MLB trade rumors: Five soon-to-be-ex-Cubs and where they might be dealt

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We’ve written about the Cubs’ dilemma a couple of times already this season. 

In early June, it was a piece looking at the difficult decisions the front office might face, as the team they dismantled a bit was exceeding internal expectations and playing like a contender. And then, in early July, a piece saying it was time to sell, after a disastrous stretch in June left them well behind the Brewers in the NL Central. 

DEADLINE DEALS: Five Twins players who could be traded by July 30

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And then they lost a few more games, just to leave no doubt as to what should happen. The Cubs need a core change. It’s time to say goodbye to players who were a huge part of their 2016 World Series title, because the club sure doesn’t seem like it wants to pay the price it would cost to extend them. 

So here are five Cubs who could soon be ex-Cubs. 

Kris Bryant, 3B/OF

Contract status: Free agent after 2021

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Need to know: After what was essentially a lost 2020 season, Bryant was back to his old self in April and May, with an average north of .300, an on-base percentage above .400 and a slugging percentage topping .600. His June was a disaster, though; he hit .114 in 23 games, and not surprisingly the Cubs plummeted along with him. July’s small sample size has been good, though, and his versatility will be seen as a huge plus for whatever team acquires him. He could be a full-time starter at third base or at either corner outfield spot, and he can fill in as the center fielder, too, all while producing at an MVP level at the plate. Yes, please. 

Potential destination: Mets. No contender needs an offensive kick in the pants more than the Mets. Sure, a big problem is they just need their established guys to hit better — hi, Jeff McNeil and Michael Conforto and Francisco Lindor — but adding a versatile bat such as Bryant’s to the lineup is kind of a dream solution. 

Javier Baez, SS

Contract status: Free agent after 2021

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Need to know: Yeah, that on-base percentage (.282) isn’t what you want, and he leads the NL in strikeouts, but Baez still is an impact-type player who has 21 homers, 56 RBIs and 10 stolen bases on the season. And like Bryant, Baez can play multiple positions, so don’t think only about teams that might be eyeing a shortstop upgrade. He could easily be an ideal fit for a team that needs a second or third base upgrade, too.

Potential destination: White Sox or Yankees. Sure, maybe a trade between the two Chicago teams seems like a long shot. But the ChiSox lost their second baseman, Nick Madrigal, for the year, and neither Danny Mendick nor Leury Garcia has done much after that injury. As for the Yankees, trading for Baez would allow them to move Gleyber Torres from shortstop to second base and maybe help him break out of his season-long funk. That N.Y. lineup is already heavily right-handed, though.

Anthony Rizzo, 1B

Contract status: Free agent after 2021

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Need to know: He’s still a slick-fielding first baseman with a knack for producing in the big moments, but his numbers are down the past few years — he had, for example, a .388 OBP from 2014 to 2019, and that’s at .341 for 2020-21 — and there aren’t a ton of contenders looking for a first baseman. Which is to say that, if the Cubs do trade him, Cubs fans will almost certainly be underwhelmed by the return. And considering what Rizzo has meant to the franchise, they’ll rightly feel that way. 

Potential destination: Red Sox. He does make sense here. Boston’s lineup is mostly right-handed, and Rizzo’s OPS — even in this down year — is still nearly 100 points higher than the Sox’s regular first baseman, youngster Bobby Dalbec. 

Craig Kimbrel, RP

Contract status: $16 million club option for 2022 ($1 million buyout)

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Need to know: Has any player revived his trade value more than Kimbrel in 2021? He had been mostly a disaster for the Cubs in his first two seasons with the team, rolling up a 6.00 ERA in 41 appearances. But he’s back to vintage Kimbrel this season, posting a 0.59 ERA with 53 strikeouts and only 10 hits allowed in 30 2/3 innings pitched. He’s the back-of-the-bullpen piece pretty much every contender craves.

Potential destination: Astros. Ryan Pressly has been very good as the club’s closer — 1.50 ERA, 9.2 K/BB, 15 saves in 16 opportunities — but the rest of the bullpen has been … well, let’s say it’s not been a strength. This is a club that is motivated to win it all in 2021, in an effort to show that their previous success — including the 2017 World Series title — wasn’t just about the cheating. Even though, y’know, they definitely cheated. 

Willson Contreras, C

Contract status: Arbitration-eligible for the final time in 2022, free agent after 2023 

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Need to know: In theory, he should/could bring back a solid return. He’s a catcher in his prime with one year of club control remaining. But he won’t be cheap in that last year — he’s making $6.5 million this year and will be in his final arbitration year for 2022 — and there aren’t exactly a lot of contending teams clamoring for catchers right now. So when you think of teams that could trade for him, think about 2022 contenders, too.

Potential destination: Braves. Yeah, maybe this is a long shot. Nobody really knows what the Atlanta front office folks are thinking about how they’ll approach this trade deadline, as a buyer or a seller. We’ll find out in a couple of weeks. But the Braves have not gotten much production out of the catcher spot, with Travis d’Arnaud injured (and a FA after the season) and Willson’s brother, William, recently sent to Triple-A after an extended stretch of struggles at the plate. Maybe we just want to see the Contreras brothers together. 

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