Ian Happ’s storybook rise in Cubs Trade Chip Power Rankings originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Happy All-Star selections, Willson Contreras and Ian Happ.
That might sound pretty harsh, but it’s essentially the message coming from a Cubs’ front office that has all but guaranteed it’s trading Contreras before the Aug. 2 trade deadline and that is at least shopping Happ to determine just how high his career-high value is these days.
Does that put the Cubs’ Rebuild That Shall Not be Named into the tanking realm of such things?
If you believe that the homegrown Contreras, 30, and the homegrown Happ, 27, should be offered extensions at market value (we do) instead of being traded by the big-revenue Chicago Freaking Cubs for the unsecured promise of some future, better shot at winning, then it might.
For now, their selections to the July 19 Midsummer Classic at Dodger Stadium at least launches the Cubs All-Star Uni Watch as we unveil this week’s Cubs Trade Chip Power Rankings.
Will either one still be wearing a Cubs uniform on July 19? If at least one isn’t, will he be with an American League club in L.A. and consequently not eligible to play, a la 2014 Jeff Samardzija?
And check out this week’s Power Rankings
1. Ian Happ (last week: 4) — The switch-hitting left fielder’s first All-Star selection heightens the scrutiny, if not the pressure, on the front office to make a decision on his future imminently.
As one of the most savvy players in the clubhouse when it comes to the business side of the game, the team’s union rep isn’t likely to take a steep hometown discount or to settle for a short enough extension that leaves him at a value-killing age to leverage another good deal when he becomes a free agent afterward.
With year left of club control after this, one plausible scenario would have the Cubs kick the can down the road into the off-season, evaluating Happ based on what he did over the full season this year, exploring the cost of an extension at that point and, if failing in that effort, trying to trade him before next season.
Tick, tock on one of the few feel-good stories of this Cubs season.
2. Willson Contreras (last week: 2) — Did somebody say feel-good story? How can even the most jaded fan’s heart not soften to see the emotion shown by the Cubs’ catcher and his brother William, who catches for the Braves, at both making the NL All-Star game in Contreras’ presumptive final season as a Cub.
Willson called it “the next step in our dream come true” when he was asked to imagine the possibility even before it became a reality with William’s selection Sunday.
Rated by some outlets as the top player available on the trade market this month, the likeliest scenario would seem to have the Cubs taking talks with several teams down to the deadline wire as they did with previous core trade pieces Anthony Rizzo, Javy Báez and Kris Bryant last year.
But Mets catcher James McCann just went down again with an injury, this time a potentially lengthy oblique. And the team with the most aggressive ownership in the majors might want to strike early to fill a targeted need — especially Max Scherzer having made a powerful return from the IL last week, and Jacob deGrom on his third minor-league rehab start and also nearing a return for the NL East leaders.
3. Marcus Stroman (last week: NR) — The Cubs’ big free agent pitcher of last off-season hasn’t made the Power Rankings since the end of May because of a series of maladies, including bout with COVID-19 and some shoulder soreness.
But the former All-Star returned from the IL with a scoreless four innings against the potent Dodgers lineup Saturday on a strict, return-start pitch limit and suddenly could turn into a highly desired starter — with two years left on his contract — in a tepid starting pitching market.
4. David Robertson (last week: 3) — The right-hander’s fourth and fifth blown saves of the season last week took some of the luster off an otherwise eye-popping return this year from three seasons dealing with an elbow injury — and dropped him a spot in the rankings.
But he remains one of the top back-end relievers in play toward the deadline with a sparkling 2.10 ERA and big-game pedigree that includes 33 postseason appearances, primarily with the Yankees, including two scoreless World Series appearances to help earn a ring.
5. Mychal Givens (last week: tied for 5) — Givens’ 17 walk rate could be better, but the power-pitching right-hander has quietly been one of the Cubs’ steadiest relievers and one of the more effective setup men in the league.
This month alone, he has faced the Red Sox, Brewers (twice) and Dodgers and produced four scoreless outings against the playoff-contending gauntlet (for nine straight overall), earning two holds and picking up a late-inning win in Milwaukee.
Dropped out: Kyle Hendricks, Chris Martin.
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