With reports that the New York Mets are considering a firesale at the July 31 trade deadline, the obvious question begs to be asked. Do the Chicago Cubs jump in on the sweepstakes for pitchers Noah Syndergaard or Jacob deGrom?
It might seem outrageous given the Cubs gutted farm system and their current situation with the starting rotation. However, there are some valid reasons to explore adding either arm.
As it stands, Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana are locks to be key arms for the remainder of the year and throughout a potential postseason stretch. Yu Darvish, whose contract dictates ace potential, has dealt with struggles and injuries so far this year. However, you have to assume he also will be a key arm down the stretch and during any playoff run.
While Tyler Chatwood’s 3-5 record and 3.95 ERA are solid for a fifth starter, his league-leading 63 walks through 14 starts is very concerning. Mike Montgomery, on the other hand, has been more than reliable while filling in for the injured Darvish. He boasts a 2-1 record and 2.02 ERA in six starts and has gone at least six innings in five of those outings, helping his case to keep a spot in the rotation.
With the team considering a six-man rotation, adding another arm to the picture seems illogical at first blush. But two spots in the starting rotation are question marks at best. Wouldn’t a team with World Series aspirations want to shore up their staff after the All-Star break?
When the championship window is still open, these are the hard decisions and scenarios you at least have to consider. Especially if it involves someone of Syndergaard or deGrom’s caliber.
Getting involved also would be the ultimate example of gamesmanship. The rival Milwaukee Brewers are rumored as a landing spot for deGrom, and any move for either Mets starter would help cement their path to a NL Central title and postseason berth.
Even if the Cubs don’t acquire either starter, their involvement drives up the asking price, forcing the Brewers or another NL contender to pay a premium
If the Cubs do have a shot at acquiring Syndergaard or deGrom, either trade package would most likely center on shortstop Addison Russell. Similar to trade scenarios for Manny Machado, Russell would be the focal point of a deal involving another major leaguer and a top arm or two from the minors.
Instead of including the likes of Ian Happ or Kyle Schwarber, they could try to dangle Montgomery into any package. Montgomery, 28, not only can be a productive addition, but he also is under team control through 2021. His contract and age could make him a valuable trade chip for the Mets in the offseason or next year.
Acquiring either Syndergaard or deGrom would leave Chatwood out of the rotation and relegate him to spot duty as a long reliever. But that’s life. You can’t worry about bruised egos when you nab a high-end starter in pursuit of a title, especially if the guy he’s replacing still makes close to $13 million a season.
Syndergaard is going to be a much harder acquisition than deGrom, who just turned 30 on June 19. Syndergaard, 25, is under team control until 2022 and would be pitching in the prime years of his career.
As a result, the Mets will probably seek a large haul that includes one or two Top-100 prospects. While the Cubs have major leaguers like Russell, Happ or Schwarber who could garner interest, they lack a Top-100 prospect that would be desirable to a club looking to start a rebuild.
That’s why deGrom might be the more feasible option. His age and history of nagging injuries might allow the Cubs to make a much more palatable offer that still entices the Mets. But given his 5-3 record and league-leading 1.69 ERA and 4.8 pitching WAR, he still could be costly.
A trade involving Russell, Montgomery and a top minor league pitcher in the Cubs’ system could be enough for both sides to pull the trigger. If the Mets need another young commodity, Happ could be added as a sweetener.
At the right price, the Cubs would be adding a top-line starter for the stretch run and do some addition by subtraction. The proposal above would fortify their rotation and free up space for Albert Almora and Ben Zobrist to play even more consistently the rest of the year.
And, best of all, it keeps an elite starter off a team like the Brewers.