Predicting Suitors for Each Chicago Cubs Trade Chip in Would-Be Fire Sale
Just like many fans and analysts anticipated, the 2013 Chicago Cubs are struggling to stay relevant. If they have indeed decided to start shopping veteran players, as ESPN Insider Buster Olney reports, we must wonder which potential contenders will pursue their expendable talent.
The Cubs entered June 21 at 29-42, tied with the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central cellar, 17 games out of first place. Surprisingly effective free-agent pickups, including Scott Feldman, Kevin Gregg and Nate Schierholtz, are the primary reasons why the team isn't even further back.
On the other hand, expensive hold-overs from the 2012 roster have been disappointing. When peddling Matt Garza and Alfonso Soriano, president Theo Epstein will almost certainly need take responsibility for some of their remaining salaries.
Because the Cubs are amid the rebuilding process, their chief priority will be acquiring prospects with the potential to lead them to excellence later this decade.
Therefore, the most likely suitors for these five individuals include franchises with strong farm systems, but also those desperate to win immediately.
RHP Kevin Gregg
Bleacher Report's own Zachary D. Rymer spoke glowingly about Boston's setup men prior to Opening Day.
However, Andrew Bailey has been awful since replacing Joel Hanrahan. Also, overpowering Andrew Miller is all of the sudden vulnerable to left-handed batters.
Seems like Kevin Gregg is the perfect solution. Since signing a minor league deal with the Chicago Cubs in April, he has pitched to a 0.81 ERA and 0.99 WHIP. Lefty opposition is flailing against him, too (.108/.214/.135 batting line).
As for the reigning American League champs, they have just created an opening in their bullpen. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that Jose Valverde was designated for assignment on Friday.
With Al Alburquerque and Bruce Rondon still working out the kinks at Triple-A, how can Detroit stay idle?
RF Nate Schierholtz
Cleveland went all in this past winter to improve, opening the checkbook to sign Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher to long-term contracts.
Still, there's room for improvement. Swisher might go to the disabled list with shoulder soreness, and Drew Stubbs is helpless against right-handers.
At the very least, Nate Schierholtz could serve as a platoon guy. He's slugging a career-best .545 overall and praised for his strong throwing arm.
The Royals must be kicking themselves for ever extending Jeff Francoeur. After a miserable 2012 campaign, he has continued to perform poorly.
Nobody on K.C. has more than six home runs this summer, so Schierholtz would be a welcome addition.
RHP Scott Feldman
Despite a surplus of internal starting rotation candidates, the O's should be considering trades.
It seems that whoever they recall from the minors fails to provide sufficient length. So far this season, only Miguel Gonzalez has averaged more than six innings per start for them.
Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors did a great breakdown of Scott Feldman earlier this month, emphasizing his ability to induce ground balls. That would play well in a small ballpark like Camden Yards.
Though Scott Kazmir's comeback makes for a good story, the southpaw simply isn't justifying his spot in Cleveland's rotation. Kazmir has served up 12 home runs in only 55 innings with a 5.89 earned run average.
Coupled with the possibility that Brett Myers might be bullpen-bound upon activation from the DL, according to MLB.com's Mark Emery, there's clearly a fit for Feldman.
For the first time in years, the Giants don't feel confident in their starters. Chad Gaudin won't hold down the No. 5 spot forever, while Ryan Vogelsong showed nothing prior to his injury to suggest that he deserves it, either.
LF Alfonso Soriano
Suitor: Los Angeles Dodgers
The richest team in the Senior Circuit has made its fair share of bad decisions in recent months. Hefty commitments to Andre Ethier ($85 million) and Brandon League ($22.5 million) are prime examples.
Acquiring Alfonso Soriano would be equally questionable, as he enters June 21 with a .387 slugging percentage and zero interest in working the count.
However, this is someone who batted .262/.322/.499 with 32 bombs last year. Plus, the Chicago Cubs cannot realistically expect more than a couple fringe prospects in return.
Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles explored all the possible fates of Ethier. He concluded that a trade "may not be imminent, but it certainly seems as if this is the direction things are lining up."
If that were the case, Alfonso Soriano could fill in at left field until Carl Crawford and/or Matt Kemp returned to full strength. Then, the Dodgers would have enviable depth down the stretch and into 2014.
RHP Matt Garza
Suitors: Baltimore Orioles, San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers
More so than any of the previous players, Matt Garza won't be moved until the last possible moment (if at all). The Chicago Cubs will attempt to maximize his trade value by keeping him through the end of July and letting him prove that he still has top-of-the-rotation potential.
The right-hander averaged more than 200 innings per season from 2010-2012 with a 3.68 earned run average. He has been resembling that workhorse recently with back-to-back masterpieces against the New York Mets and Houston Astros.
As FanGraphs shows, Garza's average fastball velocity remains impressive and there's a dramatic difference between that and his breaking ball. Such a combination translates into lots of swing-and-misses.
The list of legitimate suitors, however, is limited to those with youngsters who show enough promise to please the Cubs front office. Even in a fire sale, Garza could be retained if the right offer doesn't materialize.