The Oakland Athletics may find themselves cozying up to an old trade partner, the Chicago Cubs, once more.
The Cubs now have a Dexter Fowler-sized hole in the outfield, and it is unclear if the club wants to replace him full time with Chris Coghlan, who they slotted into five different positions over 142 games in 2015. They also have a back-end starting rotation slot to fill now that Dan Haren has entered retirement, and Tsuyoshi Wada elected to finish his career with Fukuoka Softbank in Japan.
WEEI Boston’s Rob Bradford reported that the Cubs were one of two teams interested in acquiring Jackie Bradley Jr. from the Red Sox, but the Cubs will have to turn elsewhere for outfield help if they lose out on the bidding for Bradley.
More from White Cleat Beat
- Oakland A’s giving Drew Rucinski a chance to prove himself
- The pain of the Oakland A’s first round draft picks
- David MacKinnon joins Oakland A’s alumni overseas
- Oakland A’s select Walker Jenkins in first MLB mock draft
- Cody Thomas worth Oakland A’s hanging on to
It’s possible that the Oakland outfield might be one of the Cubs’ targets if their Bradley plan falls through. Billy Beane has publicly denied any intention of dealing right field staple Josh Reddick, but Jake Smolinski’s resurgence from the minors in 2015 gave Beane a little bit of unexpected outfield depth.
Matt Szczur is the Cubs’ current contingency plan for the spot vacated by Fowler, but it is unlikely that the club will accept him as a replacement that can adequately replicate the production that Fowler gave them in 2015. Fowler hit for .250 with a .757 OPS and 17 home runs in 2015, so you can bet that their front office is looking for an alternative that won’t make them miss the offense that Fowler provided. Both Reddick and Smolinski are certainly players on their radar that can do just that.
As for pitching, the Cubs certainly have the money to acquire a big arm through free agency. However, if they would rather use that money to acquire a big name like Yoenis Cespedes, then the A’s system (which is stacked with young starters) might be their alternative for back-end pitching. The A’s figure to start Sonny Gray, Jesse Hahn, Kendall Graveman, and Chris Bassitt, with Jarrod Parker and Sean Manaea both being late-season considerations. That leaves Jesse Chavez, A.J. Griffin, and Sean Nolin all jockeying for that fifth slot. Whoever doesn’t get it is certainly trade-bait.
So what do the Cubs have that the A’s need?
The Cubs are absolutely stacked in the middle infield, with personnel including Addison Russell, Starlin Castro, Tommy La Stella, Arismendy Alcantara, and Javier Baez. Theo Epstein can and will deal one or more of these pieces to bolster his outfield and starting rotation.
And Beane will listen to any offer that includes Baez.
Russell and La Stella are likely franchise figures for the Cubs that are unmovable, Castro is too expensive for Oakland, and Alcantara has struggled too much at the plate lately to be a valuable trade piece. But Baez represents a defensive upgrade over Marcus Semien, and a production upgrade over Eric Sogard (whose defense is unquestionably outstanding, but he is still looking for a breakout season at the plate).
A piece as good as Baez would normally be a difficult acquisition, but the Cubs’ incredibly talented middle infield corps will bring them to the table ready to deal.
Although this is purely speculative, the A’s and Cubs are weak in the right places to initiate a trade discussion. The clubs could mutually benefit if they discuss swapping a Cubs infielder for an A’s outfielder or pitcher.