MLB trade deadline: Ranking the Cubs' top 10 trade targets with Whit Merrifield and David Peralta high on the list

With the trade deadline rapidly approaching, we here are CBS Sports are going to rank the top 10 trade targets for various contending teams these next two weeks. It's the Cubs' turn. 

The Cubs were in first place heading into the All-Star break, but it was a pretty disappointing first half compared to where they felt like they should have been in terms of true talent. The bullpen and rotation had their fair share of problems, though the rotation is coming into focus once Cole Hamels gets off the injured list, as Yu Darvish is locking in while Kyle Hendricks, Jon Lester and Jose Quintana have been more what they were expected to be. 

The bullpen is a lot stronger now with Craig Kimbrel closing and Pedro Strop off the injured list (though he's been rocky). Still, they need more reliable options that can get big outs. Depth has been a concern all season and they notably could use another lefty beside Kyle Ryan

Further, man the Cubs could really use a consistent leadoff man. Kyle Schwarber has been holding it down, but he's not a leadoff man. The Cubs have gotten a .231 batting average and .307 on-base percentage from the leadoff spot this season. They need someone who can get on at least a 35 percent clip in order to fully take advantage of the thump that follows (Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and, when healthy, Willson Contreras makes for a stellar 2-5). They have enough roster and positional flexibility that the leadoff man can play any outfield spot (though center field, I think, would be most preferable), second base or third base (kicking Bryant out to the outfield). 

2019 MLB Trade Deadline: Top 10 Cubs trade targets
1
Whit Merrifield Kansas City Royals RF

Key stat: .365 OBP

This seems hard to see happening because the Royals are reportedly asking for the world for Merrifled and would rather keep him. He's on an incredibly team-friendly deal (four years, $16.25M) with a club option keeping him under control through 2023. He hits for high average and gets on base at above league average. I think in switching to a lineup with such thump behind him he'd see a bump in OBP, too. He also steals bases, an element the Cubs haven't featured this season. Further, he can play almost anywhere on the diamond. He's an absolute perfect fit here and would enable the Cubs to run out the following as a top five: Merrifield, Bryant, Rizzo, Baez, Contreras. Few teams in baseball can boast of a fearsome five like that.
2
David Peralta Arizona Diamondbacks LF

Key stat: .352 OBP

As with any non-Marlins team in the NL, we can't be sure the Diamondbacks will sell. If they do, Peralta is a fit with the Cubs (and would possibly be paired with the Cubs' dealing Schwarber, though they could play Heyward in center, Peralta in right and keep Schwarber). Peralta doesn't run like Merrifield, but he gets on base and though his power is down this season, he hit 30 bombs last year and might thrive in a new lineup. He's only under team control through next season, but the Cubs could definitely make him work at the top of the lineup and, again, would have a pretty tough top of the order on opposing pitchers. If the D-Backs sell, I think this is a realistic get.
3
Brad Hand Cleveland Indians RP

Key stat: 39.8 K% (5th in baseball among relievers)

Cubs president Theo Epstein has publicly said that he doesn't want to mess with dealing his upper-level prospects because they need to build the farm system back up after emptying it in 2016-18 in "win now" deals, so that likely takes Hand off the table. Surely someone like the Yankees would outbid the Cubs. If not, though, Hand is an excellent fit as an eighth-inning lefty in front of Kimbrel (even if Hand is better now, the Cubs signed Kimbrel to a three-year deal and won't be moving him off closer). I mentioned the strikeout percentage as a key stat because the Cubs don't have many high-octane arms in the bullpen and they could definitely use a lefty that misses bats. Let's name a few more ...
4
Felipe Vazquez Pittsburgh Pirates RP

Key stat: 37.5 K% (seventh in baseball among relievers)

Everything I said about Hand could basically be copied and pasted here. Vazquez is a stud lefty who misses bats, but he also likely is going to cost far more than the Cubs could give. In fact, there were rumors they were asking the Dodgers for two of their top four prospects and the Dodgers' farm system runs laps around the Cubs'. Also, the Pirates probably wouldn't be too keen on helping the Cubs. This is a "pie in the sky" deal for Cubs' fans to dream on.
5
Will Smith San Francisco Giants RP

Key stat: 38.3 K%

Smith is likely more attainable for the Cubs than the previous two entries, but the problem here is the Giants are crazy-hot and now within just a few games of a playoff spot. It's hard to justify selling in such a scenario, but what if there's a well-timed losing streak before July 31? Then the Giants 100 percent are dealing Smith, who hits free agency after this season and would be a stellar setup man for Kimbrel. With bigger names like Hand and Vazquez on the market -- not to mention righties like Ken Giles and maybe Kirby Yates -- the price for Smith could fall into the Cubs' range. If the price is too high, though ...
6
Tony Watson San Francisco Giants RP

Key stat: 4.32 FIP vs. 2.95 ERA

Watson is the consolation prize to losing out on Smith. The ERA looks good and he has a quality track record, having pitched in the NL Central with the Pirates for years. He's 34, though, and the underlying numbers (the aforementioned FIP and the 88.1 percent left-on-base percentage seems unsustainable) indicate Watson might not be very effective the rest of the way. Plus, his strikeout percentage is a paltry 17.8 and he's not rocking an overly high groundball percentage either. Moving from San Francisco's Oracle Park to Wrigley would likely be problematic.
7
Jake Diekman Kansas City Royals RP

Key stat: 13.27 K/9

Diekman has a slightly high ERA (4.89, which is a 97 ERA+) and WHIP (1.37), but he's struck out 57 in 38 2/3 innings and that could play with the Cubs. The price isn't likely to be anything the Cubs can't handle, so maybe he's a more realistic option than Smith. His peripherals, such as a 3.60 FIP, suggest he's pitched better than his ERA indicates, too. Of note: Though he's a bit harder on lefties, he's held right-handed hitters to a .204/.331/.367 slash, so even if he's not used as a setup man to Kimbrel, he could work full innings and wouldn't be relegated to LOOGY status.
8
Nicholas Castellanos Detroit Tigers RF

Key stat: .316/.361/.526 in July

Castellanos isn't as good a fit as the position players mentioned at the top because he's a bad defender and he shouldn't really be hitting leadoff. If the Cubs did grab him, they could sub him out in the late innings for defensive purposes and probably could hit him fifth with sliding up Bryant to lead off in front of Rizzo, Contreras and then Baez. It would work and would bring more punch to the lineup. He got off to a rocky start, but he's been hot of late. He's hit 26 homers in a season before and leads the majors with 32 doubles this year. He'd likely thrive in the ballpark and he's a rental, hitting free agency after the season.
9
Kole Calhoun Los Angeles Angels RF

Key stat: 111 OPS+

It's unclear if the Angels will sell, but if they do we could squint out way to Calhoun being an option for the Cubs. He could man right field with Heyward hopping over to center. He has experience leading off, but the .327 OBP is lower than you'd like, so go with the same scenario as I laid forth with Castellanos. Calhoun has 21 homers this season and would surely love all the RBI opportunities that would come with hitting fifth in this Cubs' lineup. He's sort of a rental, with a club option for 2020, which gives the Cubs the option to hold onto him if they like what he does after a deal. He's not the best fit, but he works.
10
Shin-Soo Choo Texas Rangers DH

Key stat: .384 OBP

I don't think Choo is really an option here due to his contract and defensive limitations. His owed $21 million in 2020 and all defensive metrics that have an element of range show him as atrocious in the outfield. He's a DH. So why did I mention him? Because he's an on-base machine and would be an excellent leadoff option for the Cubs. He's at .384 this season and has a career mark of .378. He would score an ungodly number of runs in this offense and being a lefty means they get to alternate sides of the plate with Choo (L), Bryant (R), Rizzo (L), Baez (R). I just think it's hard to justify him with the defense and having to pay him so much next season when he should be a DH.
CBS Sports Writer

Matt Snyder has been a baseball writer with CBS Sports since 2011. A member of the BBWAA, he's now covered every World Series since 2010. The former Indiana University baseball player now lives on the... Full Bio

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