Cubs: Trading Rafael Ortega should be considered at this juncture

(Photo by Matt Dirksen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Matt Dirksen/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Cubs have a lot of players coming off the IL in the near future. Jonathan Villar, Seiya Suzuki and David Bote are all set to return very soon while Alec Mills just pitched for the first time this year against the Orioles on Tuesday. With young players like Christopher Morel coming up and proving themselves at the major league level, it all makes for a massive roster crunch as the Cubs look to determine who’s worthy of a spot.

One way the Cubs can somewhat brace for the coming roster crunch is to ship off veteran Rafael Ortega. After a rough start, the lefty has proven to be decently productive with a 110 OPS+. Across the past 25 games, he has a very solid slash line of .320/.411/.440, bringing him somewhat in line with his performance from last year. He’s also been an on-base machine, posting a walk rate nearly five percent above league average.

At a glance, trading Ortega may seem like an odd suggestion. He’s out of minor league options, but he’s also still under team control until 2027 and has proven to be a decent player in the outfield. Off the bench for a contending team, he would prove a solid asset and with the Cubs hoping to quickly come out of a rebuild, that kind of depth is also important.

With all that said, he’s in his age 31 season and projections still see him as a rather unspectacular player overall with ZiPS and Steamer rating him around league average in wRC+. Moreover, with younger players that still need regular playing time to prove themselves (*cough cough* Clint Frazier), it’s not the worst thing in the world to flip him to a team for prospects and create space for players that could have a longer-term role on a competitive Cubs team.

Trading Rafael Ortega could give Cubs value while mitigating roster crunch

Getting any sort of value while still clearing space would be a win for the Cubs. Ortega, between his solid production and multiple years of team control, has at least some value to a team in need of some extra depth. He’s still useful in a platoon role, posting a .757 OPS against righties this year after torching them for a .900 OPS in 2021. For a borderline team like the Braves, whose production in the outfield and against righties has lagged, that might be an enticing offer.

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Of course, trading Ortega is merely one solution to the crunch and the issue of playing guys like Frazier. It may be wise to finally cut ties with Jason Heyward to clear a spot or looked around the roster for different players to option. That said, there’s no better time to consider trading a veteran like Ortega, whose future with the team is already murky, than now when his value is on full display.