A Marcus Stroman trade would be unforgivable to Cubs fans

(Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
(Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images) /

The fact the Chicago Cubs were poised to be midseason sellers once again in 2022 was never seriously in question. The discussion now, though, has shifted to just who exactly Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins will jettison in the name of ‘building the next great Cubs team.’

If you ask Jon Heyman, there are three players he specifically could see the team moving: outfielder Ian Happ, catcher Willson Contreras and right-hander Marcus Stroman.

"“I see the Cubs as a seller, with some pieces to sell,” he said on Tuesday. “I don’t think they’ll sell (Kyle) Hendricks, but I could see (Ian) Happ potentially, I could see (Marcus) Stroman, and certainly the catcher. That will be a big one, Willson Contreras has hit very well…”"

Trading Contreras, who seems well on his way to the third All-Star selection of his career, has felt like a foregone conclusion for months, despite his stellar play. As Heyman (and countless others) have noted, there has been next to no traction as far as extension talks go and given the league-wide downturn in offense, the Cubs are in a perfect position to sell high on their backstop.

You can make the argument for doing the same and selling high on Happ, who enters action Tuesday with a 114 OPS+ on the year. He’s been woefully cold of late, so time could be a factor, but he’s a switch-hitter capable of playing in the infield and outfield with another year of team control. The thought Chicago would openly field inquiries on the former first-rounder should hardly come as a surprise.

Cubs will need Marcus Stroman if they want to contend in 2023, 2024

Which brings us back to Stroman, the Cubs’ marquee offseason signing. After a couple of rocky starts early this year, he’s settled in nicely. Over his last five starts, the right-hander boasts a 1.90 ERA and 2.80 FIP and has limited opponents to a .187/.221/.252 slash line. He’s been every bit the ace the team expected him to be when they handed him a two-year, $50 million deal with an option for 2024.

We knew the first year of this deal was unlikely to end with Stroman taking the ball in front of a packed Wrigley Field come October. You could look at this roster coming out of camp and come to that conclusion. But his signing was billed as proof this wasn’t going to be another long, drawn-out rebuild on the North Side similar to what we experienced a decade ago.

A trade of Stroman ahead of the Aug. 2 deadline would fly in the face of that, emphatically waving a white flag when the fan base is already irate over what many perceive to be a small-market mindset coming from the front office and ownership.

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If this team wants any hopes of contending in 2023, they’ll need Stroman at his best – not playing for another club. Re-stocking the farm system and building with an eye on sustainable success is one thing. Trading your most reliable starting pitcher when you’ve battled inconsistency with almost every other arm in the rotation is something altogether different.