Chicago Cubs Rumors: Mason Miller is not the only player of interest in Oakland

The Chicago Cubs didn't sell at the 2023 trade deadline and that was considered aggressive. In 2024 the Cubs need to step up that aggression and buy early.
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The two players the Cubs need to target are RHP Lucas Erceg and OF/DH Brent Rooker.

Both players are under contract for the foreseeable future, with Erceg not even arbitration-eligible until after the 2025 season and Rooker under team control through 2027. Beyond that, both players are only 29 years old, so they match the timetable that the Cubs are focusing on for contention.

Individually, Erceg is interesting beyond his five years of team control. He has only been used exclusively as a pitcher since the 2022 season and he’s improved every year. This season he’s carrying a 2.86 ERA with 27 strikeouts in 22 innings as a setup man. The Cubs have had trouble in the 9th inning this season, but they’ve also had a tremendous amount of difficulty even bridging the gap between their exceptional starting pitching and a potential appearance for the closer and Erceg would help alleviate that issue, though it is worth noting that Erceg recently hit the Injured List with a forearm strain.

Rooker would be beneficial in that he would instantly slot into the Cubs lineup with the highest qualified OPS (.921) of anyone on the roster by more than 100 points. There’s the obvious downside that the Cubs would either have to continue to watch Christopher Morel’s less-than-impressive defense at third base, or relegate one of their outfielders to the bench in order to get Rooker at-bats but at this point in the season the offense needs a jolt, and Rooker has the ability to provide it. 

Cubs receive: RHP Lucas Erceg and OF/DH Brent Rooker
Athletics receive: OF Alexander Canario, 3B BJ Murray and RHP Michael Arias

For a trade like this to go through the Cubs likely wouldn’t have to throw the kitchen sink in a deal. 

It’s worth remembering that not all farm systems are created equally. When a trade includes the Atlanta Braves' top prospect (AJ Smith Shawver who is number 56 on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 prospect list), he’s the equivalent of the Cubs' number five prospect (James Triantos who is number 58) because the Cubs have a significantly deeper and higher-end farm system than almost any team in the league. 

This deal includes the Cubs' 9th and 11th best prospects as well as Canario who has exhausted prospect eligibility. Both Murray and Canario have the ability to come up and play for the A’s this season and Arias has the kind of profile that the A’s could build into a reliever of Erceg’s caliber.

The deal also sends two players from the Cubs that are currently on the 40-man roster in Canario and Arias so the team wouldn’t have to make a corresponding move to clear roster space after the deal.

The Cubs can’t be sellers this year, but they also can’t afford to stand pat. Last year’s “aggressive” move was trading for Jeimer Candelario hours before the trade deadline passed.

This division is very winnable, but it will be won by the team that goes and takes it. If the Cubs want to be that time it’s time to actually be aggressive.