Cubs Have Reportedly ‘Privately Discussed’ Vladimir Guerrero Deal, Also Working Catcher Market

The big story here is already old news, but I’m getting to it now because I wasn’t able to do much over the weekend. According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the Cubs have “privately discussed the possibility of trying to acquire” slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr. ahead of the trade deadline if the Blue Jays opt to sell. Bo Bichette, another of Toronto’s multitude of nepo babies — yes, I know that’s not really what they are — could also be on the block, though the Cubs haven’t been connected to him.

There are, however, quite a few caveats to this situation, the biggest of which is that the Jays would have to be willing to move Guerrero. Their win on Sunday puts them at 32-33, a game ahead of the Rays for fourth in the AL East and just two games out of the Wild Card. The Cubs’ latest win moved them to 32-34, moving them to a tie for second in the NL Central and the Wild Card.

If it seems odd that a team with a worse record might be playing the role of buyer in this case, consider that only four NL teams have a winning record right now. And, as noted earlier, the Cubs are very much in the hunt for the postseason despite playing like hot trash over the last several weeks. But just how aggressive are they going to be willing to exercise knowing it may not take much to push their way into the playoffs?

The front office took a pretty big swing by sending lefty pitching prospect Jackson Ferris to the Dodgers for Michael Busch and ostensibly handing over the reins to first base immediately. They’d effectively be hitting the reset button on that move by putting together a far bigger package for a first baseman who still has one more year of control remaining.

While anything is possible, I don’t find it very likely that Jed Hoyer would be willing and able to meet what is sure to be an exorbitant trade return. Jays GM Ross Atkins has already spoken on the topic after a report from Mark Feinsand of indicated Toronto had already had talks with other clubs and that “the asks were ridiculous.”

In a recent interview on MLB Network Radio, Atkins said it “just doesn’t make any sense for us” to trade either of the aforementioned players and said any inquiries were just other executives doing due diligence. Whether that’s a matter of being earnest or keeping his cards close, it all amounts to pretty much the same thing in the end. Landing Guerrero would take a huge haul, and that doesn’t seem like the kind of thing the Cubs are interested in right now.

“I wouldn’t characterize it as conservative, but are we trading our entire farm system for 2024?” Carter Hawkins said on 670 The Score’s Parkins & Spiegel at the end of May. “No, we’re not trying to do that either. I would hope that it’s a measured aggression with the idea that we’re going to be winning for a long, long time here and want to stay set up for that. That’s the constant balance, you know, looking at your team this year and saying ‘Hey look, if I pull every lever we can be better,’ but there’s a cost to that.”

Though nothing is impossible, I’d say it’s far more likely the Cubs make a move to shore up a spot in the lineup that has been sorely lacking in offensive production. As first reported by David Kaplan and subsequently confirmed by @HotStoveCubbies, they have had talks with the Rockies for Elías Díaz and may have also discussed Danny Jansen with the Jays. That could lend credence to the bigger rumor in terms of the front office weighing the idea of being in for a pound if they’re in for a penny.

They reportedly spoke to the A’s about Shea Langeliers, though Oakland isn’t open to anything because he’s still earning the league minimum and isn’t arbitration-eligible until 2026. They’ll need cheap young players to help them with the nightmare of the next few seasons as they navigate their eventual move to Las Vegas, and the 26-year-old Langeliers fits that bill to a tee.

As of Monday, Cubs catchers have combined for a 45 wRC+ and -1.1 fWAR, both 28th in MLB. They have also thrown out only eight baserunners, tied for the lowest total in baseball. Jansen has a 132 wRC+ and has thrown out five would-be base stealers while Diaz is at 110 with 11 thrown out. Both players are earning right around $5 million this season — Vladito is just under $20M, for what it’s worth — and will be free agents in 2025, making cost and commitment relatively negligible.

There’s still hope for Miguel Amaya to figure things out because he just turned 25 in March and has less than a year of service time. Yan Gomes, on the other hand, is about to turn 37 and is currently turning in the worst performance of his career. His 21 wRC+ says he’s 79% worse than a league-average offensive producer and probably would have earned him a DFA by now if he wasn’t so highly respected in the clubhouse. Still, the Cubs have to make a move at catcher because what they’ve gotten to this point is unacceptable.

Given their competitive situation and the conservative nature of the front office, it just seems infinitely more likely that they make a smaller deal for a backstop rather than pulling off a blockbuster for a superstar slugger. Mind you, that’s not me saying what I think they should do. That said, adding Jansen or Díaz might end up giving them more bang for their prospect buck both immediately and down the road.

We’re sure to hear a lot more about these and other possibilities as the July 30 trade deadline approaches, especially if the Cubs pull their heads from their backsides and start resembling a decent team again.

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