CHICAGO — Once gasping for air earlier in the month, the Chicago Cubs have come alive and the idea of them being buyers at the upcoming trade deadline is no longer inconceivable.
That became clearer Wednesday night as the Cubs battled back from being down 7-2 going into the 5th inning against the Sox. The North Siders scored eight unanswered runs to win 10-7.
After selling at the last two deadlines, buying is the right thing to do — not just for fans but for the upcoming free agent market and beyond. Selling veterans and free agent signings for the third consecutive year could send a bad message to agents and players.
You’ll remember two years ago when the Cubs traded massive names from their World Series core in Rizzo, Baez and Bryant. Without top brass ever calling it as such, the second rebuild since 2011 actually started on Dec. 29, 2020 when they traded Yu Darvish to San Diego for four prospects.
Two years later, the Cubs’ farm system has the depth multiple clubs dream about and are in a much better spot.
With the team having a 37.5% chance of making the playoffs, per Baseball Reference, Jed and company can pluck away from the depth in an attempt to solidify two weaknesses — not having a definite third basemen and a mediocre bullpen that’s ranked 17th in ERA.
Let’s take a look at four realistic names the Cubs could target to gain ground on Cincinnati and Milwaukee.
While having one of the most dependable duos up the middle, the hot corner at 1060 W. Addison has been a question mark. Despite 17 homers, Patrick Wisdom has hit below the Mendoza line will boasting a 37.5% strikeout rate amid below-average defense.
Madrigal, Morel and more have filled in, but the Cubs need an everyday presence at third.
Enter former Cubs’ farmhand Jeimer Candelario who actually debuted in 2016 on the North Side in just 11 at-bats. He was traded along with SS Isaac Paredes (who is putting up great numbers with the Rays) in 2017 for lefty reliever Justin Wilson and catcher Alex Avila.
A switch-hitter who plays above-average defense, Candelario is a two-month rental who absolutely crushes right-handed pitching.
Proposed trade: Cubs trade OF Brennan Davis (7th ranked prospect), SP D.J. Herz (16th ranked), and SP Chris Clarke (not ranked) for Canderlario.
With the Cubs already having a solid offense (11th in OPS) that looks to only get better now that Cody Bellinger is in his old MVP form, let’s turn our attention to the bullpen.
Enter another friend — the Mets’ fill-in closer after Edwin Diaz got injured in the offseason, David Robertson.
Yes it may be odd to trade for someone you just dealt a year ago. The Cubs acquired Ben Brown (ranked Philly’s 26th prospect at the time) for Robertson, who was sporting a 2.23 ERA last year and 13 saves. He has similar numbers this year (2.05 ERA and 14 saves) and spent two-and-a-half seasons on the South Side in addition to his stint with the Cubs.
Ross would be better served to use Alzolay’s explosiveness and ability to pitch more than an inning in high-leverage situations over his current half-role as closer.
Robertson, 38, has legit playoff experience with a 2.78 ERA in 45.1 innings.
Proposed trade: SS Ed Howard (22nd ranked prospect), SP Kohl Franklin (24th ranked) and SP Ryan Jensen (27th ranked) for Robertson.
It’s the first player who hasn’t played for the Cubs but they know him well — former longtime Milwaukee Brewer Brent Suter.
The Cubs have been light on lefty relievers (22 innings between Anthony Kay and Brandon Hughes) and adding a veteran left-hander for a playoff push is always a good idea.
There are two intriguing things about Suter this year in addition to being a veteran with experience; he’s been a reverse-split guy who has held righties this year to under a .500 OPS and he’s been great away from the hitting utopia that is Coors Field (1.98 ERA in 27.1 innings).
Proposed trade: C Pablo Aleindo (29th ranked prospect) and OF Cole Roederer (not ranked but crushing in Tennessee) for Suter.
If the Cubs go a more passive route, Royals reliever Carlos Hernandez, who has found himself after moving to the bullpen, is an option.
In addition to finding control (4.98 BB/9 last year vs. 2.34 in 2023) moving to the ‘pen has unleashed his fastball velocity. Hernandez has gone from average 96.8 mph last year to 99.0 this year.
His big arm matches his big body (6’4, 255 lbs.) and the 26-year-old can pitch in long relief.
Proposed trade: Drew Gray (28th ranked prospect) for Hernandez.
This is arguably the most-anticipated Cardinals-Cubs series since 2019 when St. Louis struck a dagger through the Cubs’ playoff hopes in late September. Of course, if they get swept Jed and company may switch back to sell mode.
The drama kicks off Thursday at 6:45 p.m. at St. Louis with All-Star Justin Steele on the hill.