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Winter Meetings Trade Rumor: Chicago Cubs targeting Tyler Glasnow. Who should the Rays ask for in return?

Building a trade for Tyler Glasnow.

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MLB: OCT 03 AL Wild Card - Rangers at Rays Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s a day that ends in a ‘Y’ which means that every organization in the MLB is actively engaged in trade talks with the Tampa Bay Rays, but from just about every place around, there are confirmed conversations happening between the Rays and the Chicago Cubs regarding Tyler Glasnow.

The Tampa Bay Rays have let it be known this offseason that they’re looking to unload Glasnow and his $25M salary commitment for the 2024 season, but it’s an interesting offseason to be trying to offload any salary, because across the league long-term revenue projections have been thrown into uncertain waters by the collapse of Diamond Sports Group’s Regional Sports Networks.

Read More from FanGraphs: The Television Elephant (Telephant? Elevision?) in the Room

The Cubs, however, own their own Regional Sports Network, shielding them from the waves rocking other clubs’ boats, and potentially setting them up as ideal trade partners financially.

And industry-wide RSN issues aside, Glasnow is not “expensive” — he’s due close to the market rate for a pitcher of his quality. Any team concerned with competing should have no problem paying his salary for 2024.

Tyler Glasnow, when healthy, is among the game’s most elite starting pitchers. Since the start of the 2019 season, among pitchers with at least 300 innings pitched, Glasnow ranks as follows:

  • ERA - 11th
  • FIP - 3rd
  • K% - 3rd
  • AVG - 4th
  • WHIP - 5th

Of course, the problem with Glasnow has never been his ability on the mound but rather his time spent on the Injured List. In 2023, he set a new single-season high in innings pitched with 120; from 2019 through 2022, Glasnow threw just 212 2/3 total innings.

So yes there is risk. But there’s also reason to be hopeful — the 2024 Spring figures to be the first “normal” ramp up Glasnow has had since 2019 (pandemic, lockout, injury rehab). That uncertainty could lead to widely varying assessments of Glasnow’s trade value throughout the industry. But there should be teams willing to send the Rays a decent haul of prospects for the privilege of paying Glasnow his 2024 salary.

Long-Term Trade Interest

The Cubs interest in Glasnow isn’t anything new as they have long coveted the talented ace.

At the 2021 trade deadline, the Cubs and Rays nearly came together on a deal that would have sent Glasnow, along with Kevin Kiermaier, to Chicago for third baseman Kris Bryant and reliever Craig Kimbrel, but the trade was never fully agreed upon and the two sides went their respective ways.

The snag that may have prevented the deal was Glasnow’s status on the Injured List for an issue that ultimately led to him undergoing Tommy John surgery. Years later, fully recovered, Glasnow is back in their sights.

According to Jon Morosi and confirmed by Chicago reporter Bruce Levine, the Cubs are again talking to the Rays about Glasnow.

What Might The Cubs Offer?

Bryant and Kimbrel are long gone from Chicago, and the Rays are likely no longer looking for short-term stars. But the Cubs are still able to put together a competitive offer no matter how high the bidding goes, with a farm system highlighted by outfielder Pete Crow-Armstrong, with a quality pitching depth both at both the minor and major league level, and a highly rated catching prospect in Moises Ballesteros.

And the Rays certainly have a need at catcher, given that Rene Pinto is the only backstop of note in the Rays system at the moment.

Read More: Rene Pinto and the Rays needs at catcher

So if there is a player in the Chicago organization that the Rays would likely target in a Glasnow trade, it’s easy to think that is Ballesteros.

During the 2023 season, the 19 year old backstop leapt through the minors and finished the year at Double-A. In their latest updated to the Cubs prospects rankings, Baseball America ranked Ballesteros 5th overall, describing his plus hitting profile as follows:

He’s a patient hitter who expertly controls the strike zone and has plus contact skills from the left side. He has a simple, fast swing and stings the ball to all fields when he gets a pitch over the plate. He hits lefties and righties, uses the whole field and stays within his approach. He demolishes fastballs in particular and shows average power potential, especially to right-center field. Ballesteros projects to hit for average and power, but his defensive outlook is cloudy. He has strong hands and is surprisingly flexible behind the plate, but his receiving is inconsistent and his framing is below-average.

A catcher like Ballesteros might be enticing, but the Rays would likely also ask for some nearly-MLB-ready pitchers to help fill the void left by Glasnow as well. In the Cubs system, that would mean the following players (with current Future Value grades from FanGraphs, where 50 is a major league regular):

  • RHP Cade Horton, the No. 7 overall draft pick in 2022, who shot up to Double-A last season. He’s their top pitching prospect with low mileage on his arm, and therefore likely not available for trade, but the Rays should ask. (55 FV)
  • LHP Jordan Wicks, the No. 21 overall pick in 2021, who made 7 starts in 2023 (50 FV)
  • RHP Ben Brown, who the Cubs acquired in 2022 but struggled in Triple-A last year. He’s efficient and tall at 6’6”; he projects well despite an elbow injury on his resume. (50 FV)
  • RHP Hayden Wesneski, who was also acquired in 2022 but struggled to pitch as a starter in the majors and was shifted to a relief role midseason. At 6’3” he gets great extension. (50 FV)
  • RHP Javier Assad, who pitched a serviceable 109.1 IP as a groundball inducing starter with a 3.05 ERA last season in his rookie season, including a fastball with a 98th percentile run value on Statcast (45 FV)
  • RHP Caleb Kilian, a 6’4” starter with great extension who has the repertoire to be a back-end guy, but who hasn’t established himself as one yet and will be 27 in 2024. (45 FV)
  • LHP Jackson Ferris, a 2022 second round pick at 47th overall, is also 6’4” so you should be sensing a theme with the Cubs system; his stuff is flashy but wild. (40+ FV)

So what would a full trade look like?

Exactly how much Chicago is willing to give up in its pursuit of an ace will depend on how much they believe in Tyler Glasnow’s ceiling (is he 100% back from his previous injury?), and how much they fear his floor (does injury history put him at heightened risk?).

Ballesteros and two of the pitchers listed above almost surely gets the Rays to say yes as it should meet the Rays needs generally. The Cubs will likely want to give up less (as shown in a Bleed Cubbie Blue poll that highlighted a deal using none of the players we’ve listed, and instead offered a platoon 1B, a reliever, and cash).

Hopefully the Rays’ budget constraints don’t lead them to sell their ace short.