Chicago Cubs should include Willson Contreras and Billy McKinney in trade


It is no secret that the Chicago Cubs are exploring the trade market for a young, cost-controlled starting pitcher. The organization has many prospects and young players who would interest potential trade partners. But who should be traded? Javier Báez? Starlin Castro? Jorge Soler?

Báez, Castro, and Soler are the three names most commonly thrown into trade rumors. All three players are 25-years-old or younger and have shown what they are capable at the big league level. But do they Cubs have to part with any of these three to swing a trade?

The answer to this question is no, and the reason why is simple: the Cubs have Willson Contreras and Billy McKinney in their minor league system.

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Contreras is a 23-year-old catcher who will be 24 next May. He was named the Cubs Minor League Player of the Year for 2015, as he batted .333 for Double-A Tennessee. For comparison sake, Kyle Schwarber will be 23 in March and has more than proved himself at the big league level.

Contreras clearly has a bright future in the MLB, but it will not come in Chicago. The Cubs have numerous options to play the outfield in the minor leagues, meaning Schwarber cannot play left field forever. Furthermore, the organization prefers him at catcher anyway, as his workload at the position is expected to increase mightily in 2016.

With that being said, where does this leave Contreras? If he is not going to catch, there really is no room for him on the big league roster. First base is the only position that he potentially could play, yet that spot is clearly already under control by a certain MVP candidate.

Contreras was added to the 40-man roster in November, keeping him out of the Rule-5 draft. He is expected to improve his defensive game behind the plate while catching for Triple-A Iowa in 2016.

Obviously the Cubs see he is a valuable asset, otherwise the team would have let him slip in the Rule-5 draft. But the bottom line is there is no room for him on the North Side.

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If the Cubs are going to acquire a starting pitcher, Contreras needs to be included in the deal. However, if he alone is not enough to reach an agreement with another team, the Cubs should also trade McKinney.

Acquired in the Addison Russell trade, McKinney is a 21-year-old outfielder taken in the first round of the 2013 draft. Russell was the key component in the trade, but McKinney hit .300 in 106 games for Advanced-A Myrtle Beach and Double-A Tennessee.

Drafted as a center fielder, McKinney has already shifted to right field. However, there truly is no room for him on the big league club. 2012 first round pick Albert Almora is expected to make his MLB debut in 2016 and 2015 first round pick Ian Happ is a corner outfielder himself.

Without a doubt, there just is no room for McKinney in Chicago, which is a good problem to have. By rebuilding the organization, the team was bound to have more prospects than positions, and McKinney is a perfect example of that.

McKinney suffered a hairline fracture in his right knee in August, ending his 2015 season. Due to his injury, he will probably not have as much trade value as he would if he were not coming off an injury. At the same time, he should be considered in any possible trades, especially since he has not proved himself in the MLB just yet.

All in all, Báez, Castro and Soler may be the ones who are dealt this offseason or in the future. The point here is the Cubs have other options, though, and those options are not part of the current big league team’s core.