In a stunning turn, the Cubs did not have the massive fire sale that most envisioned, but still made several deals close to the deadline.
In the weeks leading up to the trade deadline, it seemed as though it was a foregone conclusion that the Chicago Cubs would again control much of the traffic deadline once the Juan Soto situation was resolved. Willson Contreras and Ian Happ were almost as good as gone, being seen as two of the top bats available, and even felt they themselves would be dealt in the week leading up to the deadline.
But the deadline came and went without either player being moved and, overall, we saw a far less turbulent trade deadline than what we saw last season. There were still five moves made in the days before the deadline, but all of the talk in the days that followed centered around those Chicago didn’t make. There’s much uncertainty and many ways to speculate on the Cubs’ decision to keep the duo, but how did the team do on the trades they actually did make?
Cubs opened up their moves by flipping Chris Martin to Los Angeles
Chris Martin, RHP
Zach McKinstry, UTIL
Much like the previous deadline, the Cubs built up a rock-solid back-end bullpen trio that were obvious trade candidates. Chris Martin, signed by the Cubs in the offseason for just $2.5 million, was another example of the team’s very effective approach to building a bullpen. The 36-year-old sported a 4.31 ERA, but that is far from telling the whole story.
Martin holds a walk rate of a minuscule 2.8 percent, while also striking out more than 28 percent of the batters he faces. Martin also got batters to hit into groundballs just over 50 percent of the time, allowing line drives under 20 percent of the time. These are the metrics of a good high-leverage reliever, but the unlucky ERA comes from a staggeringly high .359 BABIP. These were numbers a team like the Dodgers obviously took note of, and believe they can capitalize on his positive regression.
In return, the Cubs got 27-year-old Zach McKinstry, who can play multiple positions well and has hit well at every step of the way in the minor leagues. The problem for McKinstry is that in his very limited time in the majors, he’s been anything but pretty at the plate. Mckinstry simply had no spot to breakthrough in Los Angeles, and he has a career OPS below .630 in the majors.
McKinstry has never had a steady stream of playing time in the majors which would affect any player’s performance, and now he’ll get that opportunity with the Cubs. McKinstry slashed .335/.417/.487 in Triple-A this season, and if he can find a similar groove with consistent playing time, this could be a fantastic return for Martin.
Many may question if the return on Martin, with all of his elite underlying metrics, is actually worth it, but it’s important to keep in context that Martin is a 36-year-old, rental, right-handed reliever. Teams are lucky if they fetch a Bailey Horn-type return that the Cubs got for Tepera last year. McKinstry is a major-league-ready, controllable utility player that’s flashed plus plate discipline and decent power in the past.