Cubs could face more dreary deadline drama with Stroman

Fans know what the Cubs did last summer. And it's starting to look like a replay has already begun.

A significant source of drama last year was catcher Willson Contreras expecting to get dealt at the trade deadline. It didn't happen, but the Cubs let him cruise down I-55 to St. Louis as a free agent a few months later. It's safe to say most Cubs fans don't want to go through that again.

Now it's Marcus Stroman talking about how much he'd love to sign an extension with the Cubs, with trade-deadline drama looming. Over the weekend, Stroman, tweeted about the lack of progress with a contract extension.

"My agent and I made multiple attempts to engage them on an extension," the tweet read. "Club wasn't interested in exploring it now. Will see how it plays out! Love everything about the Cubs organization!"

Stroman, 32, signed a three-year deal with the Cubs in 2022, but can opt out and become a free agent this winter. That seems like a certainty since he currently leads the National League with a 2.42 ERA.

And unless the Cubs start playing better, they could be headed toward a 2021-style sell-off before the Aug. 1 trade deadline. Two years ago, they parted ways with Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javy Baez and Craig Kimbrel in the 24 hours before the deadline.

The Cubs do have a decent amount of pieces to sell if that's the path they choose. Stroman would be the biggest trade chip, but they could also get offers for Kyle Hendricks, Drew Smyly, Cody Bellinger, Mark Leiter Jr. and a few others.

The trade deadline played a huge part in the Cubs restocking the farm system. Five of their top 17-ranked prospects by arrived in 2021 deadline deals. Last year, president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer flipped relievers Scott Effross and David Robertson for Hayden Wesneski and Ben Brown.

The Cubs do have four starters in their 30s - Stroman, Smyly, Hendricks and Jameson Taillon - so a trade for younger talent is worth considering. If all goes well, the Cubs will be adding prospects Brown, Jordan Wicks and Cade Horton to the rotation in the next few years.

One factor that could discourage a sell-off is that, as disappointing as they've been, the Cubs (28-37) are 6½ games behind Pittsburgh in the NL Central and 5½ behind Milwaukee for the final wild card spot. If they just go a little above .500 during the next month, they figure to stay in contention.

Last year on June 13, the Cubs were 23-37, 11 games out of first place and about to get swept at home by the Padres.

So this one could still go either way. The Cubs have six games coming up against the Pirates, starting Tuesday at Wrigley Field, and could make up some ground with some wins. Justin Steele, currently second behind Stroman among NL ERA leaders, is eligible to return from a forearm strain this weekend when the Cubs host Baltimore.

The Cubs have been extension-averse in the last decade or so, but did ink Nico Hoerner and Ian Happ to three-year deals this spring. So the Stroman extension watch will likely continue. If the Cubs plan on getting competitive soon, having the best starting pitcher in the National League is a good place to start.

"I'm being very open and being very real here. There's been nothing," Stroman said of contract talks, according to The Athletic. "You can ask them that, from their perspective, as well. I'm very in tune now. I'm just putting that out there. But I'm not going to talk about it anymore. I'm back into my routine today and preparing for my next start on Thursday."

Stroman was careful to stress there's no animosity between him and Cubs management. He's just stating a desire to stay with the team.

"I love everything about the city of Chicago," Stroman added. "You won't ever catch me saying anything bad. The fan base has been incredible. The people have treated me perfectly. Yeah, I would truly love to stay a Cub. You never know how it's going to play out."

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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