MLB Trade Deadline: Stroman tops Cubs’ trade-chip power rankings

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Marcus Stroman tops Cubs Trade-Chip Power Rankings originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Cubs president Jed Hoyer said over the weekend that executives around the league are starting to make "the early phone calls” to start feeling out directions of rival teams, if not intentions toward which players might be made available this summer in trades.

“But nothing with much urgency,” Hoyer said. “It’s May still. … It doesn’t really get serious usually until late June, early July at the earliest.”

What may be clearer earlier than any season since at least 2014 is the Cubs’ status as sellers this summer, barring a miracle resurrection, as they continue to have internal discussions about plans for this season and whatever comes next in this second multi-year rebuild in a decade.

“Last year at this time we were actively talking about buying, and things obviously changed really quickly,” Hoyer said of a 2021 Cubs team that surged in May and jockeyed with Milwaukee for the top spot in the division until the final week of June — and an 11-game losing streak that led to a nine-man selloff.

“You never want to declare yourself too early,” Hoyer said. “You never know what’s going to happen. So I guess I’ll leave it at that.”

That doesn’t mean the rest of us will.

Which brings us to the weekly Trade Deadline Power Rankings of Cubs trade chips, Memorial Day Edition:

1. Marcus Stroman (last week: 2). The right-hander with two-plus years left on his $71 million deal deserved better than a no-decision for his seven scoreless innings of work Sunday against the White Sox. The least we could do for him was move him up a spot to the top of the charts.

Despite an 11-day stay on the COVID-19-related IL, Stroman has a 1.50 ERA in four May starts covering 24 innings, with 21 strikeouts and five walks.

A durable, high-performance starter with two years of club control and an extra dose of COVID immunity? That’s the stuff of October dreams.

2. Ian Happ (last week: 3). His usual big series in Cincinnati last week helped push him up a spot and maybe even into the early conversation for a first All-Star selection.

But the big value point that puts him over Willson Contreras in a close call is the switch-hitter’s extra year of club control with a final winter of arbitration eligibility coming.

3. Willson Contreras (last week: 1). The hard contact is still there but the top catcher in the game this year still is working back to full strength and trust in that right hamstring that sidelined him for a few days last week. An almost certain All-Star selection should keep the pending free agent in strong position on the list.

4. Drew Smyly (last week: NR). The left-handed rent-a-pitcher might be the Cubs’ most consistent starter this season and stretched out to 101 pitches in his last start. A bunch of playoff experience, including two World Series add to the appeal.

5. David Robertson (last week: 4). The blown save in Sunday’s ninth against his old team on the South Side bumped his ERA 43 points to 2.08 and pushed him down a spot in the rankings. But it’s going to take a lot more than that to soften the market for a big-game veteran with 33 games of postseason experience and a lot of high performance through two months of his one-year contract.

Dropped out: Starter Wade Miley (15-day IL, shoulder strain).