Cubs start spinning the trade carousel with a deal for McKinstry from the Dodgers

The Cubs kicked off what should be another busy trade season with an opportunistic deal, acquiring 27-year-old utility Zach McKinstry from the Dodgers for right-hander Chris Martin.

President of baseball operations Jed Hoyer and general manager Carter Hawkins must be hoping they’ll also be shopping All-Stars Willson Contreras and Ian Happ, as well as pitchers Daniel Robertson, Mychal Givens and possibly Drew Smyly. The Martin-for-McKinstry trade was smart, because they signed Martin to a one-year, $2.5 million deal last March and could have McKinstry for five seasons, if they don’t eventually move him for a lead or two.

Although McKinstry may never force his way into a safe spot with the Dodgers, who feature the most talent in the majors, his left-handed batting and Ben Zobrist-level versatility will be a blessing for Cubs manager David Ross. .

McKinstry has had its ups and downs with the Dodgers in 2021, hitting just .215 with a .668 OPS in some 60-game games. He did it with double-digit starts in right field and left field, as well as second and third base. But he never received the regular playing time he thrived on in Triple-A.

A 33rd-round draft pick from Central Michigan University, McKinstry has compiled a .323/.401/.550 line in 489 board appearances at Oklahoma City since the delayed start of the 2020 season. He has shown battling skills. mice above average, hitting only 15.7% of the time with a walk rate of 10.8.

The Cubs could make McKinstry look like a regular at second base, something often-injured Nick Madrigal has failed to achieve. McKinstry and rookie Christopher Morel, a right-handed hitter, both seem capable of moving between the infield and outfield, which could help the Cubs carry an extra reliever as they rebuild the pitching staff.

Martin, 36, fills an immediate need for the Dodgers, who saw Craig Kimbrel struggle in the closer role as injuries depleted the bullpen around him. Daniel Hudson, Kimbrel’s most likely replacement, is out for the season after a torn ACL, and Blake Treinen, Brusdar Graterol, Victor Gonzalez and Tommy Kahnle are all on the injured list.

Martin returned from Japan to resurrect his career with Texas in 2018. He has put up a 3.46 ERA over the past four seasons, hitting both the arm angles offered by his 6-8 frame and in throwing an unusually high percentage of strikes.

While the Cubs could extend Contreras before he reaches free agency in November, it looks like they’ll trade him. They also investigate Happ, an outfielder who is under the team’s control until 2023.

Despite the many revenue streams he’s developed since buying the Cubs and revitalizing Wrigley Field, Cubs president Tom Ricketts has been surprisingly passive in trying to retain the core of players who won the World Series. 2016, ending the franchise’s 108-year drought. The Cubs dealt top players Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Javier Baez at the trade deadline a year ago.

All were offered contract extensions at some point, but none at an amount the players felt was market value. Rizzo said there were differences in the team’s stance towards players – no doubt based on age and future projections – but “the common denominator is that none of us have sign”.

If there were any late attempts to extend Contreras’ contract, they remained confidential. It looks like the Cubs are ready to hand over their catch to veteran Yan Gomes and PJ Higgins while nabbing prospect Miguel Amaya who is continuing his recovery from Tommy John surgery.

McKinstry might have more stamina than any of the receivers. But who knows what to expect from the current Cubs management team?