Trade 4: The Chicago Cubs trade OF Cody Bellinger and C Tucker Barnhart to the San Diego Padres for RHP Dylan Lesko
This one is probably not going to happen but hear me out.
We’ll start from the perspective of the Cubs and why they’d want to ship Bellinger and Barnhart out. The simple answer is that they have really good players knocking on the door that could play those positions and the Cubs should want to get those guys some playing time sooner rather than later.
The argument could be made that Miguel Amaya needs considerably more seasoning at AAA before getting back to the majors due to all of the lost seasons he’s had in his career. The argument could also be made that Pete Crow-Armstrong and Brennen Davis have not torn the cover off of the ball at AA or AAA respectively and you’d like to see that before dealing a former MVP to clear a spot for them. The argument could even be made that Davis shouldn’t even factor in this decision as he has struggled with strikeouts, injuries, and generally, poor at-bats that have led to him failing to have a slash line better than .189/.310/.298 since 2021. To that, I say look no further than Nick Pratto of the Kansas City Royals. To start the season in AAA he was hitting .159/.259/.319. Somehow that warranted a callup and all he’s done since then is hit .321/.409/.469; sometimes you need a change of scenery and organizational belief in your talent.
As for why the Padres would want Bellinger and Barnhart, it’s like an onion because there are layers to it. On the outside, the easy answer is that Cody Bellinger is a former MVP that plays gold glove defense in center field and has a power/speed combination that makes him an impact player anywhere in the lineup. The next layer is that Trent Grisham has been borderline unplayable, even at the bottom of the Padres lineup, especially against right-handed pitching. The final, and potentially non-insignificant layer, is that this would irritate the Dodgers and Dodgers’ fans. The Padres are the younger sibling in California right now and no matter how badly they want to be mentioned in the same conversation as the Dodgers, they simply aren’t that team yet. Taking a player from the Cubs that had such a storied, if brief, career with the Dodgers would be the icing on the proverbial cake in this deal.
Barnhart represents another defensive upgrade for a team with playoff aspirations. There can never be too many good players on a roster with the hopes of making a deep run and giving the flexibility to pinch-hit for Austin Nola when the Padres think it’s necessary is what good teams have the ability to do.
In return, the Cubs will receive the single highest upside prospect that I’m writing about in this article. Prior to the draft last summer Dylan Lesko was considered by many to be the best pitching prospect available and potentially the best player in the draft. Unfortunately, his elbow proved why it’s impossible to ever truly trust a pitching prospect and he had to have Tommy John surgery in April of 2022. The Padres are the kind of team that never shy away from risk if the potential is there and they scooped up Lesko with the 15th pick in the draft.
The Cubs currently have pitchers like Ben Brown, Jordan Wicks, Cade Horton, Caleb Kilian, and Hayden Wesneski that could make an impact at the major league level soon, but Lesko would likely instantly become the highest-rate pitching prospect in the system with the only pitcher that may match his upside in the system being Jackson Ferris.