Major League teams are no longer waiting until the trade deadline to begin making major moves. It is quite clear after the past couple of seasons that the All-Star break is now a key time of year in the trade market. With that in mind, lets take a look at the players throughout the Cubs organization the team would most likely use to construct any trade proposals in the coming days and weeks.
This is not an indictment of Ian Happ, any struggles he battled through earlier this year, or his potential to make an impact in the future. At this point in his career he is well suited to a Ben Zobrist-type role receiving multiple starts in the outfield and occasional starts on the infield each week.
The issue for Happ right now is the Cubs don't really NEED him to fill a role like that because they still have Ben Zobrist as well. Happ is a tremendous luxury to have, and if Yu Darvish had remained healthy, and there were not additional concerns regarding the health and effectiveness of other arms in the rotation, then I would not bother listing him as a trade option.
But if the Cubs are serious about acquiring an impact starter or reliever at the deadline, Happ is really the only piece they possess that can function as a centerpiece without creating a gaping hole somewhere else. Addison Russell's name also gets thrown around in scenarios like this, but moving him would make the Cubs perilously thin at shortstop behind Javy Baez.
If the Cubs make a move to acquire a starter, they could make a corresponding move to create room on the staff. Tyler Chatwood is struggling, and still has a great sum of money owed to him, which makes him an unlikely trade chip at this point. That leaves Mike Montgomery as the most likely candidate if a team asks for a starter in return. Montgomery could also slide back into the bullpen, which would open the possibility for the Cubs to make a minor move sending out someone like Brian Duensing. If Yu Darvish does not return, or his return is delayed until September, then clearing roster space would be unnecessary.
Aramis Ademan / Adbert Alzolay / Miguel Amaya / David Bote / Nico Hoerner / Alex Lange
This list of top prospects is obviously not comparable to previous ranks the Cubs have had at their disposal at previous trade deadlines. None of these players figures to be an impact player at the MLB level, but all project as good bets to fill important roles at premium positions. If the Cubs are looking for an impact starter or reliever, at least one name from this group is sure to be included.
Victor Caratini / Ian Rice / P.J. Higgins / Jhonny Pereda / Miguel Amaya / Michael Cruz / Jonathan Soto / Henderson Perez
It is no secret the Cubs target athletes in the draft and IFA capable of handling the premium up-the-middle defensive positions. This has left them with a surplus of talent at catcher, as well in the middle infield, which we will cover next. The Cubs are set at the MLB level with an MVP-caliber talent in Willson Contreras, which opens them up to deal freely from their ample depth at the position from the Minor League ranks. Miguel Amaya is the big name, but Victor Caratini holds value as an MLB ready talent who could be featured as a secondary piece in any major deal.
David Bote / Zack Short / Trent Giambrone / Aramis Ademan / Andruw Monasterio / Nico Hoerner / Luis Vazquez / Christopher Morel / Luis Verdugo / Reivaj Garcia / Josue Huma / Fabian Pertuz
David Bote would likely replace Ian Happ on the 25-man roster, so any deal involving one is unlikely to involve the other, but the Cubs have additional potential starters in Aramis Ademan and Nico Hoerner further down the system available to entice teams. Both have the chops to remain at shortstop and their developmental paths appear on similar enough trajectories where they could overlap in the near future. The Cubs would undoubtedly like to hold on to one of the two as a long term replacement for Addison Russell, but that leaves Ademan available if the right deal emerges. [Update:] Hoerner is not eligible to be traded until the offseason.
Duane Underwood, Jr. / Trevor Clifton / Oscar De La Cruz / Thomas Hatch / Michael Rucker / Matt Swarmer / Keegan Thompson / Duncan Robinson / Cory Abbott / Bailey Clark / Rollie Lacy / Tyson Miller / Erich Uelmen
The Cubs have a ton of right-handed, back-of-the-rotation prospects, within 1-2 years in age, and they are all going to be ready for AA/AAA over the next season or two. They can easily absorb the loss of a couple of these guys. Even if a few project better to a bullpen role down the line, the team has depth in that area as well (Dillon Maples, Dakota Mekkes, James Norwood, etc.). None have the ceiling to be a centerpiece in any deal, but all would fit nicely as parts to round out a trade proposal.