I want to start this out by saying it sounded an awful lot like Jon Heyman was just rattling off names seemingly at random when he discussed the Cubs’ deadline possibilities on a recent episode of his “Big Time Baseball” podcast. That said, it’s not the first time any of those names have been mentioned and we’re already way past the point of believing loyalty will get in the way of business decisions.
“I see the Cubs as a seller, with some pieces to sell,” Heyman said, which comes as news to exactly no one. “I don’t think they’ll sell Hendricks, but I could see Happ potentially, I could see Stroman, and certainly the catcher. That will be a big one, Willson Contreras has hit very well.”
Heyman said previously that the Cubs would be seeking “an arm and a leg” in return for Contreras, though there’s nothing revelatory in that statement. Based on the returns Jed Hoyer got for several other “rental” players at last year’s deadline, none of whom were hitting nearly as well as Contreras, the ask is clearly going to be very high.
As for the other players mentioned, well, we’d have to start having some very different conversations about where the Cubs are headed if they end up being moved. Marcus Stroman was signed ostensibly to help transition the rotation into a new era of competitiveness and Ian Happ is pretty much the only veteran on the team who has ties to the old guard and who is still young enough to be part of a new core.
Kyle Hendricks is a different story because he’s no longer in the running for staff ace and won’t bring back quite the haul as he would have last season, but that’s also why it seems odd to trade him. With two years and $30 million in actual commitment (but $13.875M AAV) after this season, Hendricks isn’t going to net a top prospect. However, he’s a known commodity for the Cubs and his salary is still low enough that it’s not hurting their budget.
Moving on from two or more players other than Contreras would signal quite clearly that this team is not actually intent on competing in 2023 after all. Replacing Stroman’s production would cost at least as much as what he’s currently earning and replacing Happ would cost a lot more. A team that wants to be good in a hurry needs to supplement proven in-house vets with both prospects and free agents, so trading away players from that former group means paying more of the latter.
And while I’ll gladly eat my words if I’m wrong, I don’t see any possible future in which Hoyer is able to go gung-ho and sign 10 big-time free agents. Let’s just hope Heyman was simply naming names, something I’m inclined to believe was the case.