(670 The Score) The biggest decision the Cubs face as the trade deadline looms on Aug. 1 is what to do with ace Marcus Stroman, who can opt out of his contract after the season and enter free agency.
To date, there has been little to no progress in contract extension negotiations between the two sides, meaning a crossroads could await for the Cubs at the trade deadline – and the decision will reveal what the team thinks about itself. Are the Cubs a solid club with a good chance to win the NL Central that feels hopeful about making noise in the playoffs with Stroman leading the way on the mound? Or are they a team destined to finish around .500 while treading water in the division for the final few months of the season?
As it sits now, Score baseball insider Bruce Levine believes it’s more of the latter. With the Cubs sitting at 37-41 and trailing by 4.5 games in the NL Central entering play Thursday, Levine believes Chicago needs to seriously entertain the idea of trading Stroman unless it makes a big surge in the coming weeks to take control of the division.
“I would trade Stroman," Levine said on the Mully & Haugh Show on Thursday morning. "People are probably driving off the road saying, ‘How are you going to trade the best pitcher in the National League right now?’ The reason is the chips are all on Stroman’s side. He can walk away from his contract – he’s making ($25 million) this year and ($21 million) next – he can walk away after this season. I don’t think you can afford to play that game. I don’t think the gamble is worth it. I think he’s a terrific pitcher. I don’t think they’re poised right now to offer him a five-year extension (worth $30 million annually). So with that said, what can you get for Stroman?
“It’s a guy that can make a difference in you winning a division and maybe going on and winning a World Series. Can (Stroman) do that for you right now? The answer is no. I think there are some really hard choices for (Jed) Hoyer to make here.”
Levine doubled down on his belief by pointing out the Cubs are four games below .500 right now and that while they still have a chance to win the division, there are at least four teams in the National League better than them.
“You have to be better than a .500 team, I don’t care what the rhetoric is around (winning the division),” Levine said.
Stroman is in the second year of a three-year, $71-million contract, and he holds the $21-million player option for 2024.
Stroman is 9-5 with a 2.47 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 17 starts this season.
You can listen to Levine's full interview in the audio player above.