The real answer to this question is everybody. All teams could use an upgrade in their rotation and the Cubs have 2 or 3 pitchers that may fit the bill.
The Cubs main trade chip this summer is going to be starting pitching. Matt Garza and Scott Feldman have emerged as two of the most desirable names available on the trade market. Carlos Villanueva may appeal to a team looking for a more versatile pitcher with some cost control -- and he'll be a well-rested pitcher by seasons end.
I'm looking at AL teams right now and we'll do NL next. I'm noting prospects of interest as guys who may possibly be available with the focus on getting young pitchers in return.
The Boston Red Sox
Why it's a fit
The Red Sox are no stranger to the Cubs front office while Theo and crew know the farm system well. There is a built in familiarity and working relationship between the two clubs. The Red Sox have been known to covet Matt Garza in the past and he is seemingly available again this season.
- Jon Lester
- John Lackey
- Ryan Dempster
- Felix Doubront
- Allen Webster
Prospects of Interest
The Cubs would probably love to obtain Anthony Ranaudo, Matt Barnes or Henry Owens but the Red Sox are not really in a desperate position.
An interesting arm is Drake Britton, who is a TJ survivor and a rare LHP that can hit 97 mph and averages 94 with good downward movement. He also has a hard slider and a solid change that he sells well. Command has always been shaky but he's dropped his walk rate to just over 3 per 9 innings though it seems to have cost him strikeouts, which is at 7.75 per 9 IP. He 6-5 with a 3.08 ERA in AA. The Cubs also seemed to show some interest in Pat Light in last years draft. Light was taken in the supplemental first round and is currently pitching in short season A Ball.
Potential Stumbling Blocks
While the Red Sox have had mediocre pitching overall, it's difficult to say they have a glaring hole in their rotation. Doubront is adequate as your 4th starter and it seems likely the Red Sox will try and get by with talented rookie Allen Webster in the 5th spot. But we'll see what happens a month from now because things can get awfully competitive in the AL East.
The Kansas City Royals
Why it's a fit
You may remember that we got wind that the Cubs were scouting the Royals system a while back, which has been among the best in baseball the past few years, though it has been somewhat diluted by trades and graduation. Still there is still some talent there and the two teams fit well, in part because of differing philosophies and at different stages of the rebuilding process. In fact, the Royals are now in contention after trading for James Shields and making other more "win-now" moves this offseason. Their window of opportunity is now open for the team, but for Dayton Moore, it may be closing. It seems like the perfect storm for the Royals to trade in some of their future to try and win this season.
- James Shields
- Ervin Santana
- Jeremy Guthrie
- Wade Davis
- Luis Mendoza
Prospects of Interest
The Cubs heavily scouted Kyle Zimmer last year and he fits their profile in that he has good size and athleticism, giving him a good shot to pitch with power and command over the long haul. He's really struggled this year(1-6, 6.29 ERA) but he's missing a ton of bats at the advanced A level -- almost 11 Ks per 9 IP and walking less than 4 (3.84). There's a lot to suggest he's had some bad luck and is perhaps trying to adjust to an advanced level of competition -- but he certainly isn't overmatched. Yordano Ventura has a fastball that can hit triple digits but is just 5'11", 175 lbs, so some may think he ends up in the bullpen because of durability questions and the issue of creating sufficient plane with his fastball, something that looms larger as he has to turn over a lineup of advanced hitters a few times. LHP John Lamb is a former top prospect who has been injury plagued and is yet another TJ survivor. A lot will depend on scouting reports as Lambs fastball, which once reached the mid 90s on a good day, was 5-6 mph slower last season. If the latter is still the case, it would put his velocity and ceiling on par with many of the Cubs current LHP.
Potential stumbling blocks
It seems likely to me that the Royals are happy with their top 3. Both Ervin Santana and James Shields have pitched pretty well. Free agent acquisition Jeremy Guthrie has put up good traditional numbers (7-4, 3.72 ERA) but he has had himself quite a bit of luck with a low BABIP (.256), a high strand rate (86.1%) -- it all adds up to a ghastly 5.95 FIP. But the Royals are one of the few old school teams left and it seems they'd want to give their investment a chance to pay off. Luis Mendoza is an adequate 5th starter, so it may just come down to whether they want to upgrade the 4th spot by either trading for Feldman or acquiring Garza and slipping Guthrie to that 4th spot where he's better suited.
The larger problem may be whether the Royals stay in contention. They are 6 games off the division lead and while they are also 6 back in the wild card chase, there are too many teams to leapfrog for that scenario to be realistic.
Why it's a fit
Theo Epstein and Jon Daniels have a mutual respect and a good working relationship as we saw both teams make multiple deals -- as well as reworking a deal last season when the Rangers subbed in Barrett Loux for and injured Jacob Brigham. The Rangers also gave the Cubs a reasonably fair deal for Ryan Dempster even when they had tremendous leverage after the Dodgers hung them out to dry. The Rangers also have an iffy rotation behind stalwarts Yu Darvish and Derek Holland. The 3rd starter Nick Tepisch has an ERA of 4.84 while the 4th and 5th starters (Justin Grimm, Josh Lindbloom) are well over 5. Lastly, the Rangers showed a great deal of interest in Garza and there are rumors that a deal was in place to send them LHP Martin Perez and 3B Mike Olt before Garza got hurt.
- Yu Darvish
- Derek Holland
- Nick Tepesch
- Justin Grimm
- Josh Lindblom/Martin Perez
Prospects of interest
The Cubs probably aren't as interested in Mike Olt, in part because of the drafting of their own top 3B prospect, Kris Bryant, but that wouldn't necessarily preclude them. Olt has had a tough start to the season but the Rangers chalked it up to a vision problem and took steps to correct, since then Olt has been playing better and showing his usual power. The Cubs would like another crack at Martin Perez, who dominated in AAA (5-1, 1.75 ERA) and even has a start and it looks like he has replaced Lindblom in the rotation, so that seems unlikely. Luke Jackson is a power arm that can reach 97 mph and complements it with a hard slider. He's raw and still developing command and a change of pace, but he has #2 starter potential but could also end up a reliever. Cody Buckel drew some attention last year but seems to have Steve Blass syndrome this year. He's been sent down to extended spring training after starting out AA with a record of 0-5 with a 20.25 ERA and 28 walks in 9.1 innings. Those are not typos.
Potential Stumbling Blocks
It seems the timing is all off for a Matt Garza to Rangers scenario. Prospects have floundered or in Grimm and Perez's case, may have taken themselves out of the picture by stepping up and becoming a part of the rotation. It may be tough to piece together a deal from the Rangers side, especially if the Cubs are specifically looking for starting pitching. The Rangers would essentially be dealing for Garza to be a veteran presence at the #3 spot. This is a very young rotation, even at the top, but going with 3 rookies may be a bit risky for the Rangers.
- The Baltimore Orioles rank near the bottom in pitching and may have the shakiest staff of all the contenders but they are said to have no interest in Matt Garza. Scott Feldman may be a different story, however. They could use an upgrade over Zach Britton. A stumbling block with the Orioles is that they are top-heavy with prospects. They are not trading Kevin Gausman, who may end up in the rotation if the Orioles can't upgrade with a veteran. Nor are they going to give up on top prospect Dylan Bundy, who is rehabbing and currently throwing from 90 feet.
- There was much talk about Matt Garza heading to the Detroit Tigers but they are set at the top 3 with Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Dough Pfister. Rick Porcello has struggled and perhaps the Cubs could exchange an upgrade in Matt Garza for a cost-controlled pitcher who still has very good upside. Drew Smyly is another player the Cubs have shown interest in but he's been an important cog in the Tigers bullpen.
- There's always the New York Yankees but GM Brian Cashman seems reluctant to deal with Theo Epstein, even now that they are not in the same division. It's also a bad fit as the Yankees have a solid veteran rotation and few prospects to trade.
- The Cleveland Indians are just 4 games back of the Tigers despite having a team ERA of 4.24, so you have to wonder if adding an impact arm like Matt Garza or a solid rotation guy like Scott Feldman may give them the push they need. After much ado, Scott Kazmir has a 5.89 ERA while Carlos Carrasco has been very ineffective. Ubaldo Jimenez is no longer pitching like a top of the rotation starter and really hasn't since coming to Cleveland. Most of the Indians best prospects are at the lowest levels of the system, though RHP Danny Salazar may be a pitcher of interest on the strength of a fastball that has reached 100 but sits 94-97. He's made it to AAA and he's still a starter, but size and durability questions may mean his ultimate role is in the bullpen. So far, however, he's holding up a starter, putting up ridiculous numbers (13.6 Ks/9 IP and 1.45 FIP in AA; 10.73 Ks/9 IP and 2.46 FIP in AAA).
- The Toronto Blue Jays have made a strong push to get themselves near the .500 mark and are just 7 games out in the AL East. They're fringy right now and you have to wonder if they'll try and regroup for next year or continue the win-now philosophy they started in the offseason. It looks like the acquisition of RA Dickey and Mark Buehrle are not going to work the way the Jays had hoped and the Jays system has been diluted, but there are still some very good arms such as RHPs Aaron Sanchez, Robert Osuna, Tyler Gonzales, Alberto Tirado and LHP Daniel Norris and Matt Smoral.
Filed under: Rumors/Speculation