Amid a disheartening 11-game losing streak, the word “sell” is being thrown around a lot in the Cubs media space. That said, the Cubs reportedly have a player on their roster that will be “the most coveted player in the trade market.”
Per ESPN’s Buster Olney, RHP Craig Kimbrel will be a hot commodity at this season’s MLB Trade Deadline. With numerous teams in contention searching for high leverage arms, Kimbrel is among the best potentially available. He has been electric this season, pitching to a 1-2 record, 0.59 ERA(!), and 53 strikeouts to just ten walks. In addition, Kimbrel has 20 saves in 22 opportunities, working 30.2 innings in 32 total appearances.
This season has been a revenge year for Craig Kimbrel. After a very poor 2019 for his standards, and a 2020 season which started slow but finished strong, Kimbrel has returned to form. He went from a 6.53 ERA in 2019, and 5.28 ERA in 2020, to an astounding 0.59 ERA at the halfway point.
However, as of July 7, Craig Kimbrel has only pitched once during the current losing streak. He recorded a lone out in the series finale against the Reds over the weekend. Before that, Kimbrel closed out the Cubs combined no-hitter against the Dodgers way back on June 24.
Now, the Cubs find themselves in a position to sell pieces at the deadline. Aside from Kimbrel, names such as Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Zach Davies, and possibly even Anthony Rizzo will be among the rumors swirling for the next 24 days or so.
After the Cubs’ 11th-straight loss on Tuesday to the Phillies, Cubs fans feel the shadow that is selling creeping into the team’s plans. Assuming Kimbrel is the first piece gone, and according to Olney one of the hottest names on the market, what is the return for the Cubs? There are quite a few teams that make sense for Kimbrel. However, if we stick to Olney’s report, the Athletics and Astros are the two front-runners.
That said, both teams have farm systems that ranked lower than the Cubs entering the 2021 season. The Cubs currently rank 22nd, where the A’s and Astros rank 26th and 29th, respectively. Ideally, a team the Cubs would probably like to see enter the bidding war for Kimbrel is someone like the San Diego Padres, Toronto Blue Jays, or Atlanta Braves. All three of those teams rank 16th or better according to MLB.com.
However, returning to the other two clubs, is it possible the Cubs could land either the A’s or Astros’ lone top 100 prospect? Perhaps. If going off top 100 prospects only, the Astros are a more desirable trade partner as their top prospect, RHP Forrest Whitley, is the #64 prospect in baseball.
Ultimately, the Cubs will want their price met if they’re going to move any major pieces. Ideally, Kimbrel should demand a nice return given his elite status and the need for elite bullpen arms in today’s game. It’s uncertain who will land Kimbrel before the deadline. However, one thing is certain: the Cubs should receive a hell of a return for their prized closer.