Nearly one year ago, the Miami Marlins were the talk of the Major League Baseball landscape. After a winter long pursuit of Albert Pujols, the Marlins eventually were able to land shortstop Jose Reyes, Starting Pitcher Mark Buehrle, and Reliever Heath Bell in addition to naming Ozzie Guillen as the team’s manager. The Marlins’ off-season ventures were grand enough for the team to be the subject of a television documentary that followed the team during the season. The documentary was eventually cancelled, and that could have been an indicator of the fortunes to come for the Marlins. Guillen has been fired, Bell has been traded, and it would appear that Buehrle could also wind with a new team before the season concludes.
The Marlins’ woes could spell relief for the Cubs. Not only will the Marlins look to trade Buehrle, but Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago also reports that the team will look to trade starting pitcher Josh Johnson. Johnson, 28, has quietly been trending towards the top tier of National League starting pitchers. Johnson, who is a free agent after the 2013 season, posted a record of 8-14 to go along with an ERA of 3.81.
This would be where the Chicago Cubs may come into the discussion as a possible trader partner for the Marlins. Johnson, under team control and under the age of 30, is the ideal pitcher that the Cubs can target for their long-term starting rotation. Both Cubs’ President Theo Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer have indicated that the Cubs will look to add two to three starting pitchers this winter. Until this point, the focus as been on the free agent market for starting pitchers. Johnson, however, has considerably more upside than any pitcher that has already been connected to the Cubs.
The issue in acquiring Johnson would be that it would come at a price. The Marlins would likely target Javier Baez in any trade with the Cubs that involved Johnson. If that is the case, then you can expect the Cubs to walk away from the negotiations. Baez if not already, is quickly becoming the Cubs’ top prospect. For that reason, the Cubs will be very hesitant in participating in trade discussions that involve Baez. Even though the notion that a player is untouchable is an exaggeration, Baez may be the closest prospect that the Cubs have to the untouchable status. Looking beyond Baez, the Cubs may be willing to include Josh Vitters in a trade. Vitters needs more developing in the Minor League system before becoming an effective Major League player.
The Cubs will be interested in starting pitchers this winter and Johnson fits all the criteria for their search; but the starting pitcher’s trade value likes places him off of the Cubs’ radar.