with Willson Contreras. Though 23-year-old Victor Caratini dominated Triple-A over the first three months of this season, he has struggled to adjust to the big leagues since being recalled when veteran Miguel Montero was unexpectedly designated for assignment on June 28. He's 3 for 12 with two doubles and a walk thus far, but his defense hasn't been up to par. According to StatCorner's pitch framing statistics, Caratini is costing his pitching staff 7.45 called strikes per game over the first four catching appearances of his MLB career, which is worst among major-league catchers, albeit over a small sample size. Even Contreras, who has posted a solid .782 OPS this season, has been a significant defensive liability. He's made 13 errors, which ranks worst among MLB catchers.

Catchers who could fit the Cubs' needs include Alex Avila, Jonathan Lucroy, A.J. Ellis, and Kurt Suzuki.


The Cubs dealt their last remaining major trade pieces, Jimenez and Cease, to acquire Quintana, so they probably won’t be making any more drastic moves before the deadline. With the way Joe Maddon has been able to utilize former starters out of the bullpen over the years, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them acquire another starting pitcher to provide extra depth, even if it means moving a guy who’s started for his entire career to the ‘pen.

It’d make a ton of sense for them to acquire another catcher, but the Cubs certainly have shown that they’re willing to be patient with young players at the major-league level, so it’s easy to see them sticking it out with Contreras and Caratini.