It hasn’t been easy being a Cubs fan this winter and it’s quite possible things will become a little tougher before they start to get better. Rumors surfaced over the weekend that the Blue Jays and Cubs have engaged in talks regarding a trade for Kris Bryant that would include Kyle Hendricks. Were that to happen, it would leave the Cubs with just two veteran starters who have at least 20 career starts: Zach Davies and Shelby Miller.
Before I talk about the potential trade, let’s assume Jed Hoyer is counting on Miller a little more than the organization has let on. It’s been a while since the 30-year-old righty has been an effective pitcher and you’d have to go all the way back to the 2013-15 seasons to find a version of Miller that actually belongs in a major league rotation. Because he has been ineffective and/or injured for the last five years, the Cubs will pay their new starter just $875,000 if he makes the big league roster, with another $600,000 available in bonus money.
In a rotation that realistically sits three deep right now, the veteran has a clear path to a slot in Chicago’s rotation. It would be folly to think the Cubs might get 160 innings out of Adbert Alzolay, so even if he makes the team as a fifth starter, manager David Ross will need reinforcements as the season progresses. Miller, who was a member of the Brewers in 2020 but sat out due to COVID-19, made 24 appearances (12 starts) for the Diamondbacks and Rangers in 2018 and 2019, posting a 9.15 ERA and 1.98 WHIP over 60 innings during that time.
Hoyer, who insisted the Cubs make a trade for Jake Arrieta back in 2013 when the new president of baseball operations worked beneath Theo Epstein, might see something he likes in Miller. It’s probably also unlikely that the veteran would accept a minor league assignment. Time will tell, and I’m not suggesting the underwhelming signing represents some sort of coup, but until the games start we have to acknowledge that Hoyer at least has a clean slate.
Because Chicago has such a thin staff, it hardly makes sense that the front office would consider packaging Hendricks in a trade to the Blue Jays or anybody else. I don’t have a lot of baseball insider contacts, but I do have a couple (one is a former scout while the other works for the Brewers), and both have indicated to me that talks between the Cubs and Blue Jays are not dead, and that yes, Hendricks could be part of any deal should the two front offices agree to make a deal.
Both said the Cubs would have to offset part of Bryant’s salary, which previous reports have stated is a non-starter. If Hoyer refuses to pay down part of the third baseman’s salary, he’d likely have to take a veteran on a bad contract in return. Tanner Roark best fits that description; he has one year and $12 million remaining on his contract and would give Chicago another much-needed rotation piece.
If Hoyer is also seeking to trade Willson Contreras in a separate deal, perhaps to the Mets, Angels, or Phillies, he could ask the Blue Jays for one of Danny Jansen, Reese McGuire, or Alejandro Kirk. As far as minor league prospects Hoyer would want, it’s difficult to determine. He’s probably not going to want anybody on Toronto’s 40-man roster, so forget about highly-touted pitching prospect Nate Pearson, and it’s unlikely the Blue Jays would include him anyway.
The players Hoyer may seek, according to my sources and based on what appears to be a desire to strengthen the farm system with young, high-ceiling players, may include three or four of the following: Jordan Groshans, a shortstop with the potential to move to third base; right-handed pitchers Simeon Woods Richardson, Adam Kloffenstein, or Alek Manoah; and outfielder Dason Brown (scouting report), who has solid contact skills with some projectable power and 80-grade speed. Both mentioned Austin Martin (scouting report), Toronto’s No. 2 prospect, but I think that might be a bit of a stretch.
It still seems unlikely the Cubs would part with Hendricks, but considering the team’s current affairs and based on the Yu Darvish trade, it’s somewhat sad that the rumor can’t be tossed aside as pure speculation.
Cubs News & Notes
- Whether Hendricks is attached to him or not, Bryant leads the list of players that could still potentially be traded before spring training starts.
- The success of Hank Aaron, as well as the adulation he received from Braves fans in Milwaukee, spurred the Cubs to sign Ernie Banks in 1953.
- Banks, known affectionately as “Mr. Cub,” may have the greatest Cubs nickname ever, though I’d nominate “King Kong Klutz, which is what my Dad called Dave Kingman. I always liked “Shooter” Rod Beck.
- You can forgive Cubs fans for thinking the current state of the organization reminds them a little too much of the first few years under chairman Tom Ricketts.
- The $1.5 million deal that Austin Romine agreed to represents the largest free agent signing by a NL Central team this winter.
- The Cubs fared very well in International Free Agency this year, a class that includes potential star Cristian Hernandez. Louie Eljaua, the team’s international director, is really excited about all of the players the Cubs have signed.
Odds & Sods
I’ve not once thought of LaTroy Hawkins as someone who belongs in baseball’s Hall of Fame and I don’t think a case can be made for his inclusion.
Why I voted for LaTroy Hawkins on my Baseball Hall of Fame ballot https://t.co/nsjMLKGJ6s
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) January 25, 2021
In an effort to add major league players to a relatively inexperienced outfield, the Giants are reportedly interested in Eddie Rosario and Jackie Bradley Jr.
Based on the moves the Pirates have made over the past 6-8 years, maybe it’s best if baseball considered the franchise for contraction.
Out of Left Field
Derek Holland has this morning’s hottest take.
New Detroit Tigers left-hander Derek Holland on manager AJ Hinch: "I don't care about the scandal, all that bullshit. That stuff is over. He already dealt with that. It's time to focus on the new chapter." pic.twitter.com/aAAdHQpAow
— Evan Petzold (@EvanPetzold) January 24, 2021
Aaron forced America to change its views of Black athletes. Unfortunately, the country still has a long way to go.
You might not know that Hank Aaron broke a baseball color barrier: https://t.co/0i0Kz3RaKJ
— Anthony Castrovince (@castrovince) January 25, 2021
They Said It
- “I think we’re going to have a really competitive team next year. But do we need to make some moves with the future in mind after six years of every single move being directed on the present? Yes.” – Jed Hoyer
Monday Walk Up Song
The Spirit of Radio by Rush – Formulaic and mercenary, just like recent trade speculation, FM album-oriented radio was the best vehicle to discover something new in the 1970s and ’80s. If there is a parallel to what Hoyer is trying to accomplish this winter, perhaps this song is it.