Normally, a team of the Chicago Cubs stature would not be worrying about expenses at this point in the season. However, that hasn’t been the case this year. After being one of the most aggressive teams in free agency from 2014-2018, this past offseason saw the Cubs watching from the sidelines for the most part.
Owner Tom Ricketts received a lot of criticism after saying they did not make any major signings because “we don’t have any [money].”
This past week they broke from the company line when the Cubs signed closer Craig Kimbrel to a three-year, $43 million contract. Reports suggest that utilityman Ben Zobrist’s departure from the team to address his personal life likely allowed for the splurge.
The organization has been keen about staying below the luxury-tax line under president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, and that’s not expected to change. Kimbrel likely capped any remaining payroll flexibility the team had.
Another limitation for Chicago is their lack of prospect talent. They have one of the bottom ten farm systems in baseball, according to FanGraphs, and their system is largely propped up by top prospect Nico Hoerner who is a consensus Top 100 guy and appears inside the Top 50 on multiple lists.
Alongside Hoerner, catcher Miguel Amaya is also in the Top 100 conversation, but beyond that, they are lacking in top-tier prospect talent.
For that reason, I would expect Hoerner and Amaya to both be off-limits this trade cycle, along with promising right-hander Adbert Alzolay who has always been a favorite of the front office.
At the same time, it’s worth noting the Cubs’ brass isn’t afraid to break from industry consensus when their internal reports differ. They surprised more than a few people they parted with shortstop Gleyber Torres as the centerpiece in their 2016 acquisition of Aroldis Chapman.
At the time, Torres ranked among the top 30 prospects in baseball by both ESPN’s Keith Law and Baseball America., making him a hefty price to pay for a rental reliever. However, a source familiar with the Cubs’ front office at the time has since told me that their analytics department believed Torres was being overvalued by most prospect analysts. Perhaps this will be the case again.
As far as what the Cubs will be seeking on the trade market, the answer again lies in the bullpen. Even after adding Kimbrel, the Cubs still need a trustworthy southpaw and greater overall depth, and the Giants have two relievers that would be excellent fits.
On to the trade proposals.