Marcus Stroman and Cody Bellinger continued to do their part to help the Cubs close the gap in the NL Central and also raise their respective trade values on Saturday against the Red Sox, with the former hitting a grand slam, his third homer in two games, and the latter turning in six innings of one-run ball on the mound.
Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins are going to wait as long as possible before committing to a direction, either buying or selling, at month's end. But should they sell for the third straight summer, they'll face no shortage of suitors for their top two trade chips.
According to USA Today's Bob Nightengale, you can add the reigning World Series champion Houston Astros to a growing list of clubs that have already contacted the Cubs about Stroman and Bellinger.
Astros could make big splash with a Cody Bellinger or Marcus Stroman trade
The Astros have battled a number of issues in their starting rotation and adding Stroman alongside Framber Valdez would solidify the staff, especially looking ahead at potential postseason series. Houston starters rank fourth in the American League in ERA on the year, but, as the old addage goes, you can't ever have too much pitching.
With his latest start, Stroman once again leads all MLB starters with 15 quality starts on the year, lowering his ERA to 2.88, the ninth-lowest mark in the Senior Circuit. With an extension with the Cubs prior to the deadline out of the question, whether or not he closes out the season on the North Side depends almost entirely on how the team plays over the next two weeks.
As for Bellinger, there are few hitters hotter in the league right now. Over the last 30 days, his .367 average ranks fourth in all baseball among qualified hitters. In the last 15 days, his 1.356 OPS trails only Dodgers All-Star outfielder Mookie Betts. He's been on an absolute tear since coming back from the IL, not only picking up where he left off prior to the knee injury, but taking his performance to new levels.
Given his age (he just turned 28 this week), Bellinger is setting himself to be the biggest bat out on the free agent market this winter. Throw in the fact he's a well above-average base runner and elite defender and you can easily see this guy throwing his hat back in the ring for another MVP run in the future.
Adding Bellinger's bat to a lineup that has lacked the firepower it has had in recent years, evidenced by an OPS that ranks 14th in the league would go a long way toward helping Houston regain the top spot in the American League West. Given how badly Houston wants to add left-handed pop and versatility, he could wind up checking every box in one bold move.