Cubs' Updated Trade Targets with 2021 MLB Deadline Approaching
Early on, it looked like the Chicago Cubs might be headed for a deadline fire sale with a rocky start in the win-loss column and core players Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo all headed for free agency this winter.
A 19-8 month of June turned the tide, and it's now unlikely they will be aggressive sellers this summer, but are they good enough to buy?
As the franchise approaches a crossroads and potential roster upheaval during the offseason, the most logical move would be to target players who are controllable beyond the 2021 season.
The starting rotation currently ranks 23rd in the majors with a 4.62 ERA, and with Jake Arrieta and Zach Davies both headed for free agency, the staff will need to be rebuilt behind Kyle Hendricks and young right-hander Adbert Alzolay.
We've highlighted three starting pitching trade targets who can help in 2021 and bring control beyond just being a two-month rental.
LHP Matthew Boyd, Detroit Tigers
Matthew Boyd is back.
After a rocky second half to a breakout 2019 season and a brutal 2020 campaign that saw him struggle to a 6.71 ERA and 1.48 WHIP in 12 starts, the left-hander is once again a viable trade chip for a Detroit Tigers team in the midst of a youth movement.
The 30-year-old has a 3.44 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in 70.2 innings.
Those strong surface-level numbers are backed by a solid 3.73 FIP, and he is succeeding with a less-than-stellar 7.1 K/9 rate while doing a better job pitching to contact than he has in the past.
The 6'3" southpaw is earning $6.5 million this season and has one more year of arbitration-eligibility remaining with what figures to still be a team-friendly salary in the $10 million neighborhood.
The Cubs have swung a number of trades with the Tigers in recent years, from the Justin Wilson/Alex Avila deal at the 2017 deadline, to the Nick Castellanos blockbuster at the 2019 deadline, to the under-the-radar addition of Cameron Maybin last winter.
Could this be the next trade between the two sides?
RHP Merrill Kelly, Arizona Diamondbacks
Looking for an under-the-radar trade target?
Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander Merrill Kelly signed a modest three-year, $9.25 million contract prior to the 2019 season after four seasons in the KBO, and he has a 4.23 ERA in 306 innings since returning stateside.
His numbers this season—4.73 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and 82 strikeouts in 91.1 innings—don't exactly jump off the page, but he has five quality starts in his last nine appearances, and he tossed six shutout innings in his most recent start on the road against a potent San Diego Padres lineup.
The 32-year-old has a $5.25 million club option for next season that doesn't carry a buyout, so he's a low-risk addition with some upside beyond this season if he continues on his current upward trajectory.
It's not the most exciting addition, but he can chew up innings at a league-average rate and has shown the potential for a bit more this year.
The last-place D-backs will be motivated sellers, and it shouldn't take more than a couple of mid-level prospects to get a deal done.
Don't sleep on Kelly changing teams before the deadline passes.
RHP German Marquez, Colorado Rockies
German Marquez is one of the most underrated players in baseball, and if the Colorado Rockies make him available, there will be a long line of teams interested in his services.
The 26-year-old has two years and $26.6 million remaining on his contract, along with a $16 million club option for 2024 that will be a no-brainer to exercise if he continues to pitch at his current level.
The right-hander has a 3.62 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 94 strikeouts in 99.1 innings this year, and he needed just 92 pitches to throw a one-hit shutout against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday. That was the third complete game of the season for the burly 6'1", 230-pound right-hander this year, and the first of the traditional nine-inning variety.
He is one of the few pitchers who has managed to consistently tame Coors Field, which likely means the Rockies will need to be wowed to consider parting with him even if they do entertain offers.
Then again, there's not a more mismanaged franchise in baseball right now, and Nolan Arenado was traded for pennies on the dollar less than a year ago.
If Marquez hits the trade block, the Cubs need to be serious suitors.
All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and accurate through Tuesday's games.