Rays Expected to Make Multiple Trades Soon, Cubs Have Checked on Available Pitchers

The pitching-hungry Cubs are reportedly not going to pursue any of the biggest free agent pitchers this winter, though they have been connected heavily to Koudai Senga and it’s believed Corey Kluber is on their radar. They still need to figure out a way to get a surefire top-of-the-rotation arm, which will likely have to come via trade if reports hold true.

Those options are very limited with Shohei Ohtani and Shane Bieber being kept off the market, at least publicly, and it’s not like competitive teams are looking to move their best pitchers. Unless such a competitive team operates with a small budget and has a very serious 40-man roster crunch dictating strategy ahead of Tuesday’s Rule 5 protection decisions.

Perhaps more than any team in the league, certainly any of them that consistently push for a postseason spot, the Rays rely on young, cheap talent. The ability to maintain a pipeline of prospects allows them to flip their veterans before they start earning too much, just like they did when they traded Ji-Man Choi to the big-spending…Pirates?

In any case, Jon Morosi tweeted Sunday evening that the Rays are “engaged in advanced trade negotiations” that many believe will result in multiple trades by Tuesday afternoon. The Cubs, along with the Mets, Reds, and Angels, have had discussions with Tampa about available pitchers, though Morosi didn’t mention names.

Speaking of not mentioning names, the MLB Trade Rumors piece on this topic omitted one seemingly obvious starter while listing several others “who might also be a bit superfluous within the organization.” That qualification certainly makes more sense in terms of the Reds’ involvement, but the Mets and Cubs in particular shouldn’t be looking to deal for a pitcher who could be described as such.

If you’re thinking, But wait, that’s exactly the type of pitcher the Cubs like to pick up, you’re right…sort of. Those are the pitchers the Cubs like to seek out for the bullpen or as depth pieces, not the kind they’d be trading for by leveraging a farm system that’s still coming into its own.

Tyler Glasnow is the most obvious target for the Cubs and other teams, and not just because of his potential to be elite when healthy. The 6-foot-8 righty missed the second half of 2021 and all but 6.2 innings of ’22 due to Tommy John surgery, plus he managed just 60.2 innings in 2019 with a forearm issue. His only season with more than 88 innings came in 2018, when combined for 111.2 between the Pirates and Rays.

It’s no wonder we’re now talking about Glasnow as a Cubs target because that trade was the one that sent Chris Archer to Pittsburgh.

Glasnow’s checkered injury history can’t be dismissed, but he came back strong at the end of the season and could yet have several great seasons ahead of him as he turned 29 in August. At just $5.35 million for 2023, the big righty seems like exactly the kind of high-value player the Rays would like to hold onto. Except that the two-year extension he signed in August guarantees him $25 million for the 2024 campaign.

That feels more like something the Rays did to solidify his trade cost, as it’s pretty steep for them to be willing to carry given their MO. Rather than waiting to see if Glasnow can shove while avoiding injury, they may be able to get an even bigger return due to his decreased salary this coming season. In a vacuum, this salary structure makes way too much sense for the Cubs as we look at their own desires and circumstances.

Not only do they need to add high-velocity pitchers who can miss bats, but they want to avoid long-term commitments without necessarily shying away from higher AAVs. Glasnow’s money is incredibly reasonable for someone of his potential, though the injury risk is greater than anyone else playing in that same talent sandbox. No team will worry about that at just over $5 million, it’s the following season that could give pause.

The Cubs, however, will have several salaries falling off the books after the 2023 season and very likely see Glasnow’s $25 million as well worth the risk. I sure as hell see it that way. Now the question is what they’re willing to give up in order to make that gamble. We’ve already noted Tampa’s roster crunch, so they are likely going to want players who either aren’t Rule 5-eligible or who are already MLB ready and can slot right into the lineup.

I try to avoid making trade proposals as a rule, so I’ll just say that I could see some combination of Christopher Morel, Jordan Wicks, DJ Herz, Alexander Canario (the injuries obviously affect this), and perhaps one of the Cubs’ top picks from this past draft being involved. We also have to consider how dealing with Tampa always seems to come back and bite the other team in the ass, so I’d be very interested to see which players they would identify as part of their hypothetical ask.

A deal of this magnitude probably isn’t coming in the next day or so, but it’s fun to talk about and I would be very surprised if we don’t hear more about the Cubs and Rays in the coming weeks or months. If Glasnow isn’t traded this winter, he’ll be a very hot commodity at the deadline depending on how the Rays look in the hunt for a playoff spot.

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