February 25, 2015; Mesa, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein during a spring training workout at Sloan Park. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
At 24-20, the Chicago Cubs are squarely in the playoff race this season. They do trail the St. Louis Cardinals by 4.5 games in the National League Central, but the Cubs are right in the mix for the two NL Wild Card spots. Led by their incredible young core of players, the Cubs are a very dangerous team this season, and especially going forward.
As talented as this roster is, the Cubs do have some holes that need addressed if they are to make some serious noise this season. For starters, the bullpen has been shaky all year long. Set-up man Pedro Strop and closer Hector Rondon make up a very talented back-end of the bullpen, but even their performances have been inconsistent. Aside from the recent return of Justin Grimm, the middle relief portion of the Cubs’ bullpen has been shaky to say the least.
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There have been many times this season where the Cubs have blown leads trying to get the ball to the back-end of their bullpen. The expected return of Neil Ramirez down the line will certainly help, but the Cubs need a solid veteran who they can count on to get outs in the bullpen.
In the rotation, the top three of Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and Jason Hammel have been as good, if not better than expect for the Cubs. Unfortunately, the back-end of the rotation has not been very impressive. Kyle Hendricks has turned things around recently, capped by his complete game shutout in his most recent start. Hendricks now has a 4.14 ERA, which is plenty good for a fifth starter, but his play has been inconsistent.
The Cubs recently moved Travis Wood to the bullpen after his ugly start to the season, replacing him with fellow lefty Tsuyoshi Wada. Wada has been very good through two starts (10 innings pitched, only three earned runs, 15 strikeouts and only three walks), but it is not like he is a sure-thing going forward.
The Cubs would probably be fine with Hendricks and Wada rounding out the rotation for the rest of the season, but this is a team with World Series upside. If they expect to have a chance to reach their potential, adding another impact starter will probably have to be in the cards.
With probably the best collection of prospects in all of baseball, the Cubs have a ton of players who will be enticing to teams looking to sell at the deadline. Not only do they have players who they can trade, the Cubs have so many good prospects that they must start trading some of them.
As constructed, Theo Epstein and his staff will have many difficult decisions to make this offseason. The Cubs have a ton of talent that will be eligible to be selected in the Rule Five draft this offseason. There are many very interesting prospects who the Cubs will have to either protect by promoting to the 40-man roster or risk losing completely.
The most well-known name putting the Cubs in this predicament is 22-year-old first baseman Dan Vogelbach, who is tearing up Double-A with a .320/.436/.497 triple slash line. Vogelbach has a great approach at the plate and a ton of power in his bat. The Cubs could use him as a very valuable trade chip before the deadline this season.
Vogelbach is just one of many players who will force the Cubs hand this offseason if they do not make a move. Because of this, I fully expect them to be aggressive this trading season.
This roster has a ton of upside, and with a few key additions, they could really make some noise during the postseason.
Without further ado, here are five players who the Cubs should be targeting in a trade.
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