Over the last few years, the New York Yankees and Chicago Cubs front offices have done some good work together. Last summer, they connected to bring a young reliever with team control, the currently-injured Scott Effross, to the Bronx. The year before, it was first baseman Anthony Rizzo that came over in a deadline deal. Prior to the 2016 season, the Yankees sent reliever Adam Warren to the North Side for Starlin Castro, stabilizing the keystone for the first time after two years of Brian Roberts and Stephen Drew. And of course, you can’t forget the infamous Aroldis Chapman-for-Gleyber Torres trade at the 2016 deadline, the rare win-win deal that saw the Cubs break their infamous World Series drought and the Yankees acquire a young top infield prospect who became a two-time All-Star.
Once again, July has come, and once again the Yankees and Cubs appear to line up as potential trade partners...with one major caveat. While the National League Central isn’t quite as bad as its Junior Circuit counterpart, no team is exactly out of the division race at this point; despite being six games below .500, the Cubs are only six games behind the division-leading Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers. A hot stretch puts them right back into contention in just the snap of a finger. Therefore, we can’t quite rule out the Cubs becoming buyers in July. It would represent, in my opinion, mismanagement by an organization that should focus on retooling for 2024, but still, it could happen.
The Yankees offense has by far been the team’s biggest weakness, with both the hot corner and the outfield representing areas that the team could see major improvements. The Cubs have multiple players who could potentially be available at both these positions.
Third baseman Patrick Wisdom reminds me in many ways of Scott Effross last year as a player that isn’t necessarily expected to be available, but who the Cubs may decide to trade now in order to maximize the potential return. Now in his third season, Wisdom will be eligible for arbitration for the first time this winter and will not be a free agent until after the 2026 season, giving the Cubs — or any team that trades for him three full years of team control after this one. However, he will turn 32 in August, and will be 35 when he hits free agency. He may not exactly be a great fit for the Cubs timeline.
Wisdom has been largely a slightly above-average bat over the course of his career, as he’s posted a career 106 wRC+. Still, league average is something that the Yankees currently could use more of, although I wouldn’t be surprised if his lackluster defense (-6 Defensive Runs Saved, -3 OAA in 344 innings this year) and high strikeout rate (37.4 career K%) are considered too high of a tradeoff.
Among outfielders, the Cubs have two bats that could realistically be available. The first is very familiar to Yankees fans: Mike Tauchman. After being flipped to the San Francisco Giants early in 2021 in the deal that brought Wandy Peralta to the Bronx, Tauchman continued his struggles at the plate, ultimately being designated for assignment later in the season. He spent 2022 in Korea with the Hanwha Eagles before signing a minor league deal with the Cubs back in January. Across 36 games (140 plate appearances), the left-hander has slashed .259/.367/.345 (103 wRC+) while providing solid defense at all three outfield positions (1 DRS, 0 OAA, 4.3 UZR/150); he’s been particularly effective against righties, slashing .261/.358/.370 against them.
The real prize of the Cubs at the deadline, however, is their starting center fielder: former NL MVP Cody Bellinger. While the 2017 NL Rookie of the Year has not quite returned to the dominant player that he was from 2017 to 2019, he has put up numbers reminiscent of a serviceable major leaguer (.276/.333/.458 slash line, 111 wRC+, 20 XBH) to go along with his quality defense (-2 DRS, 3 OAA, 1.9 UZR/150). Between his apparent revival and his status as a left-handed bat, he’s not surprisingly already been linked to the Yankees by analysts and insiders this summer.
If the Yankees decide to look into the pitching market, the Cubs have some pieces they may be interested in. Bullpen arms are always valuable, and Chicago has a pair in Mark Leiter Jr. and Julian Merryweather that the Cubs may be interested in Effross-ing and trading them despite having multiple years of team control due to their relatively advanced ages (32 and 31, respectively). In the rotation, Marcus Stroman and Kyle Hendricks, if they are made available, could represent the top of the market; while the Yankees rotation isn’t quite as desperate for reinforcement as the lineup is, additional starting pitchers is never a bad thing.
While we will be diving more into individual targets in the coming weeks, it’s clear that the Yankees and Cubs may once again dance together at the trade deadline. Whether that happens ultimately depends on where the Cubs see themselves in the NL Central race as the month goes on.