Cubs

Kimbrel, Bryant and Cubs' other top trade chips

Cubs

How quickly things can change.

Less than a month ago, the Cubs were primed to be buyers at MLB’s July 30 trade deadline. They held a share of first place in the NL Central entering June 14 and sat a season-high 11 games above .500 (38-27).

One 11-game losing streak, and 6-19 stretch later, they’re in sell-mode.

“It’s a very different scenario than we expected,” team president Jed Hoyer said last Thursday. “Life comes at you fast.”

No kidding.

With a number of players in walk years, the Cubs roster is chock full of potential rentals for contending clubs.

Here’s a look at some of the Cubs’ top trade chips.

Craig Kimbrel, closer

Need an elite closer to lock down the ninth inning down the stretch and in October? Look no further than Kimbrel, in the midst of a resurgent season on the North Side.

Kimbrel, 33, just made his eighth career All-Star team behind a dominant first half. He’s allowed two earned runs in 31 2/3 innings, converting 20 saves (fifth in MLB) in 22 chances. His 15.35 strikeouts per nine is third among relievers (minimum 30 innings).

Kimbrel could be the missing piece in a contender’s bullpen — and more than a rental. His contract includes a $16 million vesting option for 2022 that becomes a club option, if it doesn’t vest.

Kris Bryant, third baseman/outfielder

Bryant’s name isn’t new to trade rumors. He’s been a fixture in them the last several years, including this past offseason. 

Like Kimbrel, Bryant has put together a big bounce-back season in 2021. He’s been the Cubs’ top hitter, slashing .271/.353/.502 with 16 home runs while making his fourth All-Star team.

 

Not only is Bryant a big bat, but he’s a versatile defender, starting 10+ games at five positions this season — third and first base, and all three outfield spots. That only increases his market, if not the return the Cubs could get for him. 

Bryant, who’s set to hit free agency this winter, is the Cubs’ No. 1 trade chip among their position players, if not overall. 

Javy Báez, shortstop

From a value standpoint, Báez brings a lot to the table, especially for a team that could use an upgrade defensively. He’s electric in the field, winning a Gold Glove at shortstop last season. He has plenty of experience at second base and played third earlier in his career.

Báez is a free swinger and leads MLB in strikeouts. He also has a powerful bat — his 21 home runs are 12th in MLB and his 56 RBIs rank 20th — and would beef up any team’s middle of the order. 

Báez is one of the Cubs' bigger trade chips, but he’s a fan favorite and has talked about how he wants to stay with the Cubs. So has Anthony Rizzo, the face of the franchise and another trade chip.

Willson Contreras, catcher

Teams have been interested in Contreras in recent winters, including the Marlins this past offseason, and for good reason. As far as pure value goes, he could be as high as anyone on this list. 

Contreras is as well-rounded a catcher as any in the game. He controls the running game, has significantly improved his framing and is a good hitter. He’s an established leader in the clubhouse and under club control at a good price through 2022.

However, those are all good reasons for the Cubs to hang on to him and extend him to be part of their core for years to come. 

Whether the Cubs would even consider trading Contreras may depend on if there's urgent demand for him.

Andrew Chafin, reliever

As a lefty reliever who’s having a career year, Chafin is a fit for any contender. He’s been right there with Kimbrel among the best relievers in baseball this season.

Chafin’s 1.42 ERA is sixth among relievers, minimum 30 innings. He’s been lights out the last three months, allowing one earned run in 30 appearances since April 26. His current 23-inning scoreless streak is the longest by any reliever this season.

Chafin’s contract has a $5.25 million mutual option for 2022, or $500K buyout, so it’s possible he would be a two-month rental in the event of a trade.

Joc Pederson, outfielder

Update: The Cubs traded Joc Pederson to the Braves Thursday night.

Pederson has had an up-and-down season. After a slow start in April, he hit well in May before having a down June — like the Cubs' offense overall.

 

Pederson joined the Cubs on a one-year, prove-it deal that has given him the chance to play every day. Historically, he's mashed right-handed pitching and struggled against lefties.

This season, he's hit better against southpaws, although all 11 of his home runs have come off right-handers. His track record could attract contenders looking to boost their offense against right-handed pitching. He has a mutual option for 2022.

Others

Zach Davies is set to hit free agency this winter and starting pitching is in high demand. He's been solid since May (3.05 ERA, 14 starts) and is a veteran arm who could be affordable as a rental.

Jake Marisnick has plenty of postseason experience from his time with the Astros and is a quality defender in the outfield.

You can never have enough good relievers. Outside of a recent stretch, Ryan Tepera has been one of the game's best this season.

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