The Cubs have reportedly been kicking the tires on high-leverage lefty relievers to strengthen a bullpen that now features Craig Kimbrel, and Jed Hoyer recently admitted that they’re also looking for bats. Those dual searches may have brought them to Detroit, where they were among several teams with scouts in attendance Wednesday night.
MLB.com’s Jason Beck indicated the Cubs were there to check out Tigers lefty starter Matthew Boyd, who gave up three homers for the second straight game. Boyd, 28, is drawing a good deal of attention due to his breakout season (11.42 K/9, 1.77 BB/9) and his three years of club control after this one could push his asking price to what Beck reports could be similar to what the Cubs gave up for José Quintana.
That might seem like an odd fit for the Cubs, who are flush with lefty starters and don’t appear to have the requisite prospect capital, but it’s possible they could be looking to shore up the rotation beyond the point at which their other starters will be gone. Or maybe they weren’t there to scout Boyd at all, since the Tigers are likely to sell off several players in whom the Cubs would be interested.
One of those is Nicholas Castellanos, a righty-batting 27-year-old who’s only under contract for the remainder of this season at a pro-rated portion of his $9.95 million salary. He’s something of a defensive butcher and is really only playable in a corner outfield spot despite his bio also listing third base, but his offensive production and fairly even platoon splits make him a big upgrade over the Cubs’ bench bats.
There’s also righty reliever Shane Greene, who’s going to come up in a lot of trade talks because he’s relatively cheap, has another year of control, and is currently posting a 0.90 ERA. But he’s also 30 years old, has lost a couple ticks on his fastball, and has peripheral numbers that indicate an imminent bite from the regression monster.
Besides, the Cubs may still be thinking about the last time they swung a deal with the Tigers for a trendy reliever. Not that Justin Wilson has anything in common with Greene, but the team’s noted issues with onboarding pitchers should give them pause.
Or maybe the Cubs were actually there to get a look at Rangers starter Mike Minor, which Beck indicated may have been the case. The 31-year-old lefty worked out of the bullpen in Kansas City, but was exclusively a starter for several years in Atlanta and now in Texas. At $9 million AAV through next season, Minor would be a reasonable option for a team looking to add pitching.
But unless he’s cool with shifting back to the bullpen for the remainder of the season, or the Cubs make some other changes, the fit doesn’t seem to be there. And with the Rangers currently sitting firmly in contention for the AL Wild Card, moving one of their top starters seems unlikely. A lot can change in a month, though, and the single trade deadline could spur more aggressive activity.
If the Rangers indeed become sellers, the Cubs are a pretty obvious partner because of the strong working relationship the two teams have. Last year’s deals for Cole Hamels and Jesse Chavez buoyed the Cubs down the stretch and aided the Rangers’ rebuilding efforts. Which, wait a minute, didn’t Chavez sign back with his old team this winter?
He did, in fact, and now he’s actually been converted back to at least a part-time starter. That’s not an unfamiliar role for him and it could increase his value should the Rangers look to flip him again. The Cubs might go back to that well, but he’s a year older and still under contract for another year after this, which was prohibitive to him remaining in Chicago in the first place.
While we’re on this speculation track, we may as well throw Hunter Pence into the mix. The outfielder is having a resurgence in Texas after being more or less left for dead this winter, putting up the best numbers he has in years and even earning the starting nod as DH for the American League in the All-Star Game.
The 36-year-old Pence is on a one-year deal at a mere $2 million, so he’s a no-brainer to be moved if the Rangers decide to sell. You wanna talk about a fan favorite and would be fun to root for down the stretch, Pence is at the top of the list.
Anyway, this truly is all just conjecture at this point and there’s a lot of time left before it all shakes down. If, that is, teams wait till the July 31 deadline. The Giants are nowhere near contention and need to rebuild, so they could very well look to jump the market by moving their players before things really get wild.
Buckle up, folks, things are going to start getting fun.