Chicago Cubs: Budget-conscious Oakland Athletics could be perfect trade partners

(Photo by Ron Vesely/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ron Vesely/Getty Images) /

Much of the talk about the Chicago Cubs this offseason has been focused on how they can improve via free agency. For sure, they should be picking up a starter or two and (hopefully) one of the big-ticket shortstops alongside some nice utility bats on the open market. There’s room to improve on the trade market too, though.

Enter the Oakland Athletics. It’s becoming more and more likely that the A’s are kicking off a rebuild as they just allowed longtime manager Bob Melvin to leave for San Diego. They missed the playoffs in 2021 for the first time since 2017 and are surrounded by an upstart Mariners squad and the ever-present Astros juggernaut. With some of their pieces nearing free agency, now’s the time to pick up some cheap deals.

The Chicago Cubs can make bank by dealing with Oakland this offseason

Oakland is loaded with multiple arbitration-eligible guys that fit the bill of what the Cubs are looking for. The big three to focus on from a pitching perspective are Sean Manaea, Frankie Montas and Chris Bassitt, all of whom are solid, above-average starters that shouldn’t cost the Cubs a ton.

While Montas feels like a prime target considering his age and two years of control, Manaea fits the bill a bit better for what the Cubs should be looking for. Manaea’s been a reliable pitcher throughout his career and 2021 was more of the same with an ERA of 3.91 and a FIP of 3.66. He’s only under control for 2022, but the value in acquiring him is also based on the team’s future interests and seeing if he’s a good fit for the worth extending or re-signing in free agency.

Bassitt, meanwhile, is a bit older but intriguing nonetheless. 2020 marked a sort of breakout for him as he posted a career-low 2.29 ERA with a FIP of 3.59 as a starter and finished eighth in Cy Young voting. He followed that up with his first All-Star appearance in 2021 and another solid year with a 3.15 ERA and a career-low by far in WHIP at 1.055. Given the age, he’s another possible target that the Cubs could grab if the market for the other two gets too heated.

In terms of hitters, Oakland has some options there as well. Matt Chapman should absolutely be inquired about given his down season in 2021. Even with his rough year, he’s yet to hit below league average by OPS+ across a whole season and plays magnificent, if no longer Platinum Glove-caliber, hot corner defense. Much like Chicago’s current third baseman, Patrick Wisdom, the strikeouts are quickly becoming a problem, but he’s still worth a look at the right price.

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Oakland has a lot of possibilities for the Cubs to profit without needing to give up a huge prospect package. If the A’s are looking to offload some salaries, the team has room to take on just about anything to make the price tag as low as possible.