Since their World Series victory in 2016, the Cubs have made the playoffs three out of four seasons but won just one series. The team went from long-time lovable losers to a team that was a legitimate underachiever.
Chicago traded away their ace, Yu Darvish, in the offseason but held onto their veteran hitters who formed the core of their championship five years ago in hopes of one last run. In June, the Cubs got hot and they found themselves briefly in first place. An 11-game losing streak, coupled with the Milwaukee Brewers’ domination has resulted in Chicago falling well behind in the standings.
Make sure to check out all of our other Trade Deadline Previews.
Rank: Third in NL Central, 8.5 games back
With all their trade pieces, the Cubs may be the busiest team in baseball heading into the trade deadline. Given their current status, it’s safe to say the the team should have started their rebuild before the 2021 season began. They have four big-name hitters who are in their free-agent season, as well as the top relief pitcher on the trade market.
The opportunity to remake the team is possible, but tough decisions will have to be made in terms of which players to keep and which to deal. Club president Jed Hoyer has already admitted that the Cubs will most likely be sellers. Strap in Cubs fans, July could be a very eventful month.
Kris Bryant, Third Base/Outfield
The 2016 National League MVP could be the biggest name to be traded this season. He is in his free agent season and would be a huge boost for any contender. The fact that he has position versatility makes him even more attractive. Bryant has a .268/.349/.498 slash line and that’s after slumping in June.
Bryant does, however, have two negatives for potential trade partners. He tends to pick up nagging injuries that sideline him too often. He is also a free agent who has professed a desire to test the market; it is unlikely he will agree to a long-term contract with the team that would be trading for him. It is only a two-month rental, but Bryant would certainly bring back a nice package, probably two of a team’s top 10 prospects.
Javier Baez, Shortstop
Baez and catcher Willson Contreras play with lots of energy and give the team spirit. That’s great when the club is playoff-bound, but does not add much when struggling. Of the two, Baez is most often mentioned as being on the trade block. He is set to become a free agent after this year, and at only 28 years old he will demand a huge long-term contract. Baez is not a perfect player–he’s only hitting .234 on the season and has an insane 112 strikeouts in 282 at bats on the season. However, he plays a slick shortstop and provides lots of power. If the Cubs decide to move on from “El Mago”, he would command a return in line with Bryant.
Craig Kimbrel, Relief Pitcher/Closer
What a difference a year can make. Kimbrel signed a huge contract with Chicago three years ago and his first two seasons with the Cubs were a disaster. Midway through 2021, though, he is the best reliever available on the trade market. He has been dominant in 2021 (20 saves, 0.57 ERA, 0.66 WHIP) and has a vesting/club option contract for the upcoming season.
The bullpen as a whole has been the Cubs’ strength this year, but a stud closer is a luxury on a third-place team. While Kimbrel won’t bring back the ransom that the previously mentioned hitters will command, he would likely net Chicago one high-level prospect and one young wild card. He will almost certainly be dealt as the month goes along.
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