Trade Winds Picking Up in Wrigleyville
The Chicago Cubs are bound for roster turnover, and soon. With 37 days to go until the July 31st trading deadline, the Cubs’ record sits at 31-43. They are sellers once again this summer as they’ll look to move high-value assets to contending teams for projectable young talent. Veterans with contracts expiring soon are most likely to go, and the Cubs have a few of those so the team could look a lot younger by the start of August. Young pitching should be high on the wish list, an area the Cubs’ minor league teams are sorely lacking in both talent and depth. Here are the players most likely to be dealt by the deadline:
Matt Garza, SP
Garza, 29, was acquired via trade from the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2010-11 offseason. He was acquired to solidify the top of the rotation, possibly being the #2 starter, and for the most part he has, but he has not been able to stay healthy of late. He missed the last two months of the 2012 season and the first six weeks of 2013, but has a 17-18 record with a 3.61 ERA in 56 starts for the Cubs. He was and still is regarded as a top-of-the-rotation talent who could be an innings-eater, if not an ace.
There was some talk of the Cubs wanted to sign Garza to a long-term extension, especially before his injury problems arose. But when asking whether he is worth more in a few years to help a competitive Cubs team or worth more as trade bait, it’s important to remember his trade value will likely never be higher. Just like the rest of us, Garza never stops growing older, and youth pays big in the trade market. If Garza suffers another injury while on the Cubs, he may earn the tag of an injury-prone player, which would make him near impossible to move. If traded now, Garza could bring back a couple strong prospects, and that’s where the Cubs’ focus is.
Scott Feldman, SP
Feldman, 30, was acquired in free agency from the Texas Rangers this past winter, signing a one-year, $6 million deal. $6 million may seem high for a guy who arrived with a 4.81 career ERA, but turning him into a trade chip midseason was being considered even then. Sure enough, Feldman has taken a liking to pitching in the National League, turning in the best season of his career by ERA (3.39).
Cubs brass has to be pleased with his first-half performance, and he’s bound to be traded for prospects. The luxury of the Cubs’ big-market budget is that they are able to sign pitchers like this, knowing they may be best remembered in Chicago for the prospects they bring back after being traded midseason. While the 2012 team may be left with uncertainty, the long-term result will likely pay off.
Nate Schierholtz, RF
Schierholtz, 29, was acquired in free agency from the Philadelphia Phillies this past winter, signing a one-year, $2.25 million deal. Like Feldman, Schierholtz has conveniently come in and had the best year of his career, so much so that he’s being mentioned in this category of trade bait. A career fourth outfielder with little speed or power, Schierholtz doesn’t normally fill up the stat sheet, but this year he’s already established a career high in homers with 10 and is batting .296. With a slugging percentage of .558, he’s an extra-bases machine out of nowhere.
David DeJesus, CF
DeJesus, 33, was acquired in free agency from the Oakland Athletics in the 2011-12 offseason, signing a two-year, $8.5 million deal with a team option for 2014. He’s been in the trade bait category before, as he was one of baseball’s hottest trade chips in the summers of 2008 and 2009 while with the Kansas City Royals although he was never actually traded. DeJesus started this season in a groove at the plate but cooled off after that. He now finds himself on the 15-day disabled list with a shoulder sprain but will be healthy in time to trade and brings solid defense, on-base skills and veteran leadership to his team.
Alfonso Soriano, LF
Soriano, 37, was acquired in free agency from the Washington Nationals in the 2006-07 offseason, signing an eight-year, $136 million deal. In a perfect world, the Cubs would have moved him about three years ago, but injuries and disappointing results on the field, the reasons the Cubs wanted to trade him, were the same reasons teams didn’t want him. He has won over Cubs fans with hard work and revamped defensive effort, but he’s still hitting just .248 with seven homers and 30 RBIs.
The Cubs will be looking for young power arms as they try to rebuild a disastrous bullpen and build up a new rotation behind a core of Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood, and Edwin Jackson. While it may mean the departure of familiar faces at Wrigley, it will also mean fresh young faces will come up and compete for their job at the major league level.
The bottom line is that the Cubs’ rebuilding process just needs a little more time and a whole lot more young pitching depth, the latter of which can be acquired this summer from contending teams needing a player or two for the stretch run. The benefits could start paying off as early as this year (if the Cubs acquire Major League-ready pitching) or next year.
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Photo Credit: Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune