According to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, the Cubs have held internal discussions about bringing in a veteran leader (subscription required/recommended) to serve in somewhat of a David Ross/Jon Jay capacity. Rosenthal’s sources say the Cubs have even reached out to other clubs regarding the possibility, specifically naming Baltimore’s Adam Jones and Toronto’s Curtis Granderson.
While that differs quite a bit from what we’ve been hearing all along, anecdotal evidence lends credence to the idea. Consider that the two most prominent names mentioned thus far in trade rumors involving the Cubs are Manny Machado and JA Happ, who play for the Orioles and Jays, respectively. It’s not at all unreasonable to believe the Cubs could have kicked the tires on either or both outfielders while also discussing their teammates.
Then you look at the offseason addition of Chris Gimenez, which didn’t work out quite the way the Cubs had hoped. Though they’ve got strong veteran leadership in guys like Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward, and Anthony Rizzo, it wouldn’t hurt to add a player on the back side of his career to serve as a mentor and bench bat.
That’s why the note from Jon Heyman indicating that the Cubs could be interested in Marlins outfielder Derek Dietrich seemed so odd. He’s a good hitter, sure, but Dietrich isn’t a bench-type player and doesn’t offer a significant upgrade over the Cubs’ current options.
Teams have been calling about Derek Dietrich, a good hitter with some versatility. Brewers, Cubs could have interest.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) July 10, 2018
Besides, he’s come across as something of a punk, for lack of a better term, when he’s played against the Cubs. This idea seems like one of those things that gets floated to generate interest, though it does at least fall in line with concept of the Cubs adding a bat.
Of course, making a move for someone like Jones or Granderson is unlikely, something Rosenthal readily acknowledges. Not only would such an addition have little discernible impact on the Cubs’ performance, it’d displace one of the younger members of what is already a crowded outfield rotation. And it’s hard to see that given how fiercely they’ve defended and worked to develop Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora Jr., and Ian Happ.
What makes more sense, Rosenthal notes, is to add such a player following the non-waiver deadline and right before active rosters increase to 40 men. The Cubs currently have two spots open on the 40-man roster and would have both flexibility and a better idea of exactly what they need by that later date.
But that’s pretty standard late-season fodder, so let’s circle back to the notion that the Cubs could be willing to part with one of their current young outfielders. They obviously would not do so simply to bring in an aging veteran for leadership qualities and pinch-hitting, so the only way such a trade-off would makes sense is if the Cubs were bringing back a controllable starting pitcher in return.
Not only does Rosenthal note this, but something Peter Gammons tweeted (h/t to @FullCountTommy for drawing my attention to it) could hint at the Cubs’ intentions.
"To suggest the Rays would trade Blake Snell is fictional garbage," says an NL exec. "We callwd. No chance. And we could have put together a big package.
— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) July 10, 2018
Though Gammons in no way indicates the Cubs directly, it’s not at all inconceivable to infer that the NL exec in question is none other than Theo Epstein. Gammons and Epstein go back a long time, at least to Epstein’s days in Boston, and the scribe has been known to wail a blues tune or two at Epstein’s twice-annual Hot Stove Cool Music concerts.
Then you’ve got the idea that the Cubs have long sought controllable pitching and Snell, who has four years of club control remaining after this season, fits that bill perfectly. Finally, the dismissive “fictional garbage” line sounds like something Epstein would say. Remember when he called the Machado rumors “outrageously outsized” and a “spasm of media frenzy.”
Again, this is all conjecture and could be way off base, so take it however you like. But the puzzles pieces set forth by Rosenthal and Gammons do seem to fit together nicely with what we already know or assume to be the case for the Cubs.