The Cubs can only get one. Either we can trade for Manny Machado and hope for a contract extension after this year or wait out and sign Bryce Harper in 2019. Theo Epstein has some tough choices to make over the next few months, as the trade deadline looms in late July.
Thoughts on Manny Machado to Cubs
By now you have certainly heard that there is mutual interest for Manny Machado and the Cubs. It does sound like a longshot and that would be correct. Trading Addison Russell, Ian Happ, or others is almost implausible for a team that won the World Series in 2016, went to the NLCS in 2017, and is off to a better start in 2018 than in 2017. But for a superstar shortstop slashing .343/.419/.652 with 15 home runs at the youthful age of 25, he’s very intriguing. However, the consequences can be huge if Machado leaves in free agency and the Cubs are without key components of the team. That’s why Manny Machado is more of a fantasy and not the real deal for now.
Bryce Harper Signing with the Cubs is a More Plausible Option
There might be a real deal for the Cubs, and it comes in the outfield. Sure, we have five strong outfielders on the roster at the moment, but things can change very quickly. Mulling over all the outfielders, there are ones that are locked up and others that have a small potential of leaving. Kyle Schwarber is a lock now with his weight loss and no longer is considered in any trade. He’s a piece that will stay with the Cubs for several years. Albert Almora is nowhere near a trade because of his skills on offense and defense. He also will be in center field for many years to come. Then that leaves us with Ian Happ, Jason Heyward, and Ben Zobrist. Happ has huge potential for his future but extensive struggles early this season have sent that into question. Heyward’s offensive performance over the past three seasons has raised a similar concern. Finally, Ben Zobrist turns 37 this weekend with one year left on the contract. That’s not an ideal age when potentially looking at the option of a new contract when it expires. Retirement could be the case finally after this season for Zobrist. So, where can Bryce Harper fit in?
Right field must be the spot for Harper if the Cubs decide to go all in and pursue. Now that’s only if Theo Epstein decides to move Heyward and potentially Happ at the deadline or in the offseason. That is saying a lot for Heyward making over $20 million per year for his defense and Happ with a bright future ahead with just a minor setback this year. The only way to make room for Bryce Harper in a crowded outfield is to clear out the depth which would mean removing potential key pieces holding the Cubs together. Is it worth it for another offensive threat to add to the list of All-Stars already on the Cubs? Probably not. But it’s certainly a more plausible option than Manny Machado in an overloaded infield.
Cubs May Surprise Most and Not Pursue Machado or Harper
Perhaps if this season goes in the right direction, which it’s looking like, Theo Epstein may surprise all of us and not pursue Machado or Harper. The impact of either one on the team would make a difference on offense but is it worth giving up what works for potentially winning more championships. They both have big bats, yet neither have the postseason experience where the Cubs would need them the most. Heyward for sure fits that criteria and Happ can be a homegrown outfield superstar at a much lower cost for now. Not pursuing Machado and Harper is a high likelihood for the Cubs trying to do what is best for the franchise.
No Matter What Happens, Cubs Main Core Should Not Be Touched
Whatever Theo Epstein does decide on, whether that would be trading for Manny Machado and sign an extension, waiting on Bryce Harper and breaking up the outfield, or keep the team layout the way it is, the main core should not be touched. That means Ian Happ and Addison Russell should not in trade talks at all. What the Cubs have right now is special and can win multiple World Series championships in the next 5-6 years as the main core hit their prime. Theo Epstein built up the Cubs looking at the future, not the present, and he should do the same in 2018 and 2019.