Even though it is still three weeks until the MLB trade deadline, the Chicago Cubs have not signaled whether they will be buyers or sellers, but as the second half of the season gets underway, it’s useful to determine players could be moved by the club.
As things stand, the Cubs are seven games out of first place in the National League Central with the deadline looming on Aug. 1, and with a somewhat-easy schedule in the run-up to that deadline, there’s a reason that President Jed Hoyer and GM Carter Hawkins haven’t tipped their hand just yet.
Even still, seven games is quite a bit of ground to make up with two teams ahead in the standings, and as a result, we’re taking a look at the players the Cubs could conceivably move if they were to decide to sell at the deadline.
Stay in the game with the latest updates on your beloved Chicago sports teams! Sign up here for our All Access Daily newsletter.
Bellinger struggled badly in his final seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but he’s really begun to find his form with the Cubs, hitting nine home runs and driving in 29 RBI’s while posting an .846 OPS so far this season.
Even with that success, Bellinger could be an intriguing piece to deal at the deadline, considering that he has a mutual option with the Cubs for 2024, and he could look to cash in on his successes this season.
There is definitely an argument to make that the Cubs should look to retain Bellinger, especially with the versatility he affords in being able to play both center field and first base. That gives the Cubs some cover in case either Pete Crow-Armstrong or Matt Mervis falters in their efforts to make the 2024 roster off the jump, and his bat is assuredly a good thing for a team that has struggled in the power department.
Hendricks wasn’t his best self in 2022 even before being shut down for the season with a capsular tear in his throwing shoulder, but he is rebounding nicely in 2023 with a 3.04 ERA in 53.1 innings of work, and in the final year of his contract, he could also intrigue some pitching-starved teams at the deadline.
Of the Cubs to be dealt before that point, Hendricks won’t yield the biggest return, but giving him a chance to go to a competitive club on the eve of free agency could be good business if that is what he wants to do.
That being said, there is plenty of value in having him around to help guide younger pitchers on the roster, and the decision could ultimately come down to what Hendricks is feeling at this point in his career.
Mark Leiter Jr.
Okay, so trading Leiter likely wouldn’t be a popular move based on his performance this season as one of the bullpen’s most-consistently reliable arms, but a team could very well give the Cubs a solid return if they would choose to move him.
After all, Leiter has a 3.19 ERA and has racked up 52 strikeouts in 36.2 innings of work, with his splitter serving as one of baseball’s most devastating pitches.
This isn’t to say that he could command the type of return that Scott Effross did last season when the Cubs acquired Hayden Wesneski, but if the Cubs can get a controllable-asset that would bolster their roster for next season, having Leiter serve as that piece could be a savvy move.
Truly, the one player on everyone’s mind at the deadline will be Stroman, who is having one of the best seasons of his career and has repeatedly stated his desire to stay in Chicago.
That being said, there hasn’t been any movement on convincing him not to exercise his opt-out clause, and absent a new contract, the Cubs would be running a significant risk if they decided to keep him beyond the deadline.
The calculus here dictates that if the Cubs are going to allow Stroman to explore free agency, then they need to get a return for him now. He is not eligible for a qualifying offer, so their strategy with Willson Contreras last season cannot be replicated in this situation.
Strong arguments can be made to keep Stroman, since he can be a top-two or three arm in a rotation should the Cubs really make a push to compete in 2024, or to trade him, as he has that opt-out clause that could become a complicating factor in teams’ willingness to pursue him in a deal.
The one variable to keep in mind is the presence of other arms on the market, which could impact his value. The Cubs have a tough decision to make, and the one wrong move in this situation would be total inaction.