Don't look now, but the Cubs are the owners of an MLB-best five-game win streak heading into Thursday's series opener against St. Louis. Now just one game under .500 at 50-51, Chicago could cement their place as buyers heading into next week's trade deadline if they can keep rolling this weekend at Busch Stadium.
The team they just swept after stunningly coming from behind and bailing out Marcus Stroman on Wednesday, the White Sox, made headlines after the game, trading Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez to the Angels in exchange for Los Angeles' top two prospects. The South Siders may not be done (almost certainly aren't done, really) - and the Cubs could be a fit in a trade, specifically when it comes to relievers.
Cubs will likely make fringe upgrades, even as trade deadline buyers
In Patrick Mooney's latest over at The Athletic, he singles out a trio of White Sox veterans: Joe Kelly, Aaaron Bummer and Kendall Graveman. While the Cubs bullpen has leveled off quite a bit since it's erratic up-and-down start to the year, it's clear this team could stand to add some depth out there - specifically from the left side with someone like Bummer.
As Mooney points out, Bummer could have long-term value to the Cubs, as well, given he's under team control through 2026. None of the three have been particularly impressive so far in 2023, but I have more faith in the Cubs tapping into what has made each successful prior in their respective careers than I do in the White Sox as an organization.
Despite his ineffectiveness on Wednesday, Kelly has elite stuff, with a fastball that runs into the triple digits and a curveball with a spin rate in the 95th percentile. My guess is the Cubs would tweak his pitch mix and lean on that fastball a little more if they acquired him, but we'll have to see how it all plays out.
Looking past Chicago city limits, Mooney has his eye on Rockies first baseman CJ Cron, who has been on a tear since coming back from injury with a .949 OPS and a 158 wRC+. A free agent at season's end, the veteran, at least in theory, could provide dramatically improved production at first base, a position the Cubs have flailed at all season long, despite a revolving door of players there.
Cron belted 59 home runs and slugged .496 from 2021-22, earning an All-Star selection last season. Making just $7.25 million in the final year of his contract, he'd be more than affordable dollars-wise and wouldn't command much in terms of a prospect return, either. If you keep hearing his name, there's a reason: he checks all the boxes, both in terms of addressing the Cubs' needs and feasibility.