Chicago Cubs: How would Bryce Harper signing impact other outfielders?

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Chicago Cubs
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Chicago Cubs: Trade some outfielders

There are countless articles on the Internet suggesting the Cubs should trade at least one outfielder even if they don’t sign Harper. However, in order to make a trade, you have to find another team that wants to trade for what you are trying to unload. You also need such a team to have something that you think is worth trading for.

During the last offseason there were other teams considering trading away young, cost-controlled outfielders. With the exception of Milwaukee’s trade for Christian Yelich, no other team really made a big trade centered around trading outfielders. The Yelich trade resulted in acquiring a proven guy who wanted to win (not to mention the likely National League MVP). The Cubs would not be looking for another proven outfielder. The Cubs would most likely be looking to trade for pitching.

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The Cubs were one of those teams last offseason considering trading away an outfielder or two. Theo Epstein himself said that he was surprised they did not trade a position player last winter.

If Chicago tries to make a trade after signing Harper, it may weaken their negotiating position. When the Cubs signed Ben Zobrist, they nearly simultaneously traded Starlin Castro to the Marlins. If the front office had tried to trade Castro away later, other teams may have looked at a Cubs roster of Zobrist, Castro, Addison Russell and Javier Baez and thought that not as much needed to be offered up to acquire one of the Cubs ‘extra’ middle infielders.

Jason Heyward and Zobrist probably aren’t going anywhere. Heyward has a full no-trade clause for the first three years of his contract. He then has a limited no-trade for the next two years. The eight-time Gold Glove winner can also opt out of his contract after the third and fourth year of the deal. However, due to the amount of money he is owed and the way he has hit since becoming a Cub, that’s not going to happen – plain and simple.

Zobrist is heading into the last year of his original four-year deal with Chicago. His contract also has a full no-trade clause for the first three years and a limited no trade clause in 2019. Players often use limited no-trade clauses to block potential trades to the teams around the deadline, oftentimes contenders. So trading Zobrist would be difficult.

I’m not sure the Cubs would even want to trade away Zobrist. His contract has been a good one for the Cubs. With the suspension of Russell, the Cubs may need Zobrist to play a lot more second base than he did in 2018.

So just because it makes sense to trade away an outfielder, don’t assume it can or will be done.