Cubs Trade Rumors: Chicago Preparing to Sell amid Losing Streak Ahead of Deadline

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVJuly 9, 2021

FILE - Chicago Cubs' Kris Bryant runs to third base on his triple during the third inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres in Chicago, in this May 31, 2021, file photo. Bryant's versatility, while producing offensive numbers that belong alongside his NL MVP season in 2016, is a big reason why Chicago is on top of the NL Central once again, helping the Cubs go on a 21-9 run while dealing with a rash of injuries. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty, File)
AP Photo/Paul Beaty, File

The Chicago Cubs are reportedly planning to be sellers ahead of the July 30 MLB trade deadline.

According to Ken Rosenthal and Patrick Mooney of The Athletic, the decision has been helped along by a recent cold streak that has left them tied for third in the National League Central at 43-45, 9.5 games behind the division-leading Milwaukee Brewers.

Chicago has lost 12 of its past 13 games, including three-game sweeps at the hands of divisional rivals the Cincinnati Reds and Brewers.

The Cubs have several big names set to become free agents at the end of the 2021 season, with third baseman Kris Bryant, first baseman Anthony Rizzo and shortstop Javier Baez being chief among them.

All of them have been mentioned in trade talks at some point over the past couple of years, with Bryant seemingly being the most likely to move at any given time.

Starting pitcher Zach Davies is also set to become a free agent, while outfielder Joc Pederson has a mutual option for next season, starting pitcher Jake Arrieta has a club option and closer Craig Kimbrel has a vesting option.

Bryant is perhaps the top player who could be on the move, as he has bounced back after hitting just .206 with four home runs and 11 RBI during the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign.

In 79 games this season, the 29-year-old veteran and 2016 NL MVP is hitting .268 with 16 homers and 43 RBI.

The New York Mets have long been linked to Bryant, and it was reported last week by SNY's Andy Martino that they still have interest in Bryant, although they were uncertain at the time if Chicago would be willing to move him.

Rizzo, 31, has perhaps been Chicago's best and most consistent player over the year with three All-Star nods, four Gold Gloves and one Silver Slugger award.

His production is down this season to the tune of a .246 average, 10 homers and 33 RBI, but he has slugged 30 or more home runs and driven in 100 or more runs in a season four times each.

Baez may be the most likely of the star trio to stick in Chicago, as Rosenthal and Mooney noted that the 28-year-old was close to signing an extension last year before the COVID-19 pandemic essentially put MLB on hold.

The two-time All-Star, one-time Gold Glover and one-time Silver Slugger winner is hitting .234 with 21 homers and 56 RBI this season, although his 112 strikeouts are the most in the National League.

Each of Bryant, Rizzo and Baez played a huge role in the Cubs winning the World Series in 2016, so it is fitting that each of their tenures in Chicago could end at around the same time.

Cubs President of Baseball Operations Jed Hoyer essentially confirmed that teams have been calling about the trio:

"We've believed in these guys since 2015. They've had a ton of success, and I would never count these guys out. But 11 days ago, we were certainly fully on the buy side of this transaction and everyone was calling about that. Obviously, people are now calling to see which players are available, so it's a very different scenario than we expected. Life comes at you fast."

Kimbrel is perhaps the most likely Cubs player to be traded prior to the deadline, as Rosenthal and Mooney called him possibly the "most valuable player available in all of baseball right now."

The 33-year-old Kimbrel has experienced a career renaissance this season, converting 20 of a possible 22 save chances with a 0.57 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 31.2 innings.

Kimbrel has been named an All-Star for the eighth time in his career, and he could be a key piece in the bullpen of any contender, whether it is as a closer or setup man.

The Cubs have many quality players who could net huge returns and accelerate a potential rebuild, although Hoyer made it clear that he doesn't intend to enter into a full-on rebuild.