5 Trades the Chicago Cubs should make at the deadline if they continue to struggle

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Trade 2: The Chicago Cubs trade RHP Michael Fulmer and INF Edwin Rios to the Texas Rangers for INF Thomas Saggese and INF Maximo Acosta

Michael Fulmer has frustrated Cubs fans for much of the season. His continued trust in his cutter against David Peralta in the Dodgers series to start the year reminded me of Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn in Major League 2. But the Vaughn from the beginning of the movie when he sucked and Parkman hit a 5,000-foot home run off of him, not the Vaughn at the end of the movie that had his velocity back and struck Parkman out. 

The only way this trade makes sense is if Fulmer has a Vaughnian comeback and rediscovers the movement on that pitch. If he can do that and can get the expected outcomes to finally align with the on-field results then the Cubs have the ability to take advantage of a Rangers team in contention for a playoff spot with a terrible bullpen outside of LHP Will Smith

Right now Fulmer carries a 7.58 ERA over 19 innings and has only converted one out of three save opportunities. That doesn’t look like a player that is worthy of a bag of baseballs, much less two top-30 prospects in a good Rangers system. That being said, Fulmer has been unlucky, to say the least. 

He has a .385 BABIP which is significantly higher than his .293 career average. He has a strand rate of 54.3% which is significantly lower than his 71.5% career average. Basically what that means is that hitters are getting on base against Fulmer in a way that shouldn’t be expected to continue and to exacerbate problems, when they get on base Fulmer has had a more difficult time getting out of the inning than he’s had before. I don’t expect that to continue, and baseball is very much a “what have you done for me lately” kind of game, so if he can string together a month’s worth of strong outings then the suitors should line up. 

The other piece the Cubs would be including here would be a good left-handed bench bat with playoff pedigree in the form of Edwin Rios. It won’t help the trade value that the Cubs chose to send him to AAA instead of DFA’ing Eric Hosmer earlier this season, but if the Cubs can get him some meaningful at-bats over the next couple of weeks he could be a nice cherry on top to a trade like this.

In return, the Cubs would receive two infielders from a system known for developing major league-caliber players in that area. While MLB Pipeline has Thomas Saggese as the higher-rated prospect (15), the crown jewel of this deal (and the piece the Rangers are unlikely to want to move) would be Maximo Acosta (25). 

Acosta signed for $1.65 million out of Venezuela in 2019 and his profile had scouts salivating. After a couple of down seasons while playing as one of the youngest players at each level due to an aggressive promotion strategy the Rangers are known to employ, he’s found his footing this year. At the time of writing, Acosta is hitting .281/.336/.430 as a 20-year-old at High A, more than two years younger than the average player in the South Atlantic League. He’s found his power, as he’s hit as many home runs in 32 games this year (4), as he hit in 108 games last year, and he’s also stolen bases significantly more efficiently going 10-11 on the base paths. 

Thomas Saggese is in a similar position to Acosta even if he joined the system in a very different way. Saggese was drafted in the 5th round of the COVID-shortened 2020 draft and has also been moved through the system extremely aggressively, finishing the 2022 season at AA, more than four years younger than the average player at the level. He hasn’t been overmatched there this year as he’s slashed .296/.343/.428. He strikes out more than you want to see and has more of doubles power than home run power, but he’s a solid player and would be a tremendous high-floor return in this deal.