With the trade deadline quickly approaching, the Cubs are not outright World Series favorites, but they are in the mix. Who could be the piece that the North Siders need to set their squad over the top and help them break away from the Brewers in the NL Central? Spoiler; it is not Manny Machado.
The Cubs are currently 52-37 and a game and a half behind the Brew Crew, but are 9-2 since June 28 and playing good baseball against every team in the MLB except the Cincinnati Reds. They’ve produced 104 runs so far this season, which is the most of any team. Their offense has seemed to abandon its inconsistent ways of early in the season, between June 28 and July 1, the Cubs scored at least 10 runs in four straight games. Their offense leads the NL in runs, batting average and on-base percentage. If the Chicago Cubs are going to make one move that sets them over the top and brings magic to the lineup reminiscent to the 2016 season, it’s going to be a pitcher.
Yu Darvish has not been worth $126 million this season so far, not by a long shot. But that doesn’t mean that he can’t be. There is still another half of baseball to play and Darvish is capable of putting up Cy Young numbers in that time. However, if the Cubs want to win another ring, they can’t count on that happening. Regardless of Darvish’s status, Tyler Chatwood has not lived up to expectations, even as a fifth-man in the rotation with a 3-5 record and a 5.01 ERA. He has walked 70 batters in 79 innings, the worst of that stat in the league.
Chatwood most likely will not make the roster when the playoffs start as most teams substitute a fifth starting pitcher for another bullpen arm. If Darvish stays injured or cannot produce later in the season, Chatwood or Montgomery would have to be the Cubs’ fourth starter. It would more than likely be Chatwood to step into that role due to Montgomery being a crucial middle reliever. Despite him pitching well this season as a starter, he will be much more valuable coming out of the bullpen come playoff time. This would be a nightmare scenario for the Cubs, but is quite possible with the pieces they currently have. How can they avoid this?
Simple, trade for another starter or bullpen arm. So, who are the most likely candidates to push the Cubs into World Series favorites?
Archer has been connected to the Cubs near the trade deadline for years. The 29-year-old has a 4.41 ERA, which is less than ideal, but being in a winning environment could motivate him to pitch at the level all of the MLB knows he is capable of. He would certainly be an improvement over Chatwood and could give the Cubbies the boost they need to secure their division and make another World Series run.
The Blue Jays’ starter has also posted a less than ideal 4.44 ERA, but his 115 strikeouts cannot be ignored. He is a top 20 pitcher in the MLB in that stat category and his 1.18 WHIP is top 20 in the AL. Again, he may not be a suitable replacement for a healthy and thriving Yu Darvish, but would certainly be an improvement over Chatwood. He would also be the pitcher the Cubs would most likely need to spend the least to get.
Adding Thor would give the Cubs the best rotation in the majors, Darvish or Darvish-less. He is a young ace with All-Star potential. He has a 3.06 ERA on an awful Mets team. He has racked up 76 strikeouts and allowed just 13 walks in 64.2 innings pitched. Arguably just as intriguing as all of this, he is just 25 and under contract through 2021. This would give the Cubs three more season without having to worry about free agency and would give their rotation four pitchers who have been All-Stars. The biggest question in this deal would be if the Mets are willing to sell, and if the price would be too steep.
This year’s holy grail as far as pitchers who could be on the move. Could is the key word. The Mets have been reluctant to make clear if they will be willing to sell at this deadline, but the price for deGrom would be steep either way. This would be the single best trade the Cubs could make this season to set them above the rest. He is a Cy Young contender with a 1.79 ERA and a whopping 142 strikeouts in 115.1 innings pitched. The Cubs would have two potential Cy Young winners if they managed to sweep in for deGrom. Again, this deal would depend as much, if not more, on the Mets than it would the Cubs.
If the Cubs could add any one of these pitchers they would become obvious favorites in the NL Central, even if the Brewers managed to swing a deal for Manny Machado, and probably would become favorites to win the National League. The Cubs have until July 31 to make a move to set them above the rest of the field.