Here at On Tap Sports Net, we’ve already broken down which Cubs are most likely to be dealt this offseason. There are some pretty talented players on that list, the Cubs won’t be moving them without getting some impactful talent in return.
The Cubs are desperate for help in the rotation, the bullpen, and at center field. Here’s a list of players the Cubs could target in the trade market to address those issues.
Many of you are probably familiar with Gray and have been for a long time. Gray went the pick after Kris Bryant in the 2013 draft, and many pundits felt the Cubs should have selected Gray instead.
Thank God the Cubs took Bryant, but Gray has been no slouch. Like any Rockies starting pitcher, one has to question what he could be without pitching half of his games at Coors Field.
Gray is the type of flame-throwing, bat-missing starting pitcher the Cubs desperately need. He’s consistently thrown his fastball over 96 MPH on average while posting a career K-rate of 24.5%. Over the last four seasons, only Jon Lester in 2016 and Yu Darvish in 2019 have posted higher K-rates as full-season starters for the Cubs.
Gray’s worst season of his four-year career came in 2018 when he posted a 5.12 ERA. However, he bounced back strongly this season with a 3.84 ERA in 150 innings before ending his season in August with a broken foot. His FIP (fielding independent pitching) has been above league average in all four of his seasons, as he finished 14% above league average in three of those seasons.
After back-to-back trips to the postseason, the Rockies 2019 season was a disaster. It’s likely they’ll be looking to re-tool their roster around some of their expensive stars. Trading the soon-to-be 28-year-old Gray two years before he hits free agency could go a long way in helping them achieve that goal. If they make Gray available, the Cubs should be be all over him.
Inciarte’s injury-filled 2019 made him the forgotten man on a pretty fun, good Braves team. Hopefully the Cubs didn’t forget about how good the soon-to-be 29-year-old center fielder has been before this past year.
Not only are the Cubs looking to supplement center field and second base, but they’re looking to do so with players of a particular profile: high contact, higher average/on base, and quality defense. Inciarte checks all of those boxes.
In his first three years as a Brave, Inciarte posted a batting average of .289 and an on-base percentage of .342 with an 87.9% contact rate (the Cubs were last in baseball in 2019 with a 73.6% contact rate.) He also stole 66 bases and accumulated 35 (!) defensive runs saved in center field over that time.
With two years of $6 million AAV left on his deal, he wouldn’t prevent the Cubs from making a splashier move. If his medicals are clean, the Cubs should be involved in talks with Atlanta.
Merrifield has been linked to the Cubs since last winter, but there hasn’t seemed to be much progress toward getting a deal done. Part of that is the Cubs’ unwillingness to part with some of their controllable core, and part of that is Royals GM Dayton Moore’s absurd asking price for the 30-year-old utility man.
Assuming that Theo Epstein is heading into the winter with more of an open mind when it comes to trading from the core he’s assembled, and assuming that Moore’s comments were nothing more than an attempt to drive up the asking price of the newly extended Merrifield, the Cubs and Royals make sense as trade partners.
Over the last three years, Merrifield has posted a .296 batting average, .344 on-base percentage, and an 82.7% contact rate to go along with 107 stolen bases, 20 defensive runs saved at second base, and another three defensive runs saved in center field.
Merrifield and the Cubs feel like a match made in heaven, but the Royals might want Nico Hoerner in return. Trading Hoerner would be another significant hit to both their prospect pipeline and major league positional depth, as Hoerner possesses a ceiling that might be higher than Merrifield’s. It would be a tough call for Theo and co.
Ty Buttrey is a reliever on the Angels. Joe Maddon is going to manage the Angels. Joe Maddon and the Angels need some hitters. The Cubs have hitters! And the Cubs need relievers, particularly cost-controlled ones.
The 26-year-old Buttrey averaged 97.4 mph on his fastball this year, that’s the type of velocity the Cubs bullpen has been sorely lacking the last couple of seasons. He’s used that velocity to put up a 3.15 FIP and a 27.4% K-rate over 88.2 career innings. He’s under team control for five more years.
The Cubs might be too busy spending their trade capital on the rotation and the lineup, but if not, they should be all over Buttrey.
Staying with the bullpen, the A’s preseason closer was one of the best relievers in baseball in 2018. He threw 80.1 innings of 0.78 ERA ball with a 31.8% K-rate and a 0.78 ERA!
However, the 31-year-old Treinen came crashing back to earth this season. The ERA ballooned to 4.91 with a FIP that supported it. His K-rate dropped 9%, as did his groundball rate. The fastball velocity dropped a tick.
However, he was still throwing 97.3 MPH on average, so it’s hard to imagine Treinen can’t get back to being an effective back-end arm at that velocity. He also had two stints on the injured list this year. If healthy, he should be able to return to being an extremely impactful reliever.
Treinen is the least likely player on this list to be traded, considering the A’s are going to contend in 2020 and Treinen is in a contract year. But Oakland is necessarily cheap, and Treinen is projected to make nearly $8M in arbitration next season. Will the A’s pay that much to a reliever who had an ERA of nearly five?
Considering his track record, they absolutely should. But there’s an outside chance they don’t. If he’s available, he’s more than worth the risk.
Obviously, there will be plenty more names on the Cubs’ offseason list of trade targets. Theo needs to get it right this winter. Acquiring one or two of the names listed above would be a step in the right direction.
Featured Photo: Aaron Ontiveroz/Denver Post