This high-octane closer should be on every Cubs fan's trade deadline watch list

The Chicago Cubs need a shutdown arm to close games. The Oakland Athletics have one.
Oakland Athletics v New York Yankees
Oakland Athletics v New York Yankees / Rich Schultz/GettyImages

The Chicago Cubs are off to an impressive start to begin the 2024 campaign. With injuries to the starting rotation, lineup and bullpen, the team has managed to record wins and stay a respectable margin above .500 thus far. One area of concern that single-handedly has kept the Cubs out of first place in the National League Central, though, is the back end of the bullpen. Enter Mason Miller of the Oakland Athletics.

Before digging into the numbers, it's important to note that the Cubs blew a staggering six saves through April and only converted save opportunities at a 57 percent clip. Adbert Alzolay, who opened the year as the team's ninth-inning man, has been ineffective almost from the go which has left a huge hole in the late innings.

Miller immediately makes the Cubs a top-tier team in the National League, should his services be acquired by the trade deadline from the A's. The 25-year-old righty currently boasts an impressive 1.35 ERA, with eight saves on the young season, and also sports an incredible 18.9 K/9, or 28 strikeouts in his 13.1 IP.

Selected 97th overall in the third round of the 2021 draft, Miller is quickly becoming one of the elite closers in the game, with a fastball topping out as high as 102 MPH. He currently ranks in the 100th percentile in xERA, xBA, fastball velocity, whiff percentage and K percentage, and also ranks in the 99th percentile of hard-hit percentage allowed, according to Baseball Savant.

Mason Miller fortifies the Cubs bullpen and makes them a contender

If Oakland makes Miller available, given the plethora of talent they would receive for his services and the fact he won't be a free agent until 2030, the Cubs will be the best fit for multiple reasons.

Jed Hoyer and the Cubs have a recent history of working with Oakland via trade. More importantly, though, they have the prospect currency to pull off a move such as this. Frankly, they need a true closer more than any other team looking to contend this season. If you're at home crunching the numbers, simply adding Miller at the deadline will still keep the Cubs under the luxury tax threshold, which will put a smile on the face of Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts.

The hard part here will be twisting Oakland's arm hard enough to make him available. Given what is sure to be an astronomical asking price, it may be too tempting for the Athletics to say 'no'. By then, the Cubs should have a better idea of which prospects they are willing to part ways with. If Justin Steele comes back strong from his hamstring injury, and guys like Cade Horton quickly emerge, the Cubs may be able to put all their eggs in one basket at the deadline for a closer without the need to add to the rotation.

Shota Imanaga, Justin Steele, Jameson Taillon and Javier Assad have all been solid, so if Jed Hoyer only needs to focus on one area of improvement this summer, it eliminates depleting the farm while also solidifying the team at the major league level. Landing a closer of Miller's caliber via trade is precisely the mentality the Cubs need to have at the deadline if they wish to compete late into October.

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