Trade deadline spotlight: Market for Cubs other than Matt Garza
With the Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer regime only in its second year of rebuilding, the Cubs came into this month as one of the trade market’s most clearly defined sellers. They’ve already gotten down to business, dealing Carlos Marmol and Scott Feldman in a pair of moves on July 2 and then Scott Hairston on July 8. According to multiple reports, they’re on the verge of sending Matt Garza, the top starter left on the market, to the Rangers in a deal that could happen sometime this weekend.
Even after they deal Garza, they’re not likely to be done. Here’s a quick look at who else might be on their way out of Chicago before the dust settles, ideally for prospects in the upper minors who are capable of becoming impact players. Most of these aren’t impact players themselves, but the fact that some of them are club-controlled through at least next season should enhance the Cubs’ return, particularly in a trade market that looks rather thin. I’ve listed the players in rough order of likelihood of being dealt.
Kevin Gregg, RP
After leading the league in Washed Up last year, Gregg has rebounded with the Cubs, the fifth team for which the 35-year-old righty has served as closer. In 33 1/3 innings, he’s got a 2.97 ERA, 9.5 strikeouts per nine and 17 saves in 19 attempts, numbers that suggest he can serve as a desperate contender’s closer — or more likely provide support for a thin or worn-down setup corps. Signed to a minor league deal prior to the season, he’s making a negligible amount of money in big league payroll terms.
Possible fits: Tigers and Diamondbacks (as closer), Angels, Dodgers (who released him this spring), Indians, Pirates, Rays, Yankees (if they trade Joba Chamberlain)
Nate Schierholtz, RF
His inability to hit lefties limits him to a platoon role, but the 29-year-old Shierholtz has wielded a potent bat this year, batting .269/.327/.498 with a career-high 11 homers in 279 plate appearances, with all but 33 coming against righties. He’s strong defensively, with most of his experience in rightfield, though he’d presumably be above-average in left. He’s under club control as well, making just $2.25 million with one year of arbitration eligibility remaining, which should boost the Cubs’ return should they decide to deal him, though they may choose to keep him. The team sat him in the final weekend before the All-Star break due to wear and tear, in the hopes that with some rest he could be better showcased in the coming weeks.
Possible fits: Pirates, Rangers, Tigers
Dioner Navarro, C
With a .288/.362/.512 line and eight home runs — including three in one game — in 141 plate appearances, the 29-year-old Navarro has resuscitated his career after three seasons spent bouncing between the minors and majors, hitting just .211/.279/.325 in 417 PA at the latter level.
Possible fits: Yankees (who signed and developed him before trading him to Arizona in January 2005), Tigers (who have gotten terrible production from Alex Avila and backup Brayan Pena), Reds (whose Ryan Hanigan/Devin Mesoraco tandem has been MLB’s worst offensively at .203/.297/.286)
Carlos Villanueva, SP/RP
In a market lacking top-shelf starters, Villanueva could serve as a useful back-of-the-rotation upgrade or provide depth in the middle of a bullpen. The 29-year-old righty swingman has made 66 starts over the past six and a half years, including 10 this year. In those starts in 2013, Villanueva has put up a 3.73 ERA with solid peripherals and a 60 percent quality start rate over 62 2/3 inning. He’s making $5 million this year and next, so he’s more than just a rental, if less than somebody a team can build around.
Possible fits: Diamondbacks, Orioles, Red Sox, Rockies
David DeJesus, CF
Like Schierholtz, DeJesus is inexpensive and under club control; he’s signed for $4.25 million this year, with a $6.5 million option and $1.5 million buyout for next year. Underpowered as a full-time corner bat, the 33-year-old lefty is capable of being a productive platoon player (.291/.365/.450 against lefties in his career), or of manning centerfield — where the offensive bar is lower — on regular basis. Alas, he’s been on the disabled list since June 15 after spraining his right shoulder running into an outfield wall. He’s slated to begin a rehab assignment this weekend, but may not be out of the woods given manager Dale Sveum’s concerns about him possibly reaggravating the shoulder. “He won’t have to play in tons of games as long as everything goes good, and then he gets in a real game and hopefully doesn’t swing and miss,” said Sveum. Until Dejesus demonstrates he’s healthy, don’t expect him to go anywhere.
Possible fits: Pirates, Giants (if they’re still contenders)
Alfonso Soriano, LF
The Cubs would like nothing more than to deal their 37-year-old leftfielder, who represents the last legacy of the Jim Hendry regime. Alas, it won’t be easy, because Soriano is owed around $8 million for the remainder of this year, plus another $18 million for next year, and he has a no-trade clause that he’s said to have exercised last summer to block a deal to the Giants. The Cubs will have to eat considerable money to deal him if they can locate a desirable destination, but it would help if he could continue his torrid July pace: .275/.309/.725 with seven home runs in 55 plate appearances. Overall, he’s hitting just .259/.288/.472 with 16 homers, a big step down from last year’s .262/.322/.499 showing with 32 homers.
Possible fits: Orioles, Rangers if Lance Berkman can’t get healthy soon
Starlin Castro, SS
Signed to a seven-year, $60 million extension last August, the 23-year-old shortstop is hitting just .243/.280/.351 this year, a disappointment after last year’s .283/.323/.430 mark. The Cubs have complained about the decline of his secondary offensive contributions, with Sveum lamenting, “There’s no on-base and there’s no slugging… And this year he’s striking out a lot. He’s not just struggling, he’s striking out a lot.” The good news is that Castro’s recently altered mechanics have him on the upswing, hitting .308/.368/.500 this month, but nonetheless, it appears that the team is experiencing some amount of buyer’s remorse. If so, the Cubs’ best chance to unload Castro is to hope that he carries that performance through this month and then use the August waiver period to gauge the market for him.