The Chicago Cubs have gotten off to a great start in 2016, leading the NL Central by seven games over the St. Louis Cardinals at the All-Star break. Kris Bryant and company have an offense that is young, strong, and totally formidable. Any team would be lucky to be running their lineup out there.
One place where the Cubs are not the subject of envy, however, is their bullpen. After starting the year totally on fire, the Cubs have been flirting with .500 for the last several weeks. Their lead in the division, while still fairly substantial, is not what it previously was. They have dropped eight of their last ten games. A lot of their struggles can be attributed their faulty bullpen.
Trevor Cahill, Joel Peralta, and Clayton Richard were all plucked off the scrap heap, and it has shown in the results. Adam Warren made his first start of the year and pitched fairly well, but he lasted only five innings. That put further stress on an already shaky relief corps.
Despite the fact that manager Joe Maddon feels as though the Cubs have the solutions to their relief problems already in the organization, a front office hungry for postseason glory may not see it the same way. That’s where the Yankees come in.
It’s a secret to no one that the Yankees are shopping at least one of their trio of good relievers. Should the Yankees decide to sell at the deadline, Aroldis Chapman makes the most sense to trade for a potentially big return. The Yankees got him for nearly nothing and would lose him to free agency at the end of the year.
Trading Chapman to a team like the Cubs makes perfect sense. He becomes, without a doubt, the best reliever on their team. Whether or not the Cubs would be willing to give up the kind of prospects the Yankees are looking for remains a question.
Should the Yankees decide to part with Andrew Miller instead, they could certainly get a bigger return out of the Cubs. Miller is under contract for longer and is earning a totally reasonable salary for a top shelf closer in 2016. Trading Miller would allow the Yankees to demand a lot more in trade negotiations, obviously, but it seems like they are more inclined to keep him than they are Chapman.
Although New York does have another trade chip in Carlos Beltran, the Cubs wouldn’t be a good fit as a trading partner. They have better outfielders already on the team and have no DH slot. Trading them a reliever is pretty much the best the Yankees could hope for.
Whether or not the relationship between Theo Epstein and Brian Cashman is any good after Epstein’s years as the Red Sox GM is unclear, but the two are undoubtedly very familiar with each other. The Yankees did trade for Starlin Castro in the offseason, so they have some history there. Cashman did somehow managed to stick the Cubs with Brendan Ryan in their last trade, though, which surely damaged the working relationship.
On paper, the Yankees seem like a great trade partner for the Cubs. They have a surplus of the position that the Cubs will likely be seeking at the trade deadline, and have been rumored to be willing to part with at least one of those assets. The biggest hurdle may be the Yankees actually admitting to themselves that they are not in a position to compete this season and becoming sellers instead of passing up the opportunity to cash in on impending free agents.