With the Mid-Summer Classic in the rearview mirror, the focus throughout the game will turn to the non-waiver trade deadline. The Cubs figure to be one of the most active teams leading up to July 31 and they have several players, other than Matt Garza, that could help contenders down the stretch and into October. This regime does not use the word “untouchable” when referring to players and while there are players on the roster that appear to be core pieces moving forward, the Cubs are reportedly willing to listen to offers for every player on the roster.
There are no two ways about it the Cubs biggest trade chip is Matt Garza. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer know what they have and they are not going to give him away. The Cubs are reportedly looking for a top prospect or two in return for Garza to aid in building an organization with sustained success.
There are at least 12 teams in on Matt Garza according to Jim Bowden and the Rangers are seen as the favorite to acquire him, but don’t count out teams such as the Cardinals, Diamondbacks and Indians. The other teams thought to be talking to the Cubs about Garza include the Dodgers, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Braves, Rays, Rockies and Pirates.
As for what the Rangers could be willing to deal for Garza became quite the debate following David Kaplan’s report that Bob Nightengale believes Jurickson Profar is in play in discussions for Garza. Nightengale basically denied saying as much a short time after Kaplan reported his statement. Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegraph joined Kaplan on his radio show and said he would be “stunned” if Profar was included in a deal for Garza. Wilson said the Rangers would not include Profar in a deal for a rental. Wilson acknowledged the Rangers have been on Garza for a while but they are also not willing to part with Martin Perez for Garza. Wilson thinks a package of Mike Olt and a pitching prospect would get the deal done. Joel Sherman reported on Tuesday that the Rangers would like to do a deal for Garza that would include either Nick Tepesch or Justin Grimm. And T.R. Sullivan thinks the Rangers might be willing to give up Neil Ramirez, Carlos Pimental, Leury Garcia or Luis Sardinas.
The Diamondbacks are thought to be making a big push for Garza. Kevin Towers and Theo Epstein go way back and Arizona has the prospects that it would take to land Garza. According to Jim Duquette, Arizona views Garza as a way to help hold off the Dodgers for the west crown.
David Kaplan reported that while the Cubs are looking at dealing Garza “as a chance to hit the jackpot” rival general managers do not want to part with elite prospects for two and a half months of Matt Garza.
Once the Cubs trade Matt Garza, the team is expected to take several short-term pieces and turn them into long-term assets. This time of year is chocked full or rumors, some reliable, some not so much. So before the trade season kicks into full gear, here is what is believed to be known about the players currently on the Cubs’ roster.
The only starter that appears to be available is Matt Garza. But there are relievers that are believed to be available.
Edwin Jackson – The Cubs just signed Jackson to a four-year deal and there appears to be zero interest in Jackson throughout the league at this point … and the Cubs made a long-term commitment to him that will help fill out a rotation at least for the next two years.
Travis Wood – For as good as Wood has been, one would expect at least a rumor or two. But there are no rumblings about Wood and there shouldn’t be.
Carlos Villanueva – Villanueva signed a team friendly contract in the off-season (two years, $10 million) and with the Cubs commitment to fill out a rotation after the deadline with Major League pitchers, Villanueva should be sticking round. Villanueva has not ended up in the rumor mill yet this summer and he figures to at least finish the season in the Cubs’ rotation.
Jeff Samardzija – The Cubs see Samardzija as one of the building blocks moving forward. But they reportedly talked to Kevin Towers about him long enough to ask for Archie Bradley and Tyler Skaggs in return. Gordon Wittenmyer recently addressed Samardzija’s future with the Cubs on the Dave Kaplan Show. Wittenmyer thinks the Cubs will focus on signing Samardzija to a long term extension in the off-season. It does not appear the Cubs have any interest in trading Samardzija this summer.
Kevin Gregg – The Cubs’ front office might have waited too long to trade Gregg. The Rockies, Indians, Braves, Dodgers, Tigers and Orioles have been linked to Gregg as each one of those teams look for a late-inning reliever. What the Cubs could receive for a pitcher with the track record of Kevin Gregg is unknown at this point, but it does not figure to be much. A swap of a veteran reliever for a young, controllable reliever with upside would seem about right.
James Russell – The Cubs have control over Russell for two more seasons, which should increase his value if Epstein and Hoyer try to move him. Teams such as the Tigers and Orioles are believed to be interested in Russell. The Cubs should view the situational lefty as a little more than a just a lefty specialist due to his contract status if they try to trade him.
The other relievers in the pen figure to have little value on the market but it would not be surprising to see the Cubs move Matt Guerrier in August to a team looking for help until the rosters expand on September 1. The Cubs appear to be very happy with Pedro Strop and view him as a bullpen piece moving forward. Strop has pitched well since the trade. And relievers such as Michael Bowden, Hector Rondon and Blake Parker can be found on most team’s 40-man roster throughout the league.
Dioner Navarro – There have been rumblings that Navarro could be included in a trade with Matt Garza due to the way Garza has pitched with him behind the plate. Navarro is on record as saying he would like to be an everyday catcher again which doesn’t seem to mesh with the Cubs’ plans. Starting Navarro in back-to-back games prior to the break was a curious move. While Castillo was dealing with dehydration earlier in the month, he appeared to be healthy when he caught Carlos Villanueva, plus Travis Wood was very successful with Castillo as his battery mate. Were the Cubs showcasing Navarro for a possible deal? Navarro has not been linked directly to another team, yet, but the Cubs have not shown they are averse to trading multiple players in the same deal.
Welington Castillo – The Cubs are very high on Welington Castillo and like the progress he has made this season. The lack catching prospects near big league ready in the system also diminishes the possibility of trading Castillo. If the Cubs move a catcher, chances are J.C. Boscan finishes out the year as the Cubs’ backup catcher.
Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo are considered core pieces of the Cubs’ building process. The Cubs will reportedly listen to offers for all of their players but trading Castro at this point would make zero sense and the same can be said about Rizzo.
Darwin Barney – There is not any noise around Barney right now and he appears to be more valuable to the Cubs than what he could bring back in a trade. One thing to keep in mind is that Barney could be included in a larger deal to a defensively challenged team that has enough offense. The Tigers have been interested in Barney in the past.
Luis Valbuena – The Cubs like Valbuena and he falls under the same category as Darwin Barney. Valbuena is likely more valuable to the Cubs than what they could net in return. Valbuena is under the Cubs control for two more seasons and there is nothing really behind him in the system at third base. Valbuena has not been mentioned in any trade rumors to this point.
Cody Ransom – Ransom has parlayed regular playing time into a good season but he is likely an August trade candidate and not a player that would be dealt in July. Ransom is filling in nicely at third and is not blocking anyone until Junior Lake is ready to come up in August … or in September.
The Cubs lost two possible trade chips when David DeJesus and Ryan Sweeney crashed into two different outfield walls and went on the DL the following days. Both players were having good seasons prior to their injuries. There has been talk the Cubs could still try to trade DeJesus once he returns and proves he is healthy but the Cubs like what he brings to the clubhouse and view him as a very affordable veteran that can provide leadership to what figures to be a young team next season.
Alfonso Soriano – Soriano is healthy and has recently shown that when he can rest his legs, he can still hit the ball a mile. Soriano reportedly turned down a trade to the Giants last season and to borrow Ryan Dempster’s line from a year ago, he is the hammer and can veto any trade. The Rangers are thought to have some interest and Jon Heyman thinks the Rays and Yankees should have interest. The Cubs are willing to send a good portion of the nearly $26 million owed to Soriano with him depending on the return.
Nate Schierholtz – The Pirates have been connected to Schierholtz but the Cubs do not appear to be willing to move him. The Cubs have Schierholtz under control for one more season and he would give Junior Lake a good platoon partner in right field next season.
Julio Borbon, Brian Bogusevic, Cole Gillespie and Dave Sappelt do not figure to garner much interest this month but both Borbon and Sappelt could provide a contender with a fifth outfielder and a pinch-running option off the bench for a low level minor leaguer.
Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have already traded three players that were on their active roster on Opening Day this month. The Cubs roster has constantly changed throughout the season and the changes should continue this month and into August.