Chicago Cubs: Could one of these guys be on their way out of Chicago?
With limited funds and a payroll that will no doubt exceed the CBT threshold once again in 2020, how can the front office go after players they need with money they don’t have? Simple answer: they trade guys who are making a lot of money.
Jose Quintana‘s option was just picked up for $11.5 million and he seems like a good place to start. Replacing Quintana’s spot in the lineup with Cole, who would cost about the same as Hamels and Quintana from 2019, seems like a significant upgrade. Even though Quintana might be a legitimately efficient and on-par deal for a solid third or fourth starter, the Cubs could figure they could swap out Quintana and Hamels for Cole and one of Adbert Alzolay, Alec Mills, or even Tyler Chatwood.
Speaking of Chatwood, the erratic yet sometimes very effective right-hander may be a trade target for someone thinking they can make him back into a starter. Chatwood is due $13 million, and even if they Cubs had to eat $3-5 million on the deal, it might be worth it.
Fans aren’t going to like it, but Kris Bryant is another high-priced player who could be shipped out, especially if the pending arbitration hearing regarding his status turns out he has only one year of team control available. Estimates put his arbitration number around $18 million for next year; if the Cubs feel they’re not getting anywhere with extension overtures, it’s possible they could move their former MVP, even if it might be unpopular with fans. The savings would not only pay for more than half of what Cole would cost next season, but would also surely bring back some prospects or major league ready arms and gloves.
Jason Heyward would be the most obvious choice because of the four years and $96 million still left on his deal, but it’s hard to believe anyone is jumping at the chance to pick him up at that cost. Again, if the Cubs could swing a deal to trade Heyward, they’d probably have to eat some money; if it’s around $5 million per year, I think I’d be okay with that. While you’d be losing a great glove in right field, moving a Bryant, Willson Contreras, or some other pick-up there would give you a big offensive boost. If the market for a guy like Nicholas Castellanos doesn’t materialize and the Cubs found a taker for Heyward (think Giants), it’s very possible the Cubs could look to sign Castellanos on the cheap and move Heyward anyway, regardless of the cost savings aspect.
Even though it appears very unlikely the Cubs could and would go after Cole or Strasburg, it’s essential that they do. The Cubs need another ace, and both pitchers showed this postseason that they have more than enough mettle for the biggest stage in the world.