For the third straight year, the Chicago Cubs are staring down another big sell-off at the trade deadline. The National League Central may be struggling to produce a true frontrunner, but the Cubs haven't stayed particularly close in this race at 6.5 games back. It's getting late quickly and the rumors are already starting to heat up about which players will leave the Friendly Confines come August.
The Cubs are in a difficult spot this time around. While they've played themselves into the realm of selling, it's also crucial that they turn the page quickly as they should be exiting this rebuild sooner rather than later. With that in mind, whatever moves they make need to consider how to stock up the farm without necessarily creating too many holes for next year.
Let's look at three trade rumors that need to be shut down before they gain too much traction.
1. Adbert Alzolay could be an attractive piece for contending teams
The Cubs are almost certainly going to make some relief trades assuming they remain firmly out of contention. It might not seem like they have a ton to offer considering how rough their bullpen has been in 2023, but there are a few pieces that could be dangled for other teams.
Enter Adbert Alzolay. The former top pitching prospect has taken very well to a relief role, sporting a pristine 2.10 ERA with a very solid 2.54 FIP to boot. By and large, he's been the team's relief ace alongside Mark Leiter Jr. and Julian Merryweather of late, becoming one of their most reliable choices in high-leverage situations.
The issue with trading him, however, is control. He won't be a free agent until 2027 and, while that opens up the possibility of a sizable return, he could be a very valuable arm out of the bullpen for years to come. A trade of that kind isn't out of the realm for the Cubs - Scott Effross was shipped off last year for Hayden Wesneski in part because Jed Hoyer had faith in the team's ability to build relief squads from scratch. This year, however, proved the Cubs aren't infallible in that regard. Keegan Thompson, Brandon Hughes, Jeremiah Estrada, Michael Fulmer, and Brad Boxberger have all massively struggled despite seeming like key pieces.
There needs to be someone who can be relied on to miss bats at the back end and Alzolay has been that arm for the past two years. It would do the Cubs much better to keep him around for the long haul to stabilize the bullpen.