You may want to have that salt shaker handy for this one, because the latest Cubs rumors from ESPN’s Jeff Passan are going to require ample seasoning. He’d previously reported that multiple teams expect Willson Contreras to be made available, but Tuesday morning’s column about which players could (or should) be traded put a little more heat on the conversation.
According to various MLB executives with whom Passan spoke, the Cubs have been “aggressive,” “manic,” “motivated” and “obvious” in their efforts to deal at least one player this winter. Contreras is the name being heard the most, largely as a function of his low cost and three remaining years of control. There’s also the notion that his particular skill set may not age well, though the hiring of first base/catching coach Craig Driver indicates the Cubs believe in the continuation of last season’s framing improvements.
Kris Bryant is another obvious name for trade speculation, though his high cost and uncertain contractual status make a trade less likely. That’s why the seemingly untouchable Anthony Rizzo is named, though Passan admits a trade would be quite unlikely. If the Cubs are truly in desperation mode, however, they could find themselves reflexively scratching that manic itch. Or so the picture seems to have been painted in this case. That’s less of a stretch with usual suspects like Albert Almora Jr. or Kyle Schwarber, both of whom Passan names as well. But Rizzo? C’mon.
Perhaps more than anyone else, dealing their de facto captain would be a sign that the Cubs have opted to punt on the 2020 season. It would also be a sign that a change in front office leadership is necessary, if only because such a move would represent an inability by Theo Epstein to set aside his base desire to make a trade just for the sake of making a trade. That’s not his MO and certainly doesn’t fit with both stated and implied needs to attack this winter in a very targeted manner, so I just don’t see it happening.
Not that I’m questioning the general veracity of Passan’s column, mind you, as I don’t doubt rival execs would flavor their words with bombast. It only makes sense for them to chum the waters in an effort to increase the perception that the Cubs are motivated to deal. Whether it’s to bait the Cubs into actually being more willing or simply to drive rival execs to enrich their own offers for Cubs players, there’s almost certainly a good deal of self-service at play here. I mean, that’s really the only way any of this makes sense.
The Cubs may very well feel motivated to make moves this winter, though that’s part and parcel with every offseason. There is, of course, the need to operate within a tight budget while also affecting real change on the roster and with team chemistry. Those latter factors could absolutely be coloring the Cubs’ choices, though not to the extent that they’re going to trade players out of a sense of blind duty to that portion of their plan.
So, again, take this all with a mouthful of salt. Maybe you’re lucky enough to be vacationing near an ocean and can just gargle a few times. Just don’t dismiss this stuff entirely, because it contains at least kernels of truth that serve to inform the greater narrative. Or something like that.