Ranking the Cubs' trade chips if they blow things up
Christian Petersen / Getty Images Sport / Getty

The Chicago Cubs appear to be on the verge of blowing up their roster. Rival executives expect the team to trade multiple stars this offseason in the wake of Theo Epstein's resignation as president of baseball operations.

Chicago has seemed to be financially hamstrung over the past couple of offseasons, culminating in a less than aggressive approach last winter. With rumors swirling about who may be available (everyone), here are the club's trade chips ranked from most to least appealing.

1. Yu Darvish, SP

Nuccio DiNuzzo / Getty Images
76 2.01 93 0.96 221

Remaining contract: 3 years, $59M
Potential fits: Dodgers, Padres, Giants, Angels, Reds, Twins, White Sox, Braves, Mets, Phillies, Yankees, Blue Jays

Darvish would be one of the most tantalizing players this winter if he's made available. The right-hander is coming off of a Cy Young-caliber season, and there's very little reason to believe his dominance was a product of the pandemic-shortened campaign.

The 34-year-old began turning a corner in the second half of last year. Since the 2019 All-Star Game, Darvish has authored an immaculate 2.40 ERA and 2.59 FIP with a 34.6% strikeout rate and 3.4% walk rate over 157 2/3 innings. Perhaps the team that loses out on signing NL Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer dangles some farm pieces for a shot at the 2020 runner-up for the award.

2. Kris Bryant, 3B

Quinn Harris / Getty Images Sport / Getty
34 4 11 .206/.293/.351 0.5

Remaining contract: Final year of arbitration ($18.6M)
Potential fits: Dodgers, White Sox, Marlins, Mets, Nationals, Blue Jays, Braves

With Bryant, the acquiring team would be landing a 2013 second overall pick who immediately set MLB on fire by winning the NL Rookie of the Year and MVP awards in consecutive years. Yes, he's coming off an abysmal 2020 campaign, and Bryant suffered myriad injuries, including to his wrist, finger, and oblique.

But categorizing the three-time All-Star as injury-prone would be a mistake. Bryant did appear in only 34 contests in the shortened 2020 campaign, but he's played fewer than 147 games just once in a full-length season over six years. He owns a career slash line of .280/.380/.508 with a 136 wRC+ and 142 home runs in 740 games. Even with only one year remaining before becoming a free agent, he's worth a roll of the dice.

3. Javier Baez, SS/2B

Nuccio DiNuzzo / Getty Images Sport / Getty
59 8 24 .203/.238/.360 0.0

Remaining contract: Final year of arbitration ($10M-$11.9M)
Potential fits: Angels, Athletics, Reds, Indians, Twins, Marlins, Mets, Yankees, Blue Jays

There's a lot of variance in Baez's game. When he's making contact, Baez may be one of the league's most elite sluggers. When he isn't, he's atrocious.

The second baseman owns a surprisingly low career 101 wRC+. Over 724 games, he's produced a .264/.304/.473 slash line with 118 homers. Meanwhile, Mitch Moreland has hit .251/.321/.452 with 113 dingers in 737 games since the beginning of Baez's career. Of course, Baez's defense makes him more valuable, but if the Cubs can find a team that buys into the two-time All-Star's ceiling, dealing him might be wise.

4. Kyle Hendricks, SP

Jayne Kamin-Oncea / Getty Images Sport / Getty
81.1 2.88 64 1.00 155

Remaining contract: 3 years, $43.5M (2024 vesting option)
Potential fits: Dodgers, Padres, Giants, Angels, Reds, Twins, White Sox, Braves, Marlins, Mets, Phillies, Nationals, Red Sox, Yankees, Blue Jays

Hendricks would fit perfectly on a team entering its playoff window because of the remaining years on his deal and the stability he brings. While the right-hander's ceiling may be relatively low due to a lack of strikeouts, Hendricks has proven repeatedly he can still thrive in the modern MLB as a contact-heavy pitcher.

He hasn't vastly outperformed a career 3.53 FIP with his 3.12 ERA, largely because of the hurler's command. He led qualified pitchers with 0.9 BB/9 this summer. With the Cubs looking to shed salary, Hendricks could be available for a more than reasonable return if a team takes on his entire remaining contract.

5. Willson Contreras, C

Nuccio DiNuzzo / Getty Images Sport / Getty
57 7 26 .243/.356/.407 1.6

Remaining contract: Two years of arbitration ($5M-$7.4M in 2021)
Potential fits: Rockies, Astros, Angels, Marlins, Mets, Phillies, Yankees, Rays

Since Contreras broke into the majors in 2016, only two catchers have been better at creating runs by wRC+: Yasmani Grandal and Gary Sanchez. Even free agent J.T. Realmuto's 114 wRC+ is lower than Contreras' 116.

The backstop doesn't provide as much value behind the plate or on the basepaths, but a team seeking an upgrade at catcher should absolutely target Contreras, especially if that club misses out on Realmuto.

6. Anthony Rizzo, 1B

Duane Burleson / Getty Images Sport / Getty
58 11 24 .222/.342/.414 1.1

Remaining contract: 1 year, $16.5M
Potential fits: Indians, Nationals

Aging first basemen - even ones as consistent as Rizzo - just don't seem to generate much excitement anymore. It seems unlikely that the Cubs would get a similar return as the Diamondbacks did for Paul Goldschmidt from the Cardinals (Carson Kelly, Luke Weaver) just two offseasons ago.

Since 2012 (his first season with the Cubs), Rizzo is fourth among first basemen in home runs (228), ninth in OPS (.866), sixth in strikeout percentage (15.4), ninth in wRC+ (133), and fourth in fWAR (31). The 31-year-old is still a viable mid-lineup producer who's regularly hit 25-32 home runs per campaign in regular-length seasons. But offers may underwhelm the Cubs with only one year remaining on Rizzo's contract.

7. Kyle Schwarber, OF/DH

Dylan Buell / Getty Images Sport / Getty
59 11 24 .188/.308/.393 0.4

Remaining contract: Final year of arbitration ($7M-$9.3M)
Potential fits: Athletics, Indians, Twins, Rays

Schwarber and the Cubs were set up to benefit from the designated hitter being included in the National League for the first time in history. Instead, manager David Ross used the slugger in the DH spot nine times in 2020, and Schwarber consequently put up his worst career numbers. His value is likely low, but if the Cubs become motivated sellers, Schwarber's ceiling could be too intriguing for teams to pass up.

8. Jason Heyward, OF

Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty
50 6 22 .265/.392/.456 1.8

Remaining contract: 3 years, $65M
Potential fits: White Sox, Braves

This is going to be an extremely tough sell, as acquiring Heyward means committing a lot of money to a veteran outfielder who doesn't quite do enough with his bat to justify hitting any higher than sixth regularly. Despite his imposing 6-foot-5 frame, Heyward has smacked 20-plus long balls only twice in his career.

He showed a better tendency to draw walks in 2020, but his slash line still left a bit to be desired given the veteran's salary. Heyward would need to be part of a packaged deal with a more appealing piece like Bryant, somewhat mimicking the Red Sox tying Mookie Betts to David Price last offseason. Otherwise, the Cubs would need to eat the majority of his contract just to unload him.

Ranking the Cubs' trade chips if they blow things up
  Got something to say? Leave a comment below!
Daily Newsletter
Get the latest trending sports news daily in your inbox