Cubs will trade these players before this summer’s trade deadline

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Craig Kimbrel / Chicago Cubs
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Cubs desperately need Craig Kimbrel to be lights-out next season

The signing of Craig Kimbrel hasn’t played out the way Theo Epstein and the Cubs had hoped for. Once seemingly destined for Cooperstown, the seven-time All-Star has been a shell of his former self since coming to Chicago.

But late last year, something seemed to click. Heading into the postseason, I wrote about his resurgence and how it could make the Cubs a dark-horse contender in October (clearly that wasn’t the case, but it was in no way Kimbrel’s fault).

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"Across his final 12 2/3 innings of work, the 32-year-old allowed a diminutive .342 OPS. Opposing hitters batting just .045 against his heater and he worked his way back into manager David Ross’ circle of trust, even late in ballgames."

His fastball velocity ticked up over the course of the 60-game schedule and once he was back where he’s been for much of his career, the results spoke for themselves. Now, heading into the final year of his three-year, $45 million contract, he could end up being one of Chicago’s most valuable trade chips.

Assuming you deal him at or around the deadline, the price tag for another team would drop to call it $8 million – more or less. That’s certainly not cheap, but if you’re a club that looks like a lock for October and what you’re missing is a power arm at the back end of the bullpen (hello, 2016 Cubs) – all of the sudden, that number feels pretty doable.

Again, like the next guy we’ll talk about, it’s all about Kimbrel’s first-half performance. He can’t take three months to figure it out if the Cubs are going to get any real value from trading him. Kimbrel will need to come out guns blazing this spring for a trade to net anything significant.