Pablo López on Trade Block, Here’s What It Might Take Cubs to Get Him

Free agents can only negotiate with their current teams until November 10, but the trade market is wide open and starting to generate some buzz. One name we’ve heard a lot across various rumors going back to the trade deadline and even earlier is Marlins starter Pablo López. The righty was nearly dealt to the Yankees in a swap that would have included Gleyber Torres, something New York probably regrets not being able to consummate.

Jon Heyman tweeted Tuesday morning that López is still on the block as the Marlins look to add hitters, so we naturally have to turn to the Cubs and what it would take to land the big fish. Lest that be viewed as a random connection, consider that Sahadev Sharma predicted the Cubs will “make a big trade for an established starting pitcher to lead their rotation.”

The Guardians have said they’re not moving Shane Bieber, the Angels claim they won’t ship Shohei Ohtani out during the offseason, and López has long been viewed as a potential Cubs target.

As the presumed frontrunners for Koudai Senga in the early going, the Cubs might not be prioritizing the addition of another arm via free agency. Jed Hoyer has talked about spending from the organization’s prospect capital as well as using ample payroll flexibility, and they may just have enough depth to get something done with Miami.

North Side Bound’s Greg Zumach laid out an educated guess that would see the Cubs trading Keegan Thompson, Christopher Morel, and Yohendrick Pinango for López and his two remaining years of club control. That might seem a little steep after the way Morel and Thompson burst onto the scene this year, but let’s think about this a little further.

While Morel is a highly energetic player who provides an emotional lift to his teammates, he’s not a great fit for any single position. His value as an athletic utility player will be reduced as the Cubs continue to promote other prospects and sign free agents to handle everyday positions, so he might be at his most attractive right now.

Thompson went 10-5 over 115 innings and started 17 times out of 29 total appearances, looking at times like a legit starting option. But his best performances came out of the bullpen, where his stuff played up in a long role, and he figures to be slotted for more of the same if the Cubs indeed go out and add to the rotation. Again, he’s a very good player who might look better to another team.

Pinango is a 20-year-old outfielder who spent this past season at High-A South Bend, posting a 91 wRC+ over 495 plate appearances. He’s young enough to have plenty of projection left, so the Marlins would be getting a little more youthful potential to go with two players who can join the active roster as immediate contributors. That might still be a little light on the Cubs’ side of things as I’m thinking more about it, and I believe Greg noted as much in a follow-up.

The Cubs would get a 27-year-old who jumps into a top-3 spot in the rotation on what is projected to be an arbitration salary of $5.6 million. Even if that doubles the following year, it’s a tremendous bargain. That would give them a rotation of López, Senga Justin Steele, Marcus StromanKyle Hendricks, and perhaps a combination of Hayden Wesneski and Drew Smyly to some extent. Several hypotheticals there, I know.

This kind of move would keep a whole lot of money freed up for other pursuits, namely one of the top shortstops. Or maybe Liverpool FC. It would also limit the team’s time commitment, thus keeping the rotation open for prospects as they come up through the system. I wouldn’t gauge the likelihood as being particularly high here, but it certainly qualifies as an example of intelligent spending.

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