By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Will another big trade deadline deal be the course of action for the Cubs’ accomplished front office in the next week?
Going as far back as 2004 during their days with the Red Sox and again last season, Cubs executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have a history of making some monster trades before time ran out. Little in the past has stood in their way of improving their team’s chances of winning a championship, so should we expect anything less this week?
Big-name starting pitchers and bullpen help is available. Rangers right-hander Yu Darvish would be a difference-making two-month rental before he’s set to hit free agency this offseason. A power pitcher, Darvish would be in the top three — or top two — of any playoff team’s rotation. Darvish loves the Rangers and is likely to re-sign with Texas on a multi-year deal in the offseason, sources said, so the question is how much young talent a team would give up for Darvish.
Rangers catcher Jonathan Lucroy would also make sense for the Cubs.
Orioles star closer Zach Britton is under team control through 2018 and arbitration eligible after making $11.4 million this season. He’s had some injury troubles this season, in which he has a 2.65 ERA. He was sensational in 2016, converting all 47 of his save chances. If he was on Chicago’s radar, he could be a bridge to Wade Davis or share the closing role with him based on matchups.
The Tigers are still shopping right-hander Justin Verlander, who’s owed $28 million in 2018 and 2019, then has a $22 million vesting option for 2020. Would the Tigers give the Cubs or another suitor a discount on the $56 million owed to the 34-year-old Verlander over the next two years? The answer is yes, according to sources.
The asking price for the Tigers in a potential deal with the Cubs would be expected to be a big league talent like Ian Happ and a top-flight minor league pitcher. Not many teams can afford Verlander, but the Cubs are one that could.
The Cubs also want to add a veteran catcher in the next week, which is why a bigger deal with Detroit that also includes Alex Avila could also make sense. Adding more intrigue to the mix is that the Cubs have expressed interest in Tigers closer Justin Wilson.
The rumors surrounding Athletics right-hander Sonny Gray are all over the map. He’s been a solid performer when on the mound, but that hasn’t been often enough. His arm injuries should be a red flag when assessing his value, and Oakland president Billy Beane would want top talent back from Chicago in a potential deal.
Gray is under club control through 2019 and is arbitration eligible these next two offseasons after making $3.575 million this year. He has a 3.66 ERA and 1.18 WHIP.
Epstein and Hoyer pulled off the big deal for closer Aroldis Chapman in 2016. With the team’s recent resurgence, the Epstein-Hoyer regime’s past history and their competitiveness, to think the Cubs wouldn’t go all out to add the final pieces for another possible run at a championship would be short-sighted.
After all, Epstein and Hoyer have three championship rings to prove their commitment to winning.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.