Cubs: Starting Pitching Trade Candidates, and What they Might Cost

The Chicago Cubs have a hole at the end of their starting rotation, one that has left the bullpen on the hook for an absurd 16.1 innings of work over the course of Brett Anderson‘s last two starts. Last Monday against Philadelphia, Anderson allowed seven runs on seven hits and one walk in just 1.1 innings of work. In his last start this past weekend against the New York Yankees, Anderson allowed five runs on six hits in just 0.1 innings of work.

In his last two starts Anderson has allowed 12 runs on 13 hits in 1.2 IP, and is now on the 10-day disabled list. On the season, Anderson is 2-2 with an 8.18 ERA over the course of his 22 innings pitched. He has a whopping 2.09 WHIP, and is averaging roughly 4.1 innings per start in his six starts this season. Clearly, that’s just not going to work for the Cubs moving forward.

We’ve talked about how the Cubs offense has been streaky at best, and underwhelming at worst to this point in 2017, but all of the numbers will tell you that the offense will in fact come around at some point this season, there is no way that lineup can be mediocre for an entire 162-game season. So let’s table the discussion as to what tweaks the lineup may or may not need for a while. We know that they will need at least one more bullpen arm around the middle of the season, so we can worry about that some time in the near future.

But starting pitching, they need that, and they need it soon. With Jake Arrieta set to become an unrestricted free-agent after this season and John Lackey nearing the end of his career, they’re going to need a young, cost-controlled starting pitcher no matter what, so they will probably not be exploring an Aroldis Chapman esque rental player this time around, so let’s explore some trade options for the Cubs in their quest for a long-term solution in the rotation.

Chris Archer – RHP – Tampa Bay Rays

Source: Brian Blanco/Getty Images North America

Archer, 28, is going to be the most expensive starting pitching option in regards to the pieces required in return to make this deal happen. Archer is as I mentioned just 28-years old, and is under contract with the Rays through the 2019 season with team options for the 2020, and 2021 seasons. Archer is making $4.6 million dollars this season, and is set to make $6.4 million in 2018, $7.6 million in 2019, $9 million in 2020 (team option) and $11 million dollars in 2021 (team option).

Snagging a former American League All-Star in his twenties, and locked up through the 2021 season if the club chooses so, is going to cost a potential suitor a hefty price tag. The Rays would probably want to start with a third-baseman that can replace the aging Evan Longoria, so the Cubs will likely need to offer Jeimer Candelario. In addition to Candelario the Rays will likely want another young arm and an outfielder to make it work. Jeimer Candelario (3B/1B), Oscar De La Cruz (RHP), Mark Zagunis (OF), and one more second tier prospect that the Rays see as a wildcard could potentially work.

Jose Quintana – LHP – Chicago White Sox

Source: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images North America

Before you even begin, just stop it right now. Yes, I’m talking to you, person who thinks that the Cubs and White Sox will not ever trade anyone because they play in the same town! The White Sox sent Sammy Sosa to the Cubs in a trade once upon a time, and more recently the Cubs sent Jon Garland to the south side in a trade, so please let’s throw that bone-headed notion out of the window. Alright, back to business here. We all know what Jose Quintana brings to the table, and he will likely cost the Cubs slightly less than Archer would.

Since the beginning of the 2013 season Jose Quintana has started more games than any other active pitcher in baseball (135), and recorded 90 quality starts over that span. Quintana has a 3.38 ERA to go along with 737 strikeouts during that same span, and was an all-star in 2016. Aside from Quintana’s excellent numbers when you look at anything but his win-loss record, he is under contract through 2018 ($8.8 million) with team options for 2019 ($10.5 million) and 2020 ($11.5 million).

The White Sox need bats, preferably outfield bats at this point. Enter Eloy Jimenez, the Cubs top prospect and the 10th rated prospect in baseball according to MLB Pipeline. If the Cubs have no intention of moving Kyle Schwarber, then Jimenez is going to ultimately be a trade chip, as he is blocked by Schwarber and Heyward in the corner outfield positions, so why not cash him in on a top-tier starting pitcher? If Jimenez is a part of the deal, it would only cost the Cubs one or two second tier pieces to make the deal work. Chesny Young and/or Duane Underwood could potentially be the second and/or third pieces in the deal.

Sonny Gray – RHP – Oakland Athletics

Source: Jason Miller/Getty Images North America

Gray would be on the cheaper end of the spectrum, but come with more question marks than Archer or Quintana. Gray is just 27-years old but has struggled to stay healthy recently. Limited to only 22 starts in 2016, and just two to this point in 2017, Gray probably will come at a lesser price tag, but will also carry the risk that he never returns to his previous form where he went 28-17 with a 2.91 ERA from 2014-2015.

Gray isn’t eligible for arbitration until 2018, and the winter following the 2020 season would be the earliest that he would be eligible for free-agency.

The Athletics seem to be a club constantly in a rebuild/retooling stage, which makes it hard to pin-point what they would be looking for in return from a potential trade partner. The A’s look pretty good on the left side of the infield right now with Ryon Healy at third base, and Franklin Barreto in the wings at shortstop, so second-baseman Ian Happ could be the headliner in any deal between the two clubs. The A’s also have some pretty good arms in their farm system at this point, so beyond Ian Happ, I’m not sure what they would want to make the Gray deal work, but it would be something in the second-tier.

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