This is such a good point, but there’s just one problem:
The interpretation of making the franchise more valuable is pretty darn subjective. Before the Tribune company sold the Cubs, they spent a ton of money to make the team more popular before gearing up for a sale. The Rangers might be doing the same thing right now. So how exactly does a trade like this make the team more valuable, other than stripping salary down as low as possible by way of Juan Soto and Patrick Corbin?
For a smart buyer, the best overall baseball trade SHOULD make the team the most valuable. But I think we all know those pillars don’t always align. I don’t really have an answer for you. And I still think it’ll be just insane to not take the best overall package.
The Nats Dillemma
Andy McCullough has another write-up on the Nats tricky position with respect to Soto, which reminded me of another point I wanted to make: Getting this decision done – one way or another – before a new team owner is in place is probably critical in terms of narrative.
If you buy the Nationals with Soto on the team, but not yet extended, then your FIRST move will either be (1) extending him under the pressure of a hungry fanbase or (2) being the evil new owner that traded the future hall-of-famer away.
That’s not an enviable position, and if I were buying the Nats, I think I’d actually prefer that decision to be taken out of my hands. It wasn’t me! It was the last guys! I would’ve totally extended him.
And Another Thing!
When it comes to the Juan Soto conversation, the Cubs have effectively left the chat. The way I usually see it, the potential landing spots are all contenders: Padres, Mariners, Cardinals, Rays, Mets, Dodgers, and Yankees.
But there is one new team creeping into the conversation, the San Francisco Giants.
Jon Morosi said it earlier today, with some discussion:
And they were included in a brand new report about the seven teams who’ve reportedly begun setting up preliminary offers: Mariners, Padres, Giants, Dodgers, Cardinals, Yankees, Mets. That would be a VERY good sign that this is a deal that gets done before the All-Star Break. And that means the Cubs will not likely be involved AND it creates competition for the Cubs available bats (not that any one guy is in the same stratosphere as Soto).
We discussed the Giants as a possible landing spot for Willson Contreras for a number of reasons, but the one that overlaps most with the Soto rumors is the potential impact to this playoff race. The Giants have ground to make up and could arguably stand to add an impact piece even MORE than the no-doubt contenders, who are already a shoe-in for October baseball. The Giants are also a big-revenue club. I wouldn’t sleep on them.
Theoretical Soto Packages
That conversation is continued at The Athletic, by the way, where Grant Brisbee writes that the Nationals wouldn’t be wrong to ask for Logan Webb as the center piece of a trade for Juan Soto, but conceding that a deal like that might put them back at square one. It’s the problem every team considering a trade for Soto (or Kevin Durant in the NBA) is facing. Here’s the same conversation in another article, if you’re so inclined:
Marco Luciano and Kyle Harrison have been great, and they would headline any package (for Juan Soto). That’s a fine start, but it’s not enough. The Nationals are going to want to get some majors-ready help, so David Villar is gone, and maybe LaMonte Wade Jr. and/or someone out of the bullpen. Maybe Camilo Doval.
And even then? Probably not enough.
In the same division, the Padres are considered the front-runners, but there’s already pushback out of San Diego from the San Diego Union Tribune. The short version? The Padres do have the prospects/young players to get a deal done, but the organizational impact of exceeding the luxury tax payroll again *and also* losing so much young talent might make this a real go-for-broke move. That is the style of A.J. Preller, but it sure is riskier for a team like San Diego than it might be for many others.
At The Athletic, there’s a more specific rumor on the sort of package the Nats are seeking:
Rival officials believe the Nationals would start by asking for a package of shortstop CJ Abrams, Gore and other high-end prospects such as Robert Hassell III, James Wood and Jackson Merrill.
For reference: Abrams, 21, is a top-10 prospect in MLB who’s already reached MLB. Gore, 23, was one of the game’s top pitching prospects and has already made 13 starts at the MLB level. Hassell, 20, is a top-30 prospect at High-A. Wood, 19, is one of the Padres top-5 prospects and crushing Low-A. And Merrill, 19, destroyed the Complex league and is also an overmatch for Low-A.
The Cubs analogs there: Nico Hoerner (Abrams), Justin Steele (Gore), Brennen Davis or PCA (Hassell), Kevin Alcantara (Wood), and Alexander Canario (Merrill). Buuuuuuut that’s selling the Padres way short. Abrams and Gore are much more valuable, much younger, and controlled for much longer/cheaper than Hoerner and Steele. Hassell might be close to Davis, if he were healthy … but he’s not. And PCA is still trailing both. You’d have to hope the Nats REALLY like him if you want that part to be equal.
So right away, the three Cubs center pieces are worse than the Padres.
The younger guys are more equivalent, but the broader point remains: The Cubs just can’t match up with some of the top-end suitors. And that’s without including the fact that they’re not going to use him to compete at this deadline.
Package Trades for the Cubs, or Not?
At The Athletic, Sahadev Sharma and Patrick Mooney get us geared up for the trade deadline from the Cubs perspective, with one key rumor in place:
“Trade buzz is already starting to build in front offices as one source familiar with Jed Hoyer’s process predicted he would pursue separate trades rather than package the two All-Stars in a much larger deal — the kind the Mets strongly considered last year before settling for Javier Báez and Trevor Williams and giving up Pete Crow-Armstrong, a 2020 first-round pick who played in the All-Star Futures Game at Dodger Stadium.”
Although Contreras is as good as gone – and Happ is likely going to be discussed quite often and seriously – I never really thought of that duo as the package that makes sense for the Cubs. Few legitimate contenders can really afford to fit two bats in their lineup at once. And the Cubs could probably do better trading those two, in particular, separately.
By contrast, I could see one of the bats paired with a reliever to maximize the return. Those deals tend to be more rare, but they do happen. The Cubs did it on the buy-side when they acquired Justin Wilson and Alex Avila and they did it on the sell-side when they shipped out Javy Baez and Trevor Williams last season (or Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija many years ago).
Every single playoff team can use another reliever, and the Cubs have several available arms at difference price levels. The closer, David Robertson, is in the highest tier, then there’s a big gap before Mychal Givens and Chris Martin show up. I tend to think Robertson won’t be paired with anyone, but the other two are fair game.