MLB trade grades: Rare cross-city deal opens Cubs roster spot for Cody Bellinger

The Chicago Cubs opened a roster spot for Cody Bellinger in a trade with the Chicago White Sox.

Chicago Cubs V Chicago White Sox
Chicago Cubs V Chicago White Sox / Matt Dirksen/GettyImages

The Chicago Cubs have opened a roster spot for star outfielder Cody Bellinger, who they signed to a three-year deal over the weekend. Bellinger has opt outs after the first two years on his contract and can re-enter free agency.

Before the Cubs could officially add Bellinger to their 40-man roster, however, they had to clear a spot. Chicago has traded left-handed pitcher Bailey Horn to the Chicago White Sox for minor-league righty Matt Thompson. While a minor trade, it does serve a major purpose for the Cubs as they hope to finish what they started last year and win the NL Central.

While this trade doesn't loom as large as past moves involving the two clubs -- including a deal for Jose Quintana which sent Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease cross town -- the White Sox had little to lose by giving in to the Cubs terms.

MLB trade grades: Cubs clear roster spot for Cody Bellinger thanks to White Sox

The White Sox acquired Bailey Horn, a relief pitcher who hasn't thrown in the major leagues yet. Horn pitched in Double-A at the end of the 2023 season, and had a respectable 2.00 ERA in four outings. He struggled a bit in Triple-A, with an ERA over 4.00 in nine outings. With a rebuilding team like the White Sox, the 25-year-old may receive an opportunity to pitch out of the major-league bullpen with a fresh start on the south side.

The Cubs acquired Matt Thompson, who is just 22 years old and will start at the top levels of Chicago's system, likely replacing Horn in Double-A. Thompson has starting experience, and went 6-15 with a 4.85 ERA last season with the White Sox Double-A squad. He won't take up a 40-man roster spot, as the Cubs will likely ask him to report directly to minor-league spring training.

White Sox trade grade: B

Despite doing the Cubs a favor, White Sox GM Chris Getz is familiar enough with Horn. Getz was the Cubs farm director in 2020-21, and thus is very familiar with Chicago's system. The White Sox need bullpen help to start the season, especially after trading Aaron Bummer and losing Reynaldo Lopez shortly after the trade deadline in 2023. Horn could provide just that at a relatively cheap cost.

Cubs trade grade: C+

The Cubs didn't care much about winning this trade, per say. The only goal of this deal was to clear a roster spot for Bellinger, who will now be added to the spring training mix. In Thompson, Chicago adds a younger player who can at least replace Horn's production in Double-A, or perhaps join the starting rotation in Iowa.

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