Chicago Cubs Trade Rumors

With the July 31st trade deadline quickly approaching, the trade rumors have really started to heat up all around MLB. The majority of the rumors surrounding the Cubs center on the acquisition of a starting pitcher and potentially a center fielder, preferably a lefty or switch hitter. Tons of names are being thrown about. Let's kick off Towel Drills's trade rumors coverage right now by looking at 2 of the top SP names being linked with the Cubs:

C.C. Sabathia: Nobody is being talked about more right now in terms of being traded than Sabathia. This one, like most of these guys, is going to depend on how his current team fares over the next couple weeks as to whether or not he'll be traded.

Current Team: The Cleveland Indians currently sit at 35-41, 7 games back of the White Sox and well out of the wild card as well. Baseball Prospectus's Playoff Odds Report (see link in sidebar, at left) currently gives the Indians about a 4.77% chance of making the playoffs. And things ain't lookin' good for the tribe. SP Jake Westbrook is out for the year following Tommy John surgery. SP Fausto Carmona on the 15 dayer. That's 2/5 of their starting rotatio n. Not to mention that Travis "Pronk" Hafner (greatest nickname ever) is also riding pine on the 15 with a right shoulder and perennial All-Star Victor Martinez just had right elbow surgery that will keep him down for 6-8 weeks.

VMart was a huge blow for this club. Trying to track down the Sox, as well as the Twins (shouldn't be a problem if they were healthy) and the surging Tigers (who would be) will not be easy. And it might not be possible. GM Mark Shapiro is about as good as they come. He sees the writing on the wall here. I think he does in fact move Sabathia before the deadline.

Contract Situation: Sabathia is currently in year 2 of his 2 year/ $17.75M contract. He'll be a free agent at the end of the year and will almost certainly test the free agency waters irregardless of what goes down here in trade season. The Indians have stated that they will not be providing a window for an acquiring team to negotiate a contract extension with the hefty lefty. So whomever lands him, it's going to be a 2-3 month rental situation.

The Numbers: CC is currently 5-8 on the year in 16 GS and 106.1 IPs with a 4.06 ERA, 107 Ks, 30 BBs, and a 14.8 VORP (44th among all pitchers). Baseball Prospectus predicted before the season that Sabathia would make 32 starts, going 15-8 with 181 Ks to 54 BBs, a 3.42 ERA, a 1.20 WHIP, and a 50.9 VORP (3rd amongst all pitchers). He is, quite simply, the best SP expected to be available based purely on ability.

The Competition: The Tribe is said to have scouts out looking at prospects from about 8 teams. The Cubs appear to be one of them. Per ESPN's Buster Olney on Saturday, depending on if these teams are in contention in the next couple of weeks, the teams that Sabathia is likely to go to are, in order: 1. Brewers, 2. Cubs, 3. Dodgers, 4. Rangers, 5. Red So x. The Yankees are said to be out of the running at this point, despite the injury to Chen-Ming Wang.

The Cost: Per the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Indians will likely be looking for 2 or 3 near MLB ready talents for their ace. Pitching out, pitching in. The Indians will almost certainly require 1, if not 2, of our best SP prospects. That means Marshall and/or Gallagher. Along with them, they'll likely ask for a guy like Eric Patterson or Ronny Cedeno or maybe even hope the Cubs sell low on Felix Pie. We can try and dangle a Matt Murton or Rich Hill, but neither of them are likely to bring much at this point. Micha Hoffpauir probably also carries some value, as will some younger of the Cubs top prospects like Donnie Veal, Tyler Colvin, and maybe even Josh Vitters. We'd basically have to lose at least 3 of our best prospe cts to make this go.

Thoughts: Too expensive for me. I'm probably in the minority here, but I'm not freaking out about the Cubs starting pitching situation. Zambrano is Zambrano and his shoulder doesn't seem like it will pose any sort of threat. Ryan Dempster has been off the chain all season-just see his start tonight against the Sox for all the evidence you need there. Granted he could tire down the stretch not being accustomed to the higher number of IPs as a starter, but he has looked damn impressive all year. Lilly and Marquis have been inconsistent, but both continue to improve and on certain days look really good. Add in some combo of the Seans (Marshall and Gallahger) and you've got 6 solid options. In the playoffs, you can get by with 3 regular starters. Add in our outstanding bullpen and I'm not sure what the big deal is.

That said, I get it. This is a speical season. These don't come around every day (see 1909-2007 seasons). The Cubs are, and should be, in win now mode. Is it worth selling out the majority of your farm system to land a 2 month rental at SP? I don't know. I don't think so, but I'm not sure. I'd love to have Sabathia, but not at the price he'll command. I do want to win, and win this year, but I'm not sure leveraging everything for what amounts to a SP lottery ticket is the way to do it.

A.J. Burnett: Likely the 2nd best available SP with a 2 letter nickname, A.J. Burnett says he wants to be a Cub.

Current Team: The Toronto Blue Jays are currently in last place in the AL East. Their 36-41 record only gets them within 10.5 games of Boston. BP's Playoff Odds Report gives them a whopping 2.75% chance of making the playoffs this year.

Contract Situation: Burnett signed a 5 year $55M deal in 2006. The deal runs thru 2010 and still has $30M sitting on it. Additionally, Burnett has an opt-out clause after 2008 and has a limited no-trade clause. Oh...and his deal says his wife gets 8 limo round trips for his wife between Toronto and his Maryland home per year. (No word on whether Burnett is married to John Madden). The no-trade doesn't seem to be a problem here. And I wouldn't think Burnett would opt-out of this deal were he to get dealt to the Cubs. Maybe he would if he had to stay in Toronto, but sounds like he wants to be in Chicago and I doubt he'd get more money anywhere if he did opt out.

The Numbers: Burnett is 6-7 thru 15 GS and 91.1 IPs. He carries a 5.42 ERA with 90 Ks to 46 BBs and has a VORP of -1.8 (not good, the negative number meaning any average "replacement player" would be better...we have plenty of those already). BP had Burnett ranked as the 20th best SP heading into the season and projected a 34.7 VORP season.

The Competition: The Brewers are scouting Burnett (do the Brew Crew know something about their team that we don't?) as are the Phillies.

The Cost: Not near as much as Sabathia, but still not cheap. There's no dobut that Burnett is a very talented pitcher. He carries plenty of baggage, but the talent has always been there. Again, I'll assume we'll lose at least 1 of Gallagher/Marshall/Hill and we'll probably have to part with a position prospect. Probably not EPat here, but Ronny Cedeno would be a fit for the Jays and their middle infield needs. A guy like Hoffpauir could provide value at DH for them down the road. The Cubs may have to throw in a prospect, but probably none of the other younger, top prospects in the system.

Thoughts: Not a fan of this one either. Burnett, for one, hasn't been pitching well this year. He's clearly unhappy in Toronto, so I'll cut him some slack, but he's not the pitcher he used to be before he signed his huge $55 M deal. Also, the guy is a bit of a timebomb in a few senses. First, check out this list of injuries and "incidents." Not a very good history for this player. Second, the way his contract is structured could prove dangerous, and expensive, for any club acquiring him. Let's say a team gets Burnett in July. He pitches for a couple months, the team goes to the playoffs, he doesn't perform well and neither does the team, tensions arise...then what? Burnett opts out of his deal and you just overpaid for a guy you wouldn't likely have taken on as a rental. Or...Burnett lives up to his injury history, pitches 2 starts, blows something out, then doesn't opt out of his deal and the club is stuck with him at $12M per for the next 2 years. Dangerous. Too dangerous. I'm hoping the Cubs take a pass here as well.

Comment (1)


June 23, 2008 at 9:42 AM

Love the objective breakdown, TD. Opinions are fine and good, but TD comes through with hard stats and analysis day in/day out. That being said, throw reason out the window and sell the farm!! We're talking friggin' CC Sabathia here!!

I'm also hearing a lot of scuttlebutt for Rich Harden. Don't know what he would require.