The Rundown: What a Bryant-Hendricks Trade Might Look Like, Cubs May Be Counting on Miller, Aaron and Mays Almost Became Teammates

It hasn’t been easy being a Cubs fan this winter and it’s quite possible things will become a little tougher before they start to get better. Rumors surfaced over the weekend that the Blue Jays and Cubs have engaged in talks regarding a trade for Kris Bryant that would include Kyle Hendricks. Were that to happen, it would leave the Cubs with just two veteran starters who have at least 20 career starts: Zach Davies and Shelby Miller.

Before I talk about the potential trade, let’s assume Jed Hoyer is counting on Miller a little more than the organization has let on. It’s been a while since the 30-year-old righty has been an effective pitcher and you’d have to go all the way back to the 2013-15 seasons to find a version of Miller that actually belongs in a major league rotation. Because he has been ineffective and/or injured for the last five years, the Cubs will pay their new starter just $875,000 if he makes the big league roster, with another $600,000 available in bonus money.

In a rotation that realistically sits three deep right now, the veteran has a clear path to a slot in Chicago’s rotation. It would be folly to think the Cubs might get 160 innings out of Adbert Alzolay, so even if he makes the team as a fifth starter, manager David Ross will need reinforcements as the season progresses. Miller, who was a member of the Brewers in 2020 but sat out due to COVID-19, made 24 appearances (12 starts) for the Diamondbacks and Rangers in 2018 and 2019, posting a 9.15 ERA and 1.98 WHIP over 60 innings during that time.

Hoyer, who insisted the Cubs make a trade for Jake Arrieta back in 2013 when the new president of baseball operations worked beneath Theo Epstein, might see something he likes in Miller. It’s probably also unlikely that the veteran would accept a minor league assignment. Time will tell, and I’m not suggesting the underwhelming signing represents some sort of coup, but until the games start we have to acknowledge that Hoyer at least has a clean slate.

Because Chicago has such a thin staff, it hardly makes sense that the front office would consider packaging Hendricks in a trade to the Blue Jays or anybody else. I don’t have a lot of baseball insider contacts, but I do have a couple (one is a former scout while the other works for the Brewers), and both have indicated to me that talks between the Cubs and Blue Jays are not dead, and that yes, Hendricks could be part of any deal should the two front offices agree to make a deal.

Both said the Cubs would have to offset part of Bryant’s salary, which previous reports have stated is a non-starter. If Hoyer refuses to pay down part of the third baseman’s salary, he’d likely have to take a veteran on a bad contract in return. Tanner Roark best fits that description; he has one year and $12 million remaining on his contract and would give Chicago another much-needed rotation piece.

If Hoyer is also seeking to trade Willson Contreras in a separate deal, perhaps to the Mets, Angels, or Phillies, he could ask the Blue Jays for one of Danny Jansen, Reese McGuire, or Alejandro Kirk. As far as minor league prospects Hoyer would want, it’s difficult to determine. He’s probably not going to want anybody on Toronto’s 40-man roster, so forget about highly-touted pitching prospect Nate Pearson, and it’s unlikely the Blue Jays would include him anyway.

The players Hoyer may seek, according to my sources and based on what appears to be a desire to strengthen the farm system with young, high-ceiling players, may include three or four of the following: Jordan Groshans, a shortstop with the potential to move to third base; right-handed pitchers Simeon Woods Richardson, Adam Kloffenstein, or Alek Manoah; and outfielder Dason Brown (scouting report), who has solid contact skills with some projectable power and 80-grade speed. Both mentioned Austin Martin (scouting report), Toronto’s No. 2 prospect, but I think that might be a bit of a stretch.

It still seems unlikely the Cubs would part with Hendricks, but considering the team’s current affairs and based on the Yu Darvish trade, it’s somewhat sad that the rumor can’t be tossed aside as pure speculation.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

I’ve not once thought of LaTroy Hawkins as someone who belongs in baseball’s Hall of Fame and I don’t think a case can be made for his inclusion.

Monday Stove

Because many players had poor 2020 seasons, there remains a number of good buy-low candidates in free agency, including Marcus Semien, Kolten Wong, and Chris Archer.

The Blue Jays deserve a great deal of credit for signing George Springer, something most analysts thought was unlikely until talks intensified late last week.

Having already acquired Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco, the Mets are not that upset Springer spurned them for the Blue Jays.

The Nationals have signed Brad Hand to a one-year, $10.5 million contract to be the team’s new closer.

In an effort to add major league players to a relatively inexperienced outfield, the Giants are reportedly interested in Eddie Rosario and Jackie Bradley Jr.

The Pirates picked up four promising minor leaguers when they traded Jameson Taillon to the Yankees.

Based on the moves the Pirates have made over the past 6-8 years, maybe it’s best if baseball considered the franchise for contraction.

Prized St. Louis prospects Nolan Gorman and Matthew Liberatore have a chance to make the Cardinals’ big league roster this spring, and both could see significant playing time in 2021.

This is a cool story: Aaron and Willie Mays almost became teammates on the Giants, but a difference of $50 convinced Hammerin’ Hank to sign with the Braves instead.

Out of Left Field

Derek Holland has this morning’s hottest take.


Extra Innings

Aaron forced America to change its views of Black athletes. Unfortunately, the country still has a long way to go.

They Said It

  • “I think we’re going to have a really competitive team next year. But do we need to make some moves with the future in mind after six years of every single move being directed on the present? Yes.” – Jed Hoyer

Monday Walk Up Song

The Spirit of Radio by Rush – Formulaic and mercenary, just like recent trade speculation, FM album-oriented radio was the best vehicle to discover something new in the 1970s and ’80s. If there is a parallel to what Hoyer is trying to accomplish this winter, perhaps this song is it.

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