Trade season has already started in part because of international free agency. We'll be ramping up our coverage here with a focus on just trying to give you the best content and the most original information out there. In fact, we're working to find out even more information as I write this.
The Cubs have traded their second best trading chip in Scott Feldman. The Marlins dealt Ricky Nolasco away for salary relief. That leaves Matt Garza as the most desirable pitcher left on the market. And we keep hearing the Cubs asking price is pretty high and they have no intention of giving in.
The Jays seem to be dropping out as their playoff chances fade but in their wake, the Giants seem to be intensifying their interest. On a separate but possibly related note, I've heard that Kyle Crick had a contingent of scouts at his last start. Crick is the Giants best prospect and a potential front line starter. It would take a major player to pry him loose and with the Giants looking for pitching, there may be no bigger name out there for them right now than Garza.
Crick 20, has an excellent fastball, rated as a 70 by Baseball America for it's velo (sits 93-95 for entire game, peaks at 99) and pitches with excellent downward plane, a curveball that he picked up recently as is quickly becoming a plus pitch, and a present solid average change-up. He also creates a bit of deception in his delivery, which helps play his fastball up even more. The problem with Crick is his command which projects to be average and presently is well below that. He walked 5.42 batters per 9 IP last year and since returning this year he hasn't improved much, walking 5.11 -- though he does an incredible job of missing bats (14.59 Ks/9 IP in his 6 starts this year at the advanced A ball level).
We are hearing Crick is a longshot, however.
It was thought that the Giants originally preferred Feldman because of the lower asking price and because they simply felt he was a good fit there, but with Feldman gone, the Giants options are thinning out. Garza is expected to be much more expensive but whether the Cubs can pry Crick lose remains to be seen. The Giants were criticized for dealing Zack Wheeler in a deadline deal for a rental a couple of years ago (for Carlos Beltran), so I'm not sure they're eager to repeat that if they can help it.
The problem with dealing with the Giants is that they don't have much else that the Cubs would really want. They have a couple of nice position players in SS Joe Panik and OF Gary Brown, but neither are considered impact guys at this point. Panik will probably move to 2B and he has struggled a bit at AA this year (.252/.339/.348). Gary Brown has struggled at AAA (.243/.303/.422) and may not have the bat to carry a corner OF position.
The Cubs would probably also show interest in a more MLB ready arm like Mike Kickham. It's a bonus that he's a lefty and can throw a low 90s 2 seamer with good movement, some good tail and sink.. He has a ghastly 12.15 ERA in a brief audition with the Giants. But a closer look reveals some excellent strikeout numbers 10.13/9 IP with solid control (3.38 walks/9 IP). He's also had a .435 BABIP against him which is unsustainable, as is his 47.8% strand rate and 35.7% HR/FB rate. When you take that into account, you get an xFIP of 3.43. He seems to me exactly the kind of guy the Cubs would try to pry lose with the expectation that he'll regress back to the mean with many of those peripherals. Kickham projects as a #3 starter. Another guy I like is Clayton Blackburn who doesn't have much projection left but could also be a #3 type because of his combination of solid stuff (87-92 mph, curve, slider, and change) and good command.
I've also heard that the Cubs are scouting the Nationals more closely, perhaps thinking there is a deal to be made there. I don't think they can pry Lucas Giolito or Anthony Rendon loose, but there are still interesting prospects like A.J. Cole, who is still at Class A and has good stuff, but has struggled somewhat in terms of results, 5-3 with a 4.58 ERA, but 22 walks and 98 strikeouts in 88.1 innings make him awfully interesting, as does the movement he has on all of his pitches, a 92-97 mph fastball, inconsistent slider, and a change with some good fade. Some scouts see some easily fixable mechanical problems in Cole. Nate Karns may be another target because of his MLB readiness and power arm (averaging 93.4 mph on his heavy FB and hard curve with sharp downward bite). He projects as a #3 starter and like Kickham on the Giants, has struggled to be of any help in a pennant race -- but peripherals (4.64 xFIP) suggesting that there are better days ahead. The Cubs can afford more patience with him than the Nats can.
We also know that the Rangers have been a steady presence for Garza's starts. We know that they've shown interest in LHP Martin Perez in the past, but Perez has been pitching well (albeit unsustainably well) for the Rangers during their stretch run.
Some internet reports have the Cubs talking with the Indians and the obvious target there is Trevor Bauer -- again because of the combination of front line stuff and MLB readiness.
There are, of course, many names out there that could be fits and we just named a few that we think could headline a deal, but you can be sure the Cubs will scour both farm systems for some secondary players that may be undervalued.
As usual, we'll be following this closely and we'll update if we hear anything new.
Filed under: Rumors/Speculation