The Chicago Cubs are likely to be major players this winter, both in free agency and on the trade front. Which avenue they wind up going down to add a badly-needed ace to the rotation remains to be seen, but you can count on Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins being connected, at least in some degree, to pretty much every high-end arm out there this offseason.
On Monday, I hand-picked two names I believe Chicago has no shot at signing in free agency in Clayton Kershaw and Jacob deGrom. I think, because of his age, Justin Verlander is an unlikely target, as well. Those three alone represent arguably the top of the free agent crop of arms, which leads me to believe the Cubs might explore the trade route instead.
A hypothetical match, at least on paper, could be the Miami Marlins, a team that is poised to ‘explore pitching-for-hitting trades’ this winter. According to the Miami Herald, there are just two untouchables among Miami’s overflowing group of arms: likely NL Cy Young finalist Sandy Alcantara and prospect Eury Perez.
Now, before we sort through some of the names that could be available, it’s important to acknowledge right away that none of them are in the same league as a Verlander or deGrom (although few are). That being said, adding young, impactful, controllable starting pitching is never a bad thing – and the Marlins have a combination of that in their organization.
The type of arm you’d like the Cubs to grab is Alcantara, who has a 7.0 bWAR and a league-leading 2.13 ERA across 185 2/3 innings this year. The cost would, rightfully so, be astronomical. But the Marlins aren’t moving off this guy – period.
Cubs: Looking at a potential trade partner in the Miami Marlins
Looking past their big right-hander, you see names like Edward Cabrera, who dazzled in the month of August until he ran into the buzzsaw that is the Dodgers offense his last time out. I actually watched that outing and, boy, Los Angeles hit him hard early and often. Still, a sub-2.00 ERA this month is nothing to sneeze at.
On the year, Cabrera carries a 2.45 ERA – but due to injuries, he’s made a total of just 15 starts since the beginning of last year. The stuff is there, but you’re taking a big risk betting on him staying healthy long-term, despite his having team control through 2027.
Pablo Lopez, to me at least, is a quality middle-of-the-rotation starter on a team with legitimate postseason aspirations. He’s not the guy you hand the ball to in Game 1 or with your season on the line. He’s tossed a career-high 146 innings on the season, working to a 3.64 ERA/3.76 FIP. He’s got two years of control remaining and the asking price is very high.
Lastly, let’s touch on Trevor Rogers, who will head into his age-25 season in 2023. Last year, this kid looked like the real deal, earning his first All-Star nod and finishing runner-up to Jonathan India in NL Rookie of the Year voting. This year, though, everything’s gone wrong for the former 13th overall selection, with his ERA soaring to 5.85 and WHIP climbing to north of 1.500. The Cubs aren’t looking for rotation depth given their reloaded farm system – they need front-end arms and, while Rogers may regain that form, he hasn’t shown it this year.
All this to say, yes, there could be scenarios where the Cubs and Marlins align in a trade – but Chicago isn’t going to find their ace in a trade with Miami.