The Rundown: Cubs’ Quest for Starting Pitchers Tough Road to Navigate, Wisdom Hopes Success Continues, Twins and Cardinals Talking Trade
“Won’t last forever, it’s kind of sad.” – The Beach Boys, When I Grow Up to Be a Man
June is flying by and turning the calendar to July means trade talk is bound to ramp up considerably. A nearly week-long break for the All-Star Game should fuel rumors considerably and by all accounts, the Cubs are looking for a starting pitcher or two. The problem is that the pickings are incredibly slim and a lot of other teams are seeking to add to their rotations, which will only serve to drive up the cost of such luxuries.
The top five pitchers that will likely be available include Kyle Gibson, Jon Gray, Matthew Boyd, Dylan Bundy, and Max Scherzer. The thing to remember about Scherzer is that the Nationals don’t usually swing big, mid-season trades. They held on to Bryce Harper two years ago and could be content to try to re-sign their ace or give him a qualifying offer at the end of the season instead.
Kyle Gibson, Nasty 84mph Slider. 😨 pic.twitter.com/Iern53Qdrf
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 16, 2021
The Cubs and Tigers have made a number of trades in recent years, but how would they match up for Boyd, who’s injured right now but apparently has no structural damage to his arm? The lefty has one more year of arb-eligibility and doesn’t strike out a lot of guys, so the Cubs might be better off promoting Kohl Stewart than rolling the dice on Boyd.
Bundy is an intriguing option as long as you look only at last season’s statistics. Once the number one prospect in all of baseball, Bundy seemed to finally be reaching his potential last season while pitching to a 6-3 record with a 2.95 FIP. He’s done a full 180 this season, though, going 1-7 with a 6.68 ERA and 5.27 FIP. His strikeouts are down and he’s given up 14 home runs in 63.1 innings of work. Bundy is probably a hard pass unless Tommy Hottovy and Jed Hoyer see something that can be easily corrected.
Like Bundy, Gray is intriguing as long as you are looking purely at raw stuff. Between 2016-19, the pending free agent had an average fWAR of 3.06 with 9.2 strikeouts per game. Last season was a disaster for the righty, though he’s pitched decently this year. Perhaps getting out of Colorado and working with a smarter coaching staff could help him realize his full potential. He should be relatively cheap, and since the Cubs are unlikely to pay up to acquire Gibson or Scherzer, Gray could be in play.
The one pitcher who seems to be linked most to the Cubs is Michael Pineda. He’s a middle-of-the-rotation arm who likely intrigues the Cardinals, too, but he comes with plenty of red flags. Pineda’s 3.70 ERA is nice enough but his FIP is 4.47 and his fastball velocity has been declining each of the last three seasons. Additionally, his swinging-strike and chase rates are down considerably and well below his career norms. All of that screams regression and the Cubs already have a starter trending similarly in Jake Arrieta.
As far as Gibson is concerned, I don’t expect that any team will be able to match what the Red Sox or Yankees will offer for the veteran starter. I would hope Hoyer would steer clear of any bidding war for Gibson because I don’t think he’s the guy that gets you to the World Series.
A real under-the-radar name to watch is Kolby Allard of the Rangers. He was the 14th overall pick by the Braves in 2015 and is currently working on a one-year deal. He’s been used as a reliever and spot starter, but Texas recently moved him into the rotation full-time. Since the promotion, Allard has allowed six earned runs with four walks and 20 strikeouts over 20 innings. I’m sure the Rangers would like to extend him, but he seems like a pretty valuable trade chip for an organization that needs a lot more help. The command is key for Allard and it could be that Texas is actually showcasing him by giving him the starting gig.
Call me crazy, but I think if the Cubs do make a splash at the deadline it will be for outfielder Starling Marte or Adam Frazier. Switch-hitting Ian Happ could be the centerpiece in a trade for either. It’s just a hunch, and I’ve not seen any rumors that link the Cubs to either outfielder.
Cubs News & Notes
- How would you like to see Javier Báez playing for the Reds next season? How does Kris Bryant playing outfield for the Mets make you feel? Though neither is likely to be traded this year, each could find new homes in free agency this winter.
- Bryant continues to lead the All-Star voting for starting third baseman, which almost seems ironic at this point.
- Patrick Wisdom, who is getting the bulk of starts at third base with Matt Duffy out, is hoping to be more than just the team’s flavor-of-the-month.
- For Adbert Alzolay, the pandemic-induced shutdown may have been a blessing in disguise. That’s when he developed his slider that has become a “game-changer.”
- Chicago’s June schedule doesn’t get any easier thanks to the 10-game road trip that kicks off in Los Angeles tonight. The Cubs will start Zach Davies against Walker Buehler.
- Remember when Arrieta threw a no-hitter against the Dodgers in 2015? Most Cubs fans will be happy if he can just beat Tony Gonsolin tomorrow night.
- Speaking of no-hitters, minor league pitchers DJ Herz, Jeremiah Estrada, Bailey Reid, and Danis Correa tossed a combined no-no for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans last night.
- Theo Epstein is working on a plan to fix baseball.
Odds & Sods
I was skeptical at first but Obvious Shirts has really caught on in a big way. Meet Joe Johnson, the Cubs fan whose brand has taken baseball by storm.
Meet Joe Johnson, the Cubs fan behind Obvious Shirts (@obvious_shirts), a t-shirt company built on witty one-liners, a love of baseball, hard work and a little luck.
“I’m a very competitive person, so failure was simply not an option.”https://t.co/YQG3SmuSzL
— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) June 24, 2021
Apropos of Nothing
The Rockies need catching and the Cubs have it in spades and could also get a decent haul by trading Báez. Could Hoyer pull off a couple of deals that net Trevor Story from Colorado for a minor league catcher, while trading Báez for premium pitching, either at the major or minor league level?
How About That!
According to reports, the Cardinals and Twins have begun preliminary trade talks. José Berríos or Kenta Maeda would seem to be the most likely targets considering that St. Louis would like to add a starter. The Twins may make oft-injured centerfielder Byron Buxton available as well and he’s the type of player the Cardinals often land, usually for next to nothing.
The Twins will probably gauge the market for 40-year-old slugger Nelson Cruz, too.
The Padres swept the Dodgers for the first time since 2013.
Angels two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani made history yet again on Wednesday, as he started on the mound and hit for himself against the Giants with designated hitter rules in place. It marked the first time in Major League history that an American League team chose not to use a DH while a National League team utilized one.
The Astros are the hottest team in baseball right now and have destroyed teams during their 10-game winning streak.
Wednesday’s Three Stars
- Travis Jankowski – The Phillies left fielder was 3-for-4 with a double, home run, a stolen base, three runs scored, and three RBI. That’s how you fill up a stat sheet.
- Trevor Story – The soon-to-be ex-Rockies shortstop hit two taters and plated three runners as Colorado upended the Mariners 5-2.
- Adolis García – The rookie outfielder had to jacks of his own in leading the Rangers to a 5-3 win over the A’s and now has 20 on the season. He started the year in the minors and wasn’t recalled until April 13.
Perhaps the Cubs can find rotation help internally, like Max Bain for instance.
Max Bain (@mbain_38) worked 6 no-hit innings last night and was chucking heat at 98 mph in the 6th inning. Here’s a few of his nastiest pitches from the festivities pic.twitter.com/OsIfGV3QLs
— Greg Huss (@OutOfTheVines) June 24, 2021
They Said It
- “We have to do it in a way that isn’t too far removed from the essence of baseball. No one is looking to reinvent the wheel here. This is the greatest game in the world, and we want to preserve the essence of baseball. A lot of this is restoring the game to the way it’s historically been played.” – Theo Epstein
- “Personally, one of my favorite places to play. I just love [Dodgers] stadium. I feel like I see the ball pretty [well]. I don’t know, it’s just something about L.A. too – I feel like time slows down a little bit. … The Dodgers are always good. Fun to play against those guys and compete against those guys.” – Kris Bryant
- “The June schedule has been interesting. This next road trip we’re going to three different time zones, and an off-day mixed in between. But we’ve got to keep battling and keep hanging in there.” – Bryant
Thursday Walk-Up Song
California Dreamin’ by José Feliciano – I truly love this version of The Mamas & the Papas classic. Here’s hoping for a good start o the Cubs’ three-city road trip.