Free agents? Try these 3 trades on for size instead, Cubs


We’ve heard almost enough labor chatter between MLB owners and the union this week to suggest a glint — albeit, if you squint — at the end of the lockout tunnel, if not an actual light.

Of course, what comes after an agreement is Round 2 of what could go down as one of the best lightning-round winters of free agency in years.

But for all the attention free agency has gotten when it comes to the heavy lifting the Cubs have left to complete their 2022 roster, keep an eye on what might also be an active trade period for teams.

In fact, at least three possible trades could answer some of those roster questions as effectively as free agency, depending on how the dominoes — and prices — might fall:

Nick Ahmed

The Diamondbacks' all-field, light-hit shortstop is nobody’s top everyday shortstop target and certainly no long-term solution for the Cubs.

But if Carlos Correa — who recently hired Scott Boras as his agent — and Trevor Story get too rich too quickly for the Cubs’ tastes as Round 2 free agents, Ahmed might start looking more attractive for the Cubs’ dire short-term needs for a capable shortstop than, say, free agent José Iglesias.

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The Cubs have nobody in-house with close to the everyday, big-league defensive chops of Ahmed. And the front office has a longtime relationship with Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen.

The key is the $18.25 million left on the final two years of Ahmed’s contract — which could make some teams balk for the bat he provides. The Cubs have enough payroll flexibility in the short run to take on that contract without a flinch, and if taking the contract in full means giving up little in player capital to acquire him, then it could be a fit.

In an ideal world for the Cubs, he could be a lightning-in-a-bottle candidate with enough increased value (after an especially poor 2021) to flip at the trade deadline.

J.D. Davis, et al

The Mets have more hitters than roster spots for them, especially on the infield, where Robinson Cano returns from a PED suspension in 2022.

That should automatically make the Mets, with its new front office regime, one of the more active sellers post lockout.

Jeff McNeil anyone? Maybe.

But Davis — with an all-hit, blah-glove ceiling — is coming off hand surgery and might be a better candidate for a bargain-hunting team looking for a flyer. Hello, Cubs.

And in baseball’s anticipated new world of DH’s for everyone, he could provide a short-term option for David Ross’ 2022 lineup with an eye toward possible long-term value. He’ll turn 29 this year but has three years of club control remaining.

As with Ahmed, the key will be how big a bargain a deal would be in terms of player capital.

Tyler Glasnow

This is the one that’s all about long-term vision. The towering right-hander from the Rays has looked for stretches like one of the more talented starters in baseball since debuting with the Pirates in 2016.

But he’s never made more than 14 starts in a season, never pitched more than 111 2/3 innings and is expected to miss most if not all of 2022 after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

The Rays likely would seek win-now players with club control and presumably some cost assurances. Cubs outfielder Ian Happ has two more years of club control remaining, and has a projected arbitration price tag in a similar range as Glasnow. Whether the Rays would consider that a strong enough return is at least questionable. Catcher Willson Contreras has the win-now value to get a deal done, but it’s unclear whether the Cubs would be willing to make that trade and whether the Rays would accept what figures to be an eight-figure salary in the deal.

From the Cubs’ standpoint, Glasnow, 28, wouldn’t be the first Tommy John rehab acquisition this front office has made by a long shot. He’d be a candidate for a two-year, backloaded contract with plenty of workload incentives and a possible 2024 mutual option.

And if the rehab goes as well as expected, the Cubs are the kind of team with the resources to extend him at a fair-market price — potentially about the time they’re transitioning into the next competitive roster core.

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