Archive | Chicago Cubs

Cubs Sweep Brewers; Move to Ten Games over.500

Posted on 03 August 2015 by Bob

After a weekend series sweep in Milwaukee, the Cubs are rounding into playoff form and appear to be primed for a run the likes of which we haven’t seen this season. Chicago has now won five straight and moved to ten games over .500 for the first time in 2015, a feat they haven’t accomplished since 2008. In doing so they have vaulted themselves back into a tie with the Giants for the second Wild Card spot with the teams set to meet later this week At Wrigley Field for a four game series.

Clayton Richard

The Cubs got it done with pitching and hitting on Sunday as Clayton Richard pitched six innings while giving up five hits and just one run, a ground-out RBI by Hernan Perez in the third inning, to earn the win. Pretty much everyone got in on the action for the Cubs as Anthony Rizzo grounded into a fielder’s choice to score Dexter Fowler in the first inning; Addison Russell then homered to center field in the second to make it 2 – 0. After Perez added that run for the Brewers, Richard doubled in the fourth, to plate Jorge Soler and help his own cause tremendously. Kris Bryant then added an RBI single in the fifth to make it 4 – 1. Sliding hard into second on the play, Bryant appeared to hit his head and neck on Brewers shortstop Jean Segura. He left the game but should not miss anytime moving forward. Rizzo’s home run streak was snapped at four consecutive games.

It wasn’t over yet though as Milwaukee put two runners on with no outs in the ninth off of Hector Rondon, but he was able to work out of the jam despite giving up two runs and having to face an extra batter after Starlin Castro committed a huge error on a routine put-out that almost cost the Cubs dearly. Rondon picked up yet another save and the Cubs might have finally realized their potential as they took the contest 4 – 3 and upped their record to 57 – 47.

“I think this was a series we needed to take advantage of,” outfielder Chirs Coghlan said. “We did.”

So the Cubs finally did what they are supposed to do. Beat up on the bad teams and don’t let up. Chicago battled back from deficits quickly over the weekend and when they got on top, they kept swinging away to add runs and kept grinding on defense until the final out. It would have been nice to have this result a week ago but maybe this confidence boost will have a bigger impact with series against the Pirates and Giants this week, the two teams the Cubs are vying for a Wild Card spot against.

This is a big week for the Cubs as we are now into August and the homestretch will be here before you know it. They have nine games against the Pirates and seven against the Giants so the opportunities are there; it’s up to the Cubs, these young, ferocious Cubs, to make them count. They’ll get their chance to extend their win streak tonight as Jon Lester is set to pitch vs. Francisco Liriano with first pitch coming at 6:00PM CST.

Let’s Go Cubs!

 

 

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Rizzo Homers Again as Cubs Cruise Past Brew Crew

Posted on 01 August 2015 by Bob

Anthony Rizzo is on a roll, homering in each of the last three games as he led the Cubs past Milwaukee on Friday night at Miller Park. Jason Hammel gave up a solo-shot to Ryan Braun in the bottom of the first to make it 1-0 but Chicago got that run right back in the second inning when Starlin Castro singled in Kris Bryant. From there Hammel scattered five hits over the remainder of his almost six innings of work to pick up the W, his seventh straight decision vs. the Brewers.

RIZZO HR - 3 in  row

While Rizzo and Jorge Soler each had two hits a piece, it was the oft-maligned Castro who drove in two runs and looked rejuvenated after slogging through a rough year at the plate.

“He had three really good at-bats for us,” Maddon said. “(He) did a nice job at shortstop, but he’s capable of that. I mean, that’s who he is.”

Hector Rondon picked up another save, his 15th this year and the Cubs are now back to eight games over .500 at 55 – 47 and only one game game for the second Wild Card berth as San Francisco lost to Texas on Friday night. The Cubs also posted a 15 – 12 record for the month of July, and have now played .500 or better in every calendar month of this 2015 season.

Yes, things are looking up on the North Side and they get a chance to go nine games over .500 tonight as Kyle Hendricks takes the mound vs. former Cub Matt Garza with first pitch coming at 6:10PM CST.

Let’s Go Cubs!

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Down 2 Early, Cubs Battle Back Behind Rizzo’s 3 Run Homer; Acquire Dan Haren from Marlins

Posted on 31 July 2015 by Bob

The Cubs found themselves in an early hole Thursday night as Jake Arrieta surrendered one run on a Johnathan Lucroy double and another on a Ryan Braun infield single to make it 2-0 Brewers through three innings.  The Cubs bats were seemingly silent yet again, managing just two hits through seven innings, both courtesy of Anthony Rizzo.  But he wasn’t done yet.

Rizzo HR and Fowler

After Addison Russell and Dexter Fowler both singled to lead off the eighth inning, the cleanup man did what he does best. He homered to right center to drive in three runs and not only put the Cubs on the board, but also ahead where they would stay, adding another two runs in the ninth from Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber to give us our final result: a 5- 2 Cubs win. It was good to see Rizzo step up and deliver for the Cubs who really need to take care of business against this lowly Brewers club.

“It feels great. It really does,” Rizzo said afterwards. “Talking to the guys before the game, I was saying ‘let’s get off to a good start on this road trip.’ Last few road trips we’ve lost the first game. Winning the first one was big.”

Jake Arrieta’s stuff wasn’t his usual ‘ace’ effort, but he went six while allowing only two runs and the bullpen put together a three inning scoreless stretch while ceding just one hit to finish off the game. Hector Rondon looked strong in gathering back to back saves the last two nights and it appears he has grabbed the closer’s role back from Motte for the time being.

 

Dan Haren Cubs

 

UPDATE: The Cubs finally made their much-anticipated trade deadline moves today acquiring Dan Haren from the Miami Marlins in exchange for minor league prospects, Double-A pitcher Ivan Pinyero and infielder Elliot Soto. Haren should be a serviceable back of the rotation starter this team has been sorely lacking the past several weeks. The Cubs desperately needed someone to eat innings as Dallas Beeler has put tremendous pressure on the bullpen in his failure to go far in games. The Cubs gave up essentially nothing for the rental so this move gets a thumbs up as it should steady the ship and help to keep the Cubs in the hunt.

The Cubs also added a relief pitcher to the bullpen in Tommy Hunter who was acquired from the Orioles in exchange for Junior Lake. This should help as the bullpen picks up an accomplished arm at the expense of Lake, who has shown promise this year but hasn’t been able to sustain it enough to stay up in the Majors. Sad to see Lake go but the Cubs need all the pitching depth they can get right now so this move is a solid one as well.

The downside from the deadline has to be the Cubs inability to get a deal down for Tyson Ross and Craig Kimbrel of the Padres. While much of that can be chalked up to the Padres stiff asking price, it still would have been nice to grab Ross, who is under contract for a couple years and Kimbrel who is one of the top closers in the game. This would have been the ‘sexier’ play and would have probably cost Starlin Castro and Javy Baez but would have been worth it. It’s pretty shocking the Padres decided to hold onto all their pieces given they are 7.5 games out of the second wild card spot, but this is what makes baseball fun.

Now if the Cubs would just start swinging those bats with some consistency…

 

Tonight it’s Jason Hammel vs. the Brewers Taylor Jungmann. First pitch is 7:10PM CST.

Go Cubs Go!

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Lester K’s 14 as Cubs Top Rockies; Take 2 of 3

Posted on 30 July 2015 by Bob

This was the Jon Lester we have all been waiting for; the $155 million dollar man, the bona fide ace, the guy who puts a team on his back and carries them to victory. Sure, he had some help finally as Dexter Fowler provided some early run support with a lead-off home run and Anthony Rizzo followed suit in the third with a two-run shot of his own to stake Lester to a 3-0 lead. That would prove to be enough as Lester allowed only two runs on five hits in eight strong innings of work to beat the Rockies 3 – 2 on Wednesday afternoon at Wrigley Field.

Oh, and did I mention 14 strikeouts? 14 !?!?!

Jon Lester Ks 14

Lester became the first Cub to strike out at least 14 batters since Mark Prior in 2004, and the first Cubs left-hander to do so in over a century.  It was a sight to behold. Of course, it would have been just a foot note without that run support as Anthony Rizzo picked a great time to hit his first home run since July 7 that stayed just fair.

“It was nice to keep that one fair, for sure,” Rizzo said. “It turned out big for us.”

Big indeed as the Cubs were able to hold on to take the series 2 to 1, after falling 7 – 2 the evening before and leaving Cubs fans rolling their eyes at all the lost opportunities to make up ground in the wild card and division against sub-.500 teams. A series win will have to do after a putrid series against the Phillies; they completed the six game homestand with a 2-4 record, not exactly what you want to see from a team making a playoff run with just over two months left in the season.

The Cubs will get another stab at it as the travel to Milwaukee for a four game series vs. the 44- 58 Brewers, an excellent chance to get rolling and on the eve of the trade deadline, there is still hope that reinforcements may be on the way. With a flurry of deals the last 48 hours, most of the big name pitchers such as David Price and Cole Hamels have already been traded, and that’s fine as Cubs couldn’t offer to dismantle their farm systems for just one player, especially a rental. There are still a few interesting candidates out there and most of them play for the San Diego Padres.

Tyson Ross

The Cubs line up surprisingly well with the Padres as trade partners as San Diego looks to correct their offseason mistakes that didn’t pan out and replenish their farm system, while the Cubs have intriguing prospects and an excess of middle infielders (i.e. Starlin Castro) to offer in exchange for a reliable #4 or #5 pitcher. Ideally, the Cubs will land Tyson Ross or Andrew Cashner for the price of a Javy Baez or Starlin Castro and some lower level prospects to round out the deal. Adding Craig Kimbrel as a closer wouldn’t be a bad idea either if the price is right. The waiting will soon be over…

Tonight it’s Jake Arrieta on the bump vs. the Brewers Jimmy Nelson. Game time is 7:10 PM CST.

 

Let’s Go Cubs!

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Bryant Pulls Cubs Back from Brink with Walk-Off Home Run to Down Rockies

Posted on 28 July 2015 by Bob

Things looked pretty bleak heading into the bottom of the ninth Monday night as the Cubs had just turned a three run lead into a one run deficit after Jason Motte failed to record an out during his brief appearance and Rafael Soriano couldn’t clean up the mess he inherited allowing three runs to score, including another home run. It was 8 – 7 Rockies  and it appeared as if the Cubs were headed to their fourth straight defeat. It appeared there would be no celebrating these Cubs’ tenacity in fighting back from a four-run deficit to plate six men in the fourth inning. It appeared that this team’s slump-busting, offensive break-out would all be for naught; and as Kris Bryant stepped to the plate with one man on and two outs, it appeared that this game was basically over.

With one swing of the bat, #17 turned those appearances on their head.

Kris Bryant Walk-ff home run

Bryant launched the second pitch he saw into the left-center bleachers scoring Dexter Fowler, and collecting his first walk-off home run at Wrigley Field. More importantly, the Cubs picked up a big win at a time they desperately needed to do so to keep pace in the Wild Card chase.  Kyle Hendricks had another so-so outing going five innings while allowing seven hits and four runs, which still would have been enough for the win if the bullpen hadn’t collapsed.

Lost in the late-game theatrics was the fact that the Cubs bats finally returned, albeit for just one night, from the milk cartons they’ve currently been occupying. The Cubs were efficient, collecting nine runs on eleven hits, three of which came from the struggling Starlin Castro. The Cubs had a huge fourth inning as they batted around the order and chased Rockies starter Jorge De La Rosa from the game. Fowler and Kyle Schwarber both drew walks and Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Jorge Soler, and Castro all singled to either push men across or into scoring position. Addison Russell had an RBI double to cap the Cubs scoring in the merry-go-round inning and put Chicago up 6 – 4.

Despite tacking on another run to make it 7 – 4, the Cubs closer-by-committee approach completely fell apart in the ninth, something that just cannot happen. Carlos Gonzalez hit his second homer of the game to take the lead off of Soriano, who has now given up two home runs in only four relief appearances.

“We have to nail down a three-point lead in the ninth,”  Joe Maddon said. “We have to get better there. … We’ve given some of those things away. We almost gave one again tonight. We grabbed it back. Move it along.”

Thank the baseball gods for Kris Bryant. Without him this season could have been headed for a tailspin but hopefully his ninth inning heroics rubs off on a club which is in dire need of some good fortune.

“It wakes us up a little bit,” Bryant said. “We were a little nonchalant the last couple of games. Myself included. The energy of a walk-off win is going to pay for us moving forward.”

Castro vs. Rockies

They will need every ounce of that energy as the deadline looms and the Cubs largely looking to stand pat. There are still lots of question marks after last night; one being who can handle the closer’s role on a regular basis? Does the answer lie outside the Cubs’ clubhouse? All is still quiet on the Cubs front as other teams dive head-first into blockbuster deals. Stay tuned.

 

Tonight it’s Dallas Beeler for the Cubs vs. Yohan Flande for the Rockies. Game time is 7:05PM CST.

 

Let’s Go Cubs!

 

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Cubs Swept by Phillies as Disastrous Weekend Comes to an End

Posted on 27 July 2015 by Bob

This past weekend was one to forget for Cubs fans, except most might not be able to. Not only were the Cubs swept in humiliating fashion by the worst team in baseball, they were also on the wrong end of a No-Hitter (delivered by trade-bait, Cole Hamels), something that hadn’t happened to a Cubs team in almost 50 years. What was once the longest active streak in the Majors is now the shortest and what was once a team in command of a potential Wild Card berth is now a team in a 2.5 game hole. This was not how this weekend was supposed to play out.

Things started out poorly on Friday as Jason Motte failed to hold a 3 – 2 lead with one out in the ninth inning, allowing an RBI-ground rule double by Cody Asche to tie the game. Jeff Francoeur hit a two run homer in the tenth inning to allow the Phils to steal game one, 5 – 3 and wasted a decent effort by Jon Lester who allowed two runs on seven hits in seven innings of work. Fair enough. Saturday would be much better, right? After all, we had Jake Arrieta going against Cole Hamels.  WRONG.

Cole Hamels no hitter

Hamels was masterful on Saturday pitching a complete-game, No-Hitter while walking two and striking out thirteen in what was most likely his final start for a Phillies club that can ill afford to hold on to someone as valuable as himself with the atrocious record they currently occupy. Still, this was about what Hamels did on Saturday, not what he will do for one lucky team in the near future. Hamels had his stuff working and was for sure aided by a decent wind blowing in on a few hard hit balls to the warning track that on any other day are home runs. On Saturday, they were not however, and Cubs fans were forced to watch history made in their ballpark at their expense, a 5 – 0 loss that will sting for some time. There really isn’t much more to say as the Cubs offensive woes were on full display and turned what should have been a chance to gain some ground in the division into at least a 2-1 series defeat and at most, a sweep by a pretty terrible Phillies squad.

The latter result was realized on Sunday as the Phillies completed the three game sweep, this time an embarrassing 11 – 5 defeat in which Cubs starter Jason Hammel was chased after 3.2 innings while giving up six runs on eight hits and making this hapless Philly team look like a bunch of All-Stars. The only takeaway on another terrible day for the Cubs was Manager Joe Maddon calling on backup, veteran catcher David Ross to pitch the ninth inning and save some arms in the bullpen. This is the second time Maddon has doneso in 2015 and Ross did not disappoint again, pitching a 1-2-3 inning and keeping his career ERA at 0.00. Ross also homered in the bottom half of the inning to lighten the mood of an otherwise thoroughly disappointing weekend.

David Ross Pitching

Prior to this series, most would have pegged the Cubs to be the ones handing out a sweep and not the other way around but baseball isn’t played on paper and the Phillies showed up and kicked some butt. The Cubs got a good look up close at what Cole Hamels can do for a team but his asking price was probably too high before Saturday’s historic start; now the Cubs might not even be in the same zip code as teams with a greater sense of urgency may be more inclined to overpay. It would be nice to see the Cubs make a splash at the deadline but it appears they will more or less stay the course on their plan, already a year ahead of schedule and not willing to sacrifice the future for a one game Wild Card that is essentially a coin flip.

The Cubs will need to shake this one off and move on. Yes, it was a pretty embarrassing weekend but it was just one series, and despite the Phillies’ poor record, they still employ a roster of professional baseball players who play just as hard as these Cubs do. Even the best of teams take a tumble, but it’s imperative for the Cubs to stop this slide at three and keep pace in the Wild card chase.

Tonight they turn to Kyle Hendricks as he takes on Jorge De La Rosa and the Colorado Rockies in the first of a three game series at Wrigley Field. First pitch is 7:05 PM CST.

Let’s Go Cubs!

 

 

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Teagarden the Unlikely Hero as Cubs Top Reds; Salvage Split

Posted on 23 July 2015 by Bob

This wasn’t exactly how you would draw it up but it sure does make a good story. After falling in an 0 – 5 hole in the 2nd inning, no one would have blamed you if you flipped the channel. These Cubs don’t score three or four runs very often, let alone five. But that’s precisely what they did in the next half inning! Starlin Castro and Chris Denorfia each had RBI doubles and Kris Bryant tied the game on a pinch-hit single, a mild relief from his recent slump.

Teagarden Game winner

The game would stay tight thereafter until the bottom of the eighth when Hector Rondon loaded the bases with one out but was able to work out of the jam. The Cubs threatened in the top of ninth, first with Anthony Rizzo’s single to left center that pushed Dexter Fowler to attempt to score from second. He was thrown out but Rizzo was able to advance to second on the throw which would prove critical. With Aroldis Chapman on the mound, the Reds intentionally walked Jorge Soler to get to pinch-hitter, Tyler Teagarden; He of .154 batting average. With two outs already and a huge opportunity, I’m sure many Cubs fans were thinking “Just don’t strike out!”. Their fears were unfounded as the improbable occurred. Teagarden hit a single right up the middle into shallow center off of an Aroldis Chapman 101 MPH pitch, driving in Rizzo and providing the winning margin, 6 – 5. Even typing that last sentence felt strange.

Add another highlight to this Cubs season as this train just keeps on rolling with August just around the corner.  While the pitching staff got battered this series giving up 23 runs in four games, there are still many positives to take from this series, namely Kyle Schwarber going 7 for 16 and leading the charge on offense. Battling back from several deficits throughout is a great sign as well; This team is showing it won’t quit. They still need pitching and hitting but we should know more on that front by this time next week. With an off day today, the Cubs can rest up for a three game series this weekend at Wrigley Field with the MLB-worst Philadelphia Phillies. If there was ever a gimme on the schedule, this should be it as these Phils have stunk up the joint en route to a 34 -63 record thus far, the worst record in baseball by a large margin.

Still, you have to go out and play the games and these Cubs haven’t been invincible by any means. Let’s hope they sharpen their focus as a big week could do wonders in the standings as the countdown to October begins. The Cubs at 51 – 43 are clinging to a half game lead for that second Wild Card spot.

Tomorrow it’s Jerome Williams for the Phils vs. Jon Lester for the Cubs. Game time is 3:05PM CST.

Let’s Go Cubs!

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Cubs Hope to Bounce Back in Nightcap; Look for Split with Reds

Posted on 22 July 2015 by Bob

The Cubs have had their highs and lows throughout this series with the Reds which concludes this evening with the second game of a day-night doubleheader at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. The Reds took game 1 on Monday night behind home runs from Todd Frazier, Jay Bruce, and Marlon Byrd. Still the Cubs hung tough and gave themselves a chance tallying four runs for the third game in a row before falling by one run, 5-4.

Schwarber dingers

Chicago bounced back on Tuesday night as Kyle Schwarber, just over a week removed from his All-Star Futures Game MVP performance, showed why he has climbed so quickly through the Cubs farm system to reach the majors. Heading into the ninth inning with the Reds leading 4-2, Schwarber stepped to the plate with no outs and Dexter Fowler on first. He quickly fell in in an 0 – 2 hole before fouling off three pitches and taking three balls. His perseverance paid off as he took the next pitch 397 feet into right field for a two-run home run to tie the game.  As the game slide into extra innings and both teams deadlocked at four runs a piece, Schwarber stepped to the plate again and delivered another dinger, this time 385 feet to right, to put the Cubs up 5-4 and after three quick outs from relief pitcher Justin Grimm, that was enough to earn the win. It was an incredible night for the rookie who grew up outside Cincinnati as a Reds fan. He had a sizable following of family and friends cheering him on as this game went on past midnight. Great to see a jolt in this Cubs’ offense. Let’s hope he keeps it up!

Mike Leake

Wednesday’s early afternoon game of the doubleheader saw the Cubs give all that momentum right back to the Reds as Cincinnati jumped on Kyle Hendricks early sending five men to the plate before Hendricks even recorded an out. Staked to a 4 – 0 lead after one inning, the Reds never looked back as Mike Leake kept the Cubs off-balance all day going eight strong innings while allowing only one run on four hits to pair with six punch-outs. Kyle Schwarber provided the Cubs’ only run, a third inning RBI single. The Reds would get that run back in the fifth inning on a Joey Votto solo-home run and tack on four more runs in the seventh turning this one into a laugher, your final score being 9 – 1. Lucky for the Cubs they won’t have to stew in this loss long with the night game of the doubleheader set to begin at 5:00pm.

Dallas Beeler will face off against the Reds’ Tony Cingrani as the Cubs hope to salvage a split against the middling Reds, who are most likely in the sellers category sitting eight games under .500 with the trade deadline looming. The Cubs need to take care of business against these guys given their current state. Let’s hope the bats show back up tonight as Kyle Schwarber can’t do it all himself.

Let’s Go Cubs!

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Cubs Take 2 of 3 in ATL; Recall Schwarber from Triple-A, Designate Jackson for Assignment

Posted on 21 July 2015 by Bob

A day after Jon Lester allowed only two hits in 7+ innings of work, Jake Arrieta almost matched him throwing seven innings of three-hit ball while striking out ten as the Cubs beat the Braves 4 – 1 to take their first series at Turner Field since August 2011.

Arrieta beats braves

It was all Cubs in this one as Arrieta picked up his 11th win, a career-high and the most by a Cubs pitcher since Carlos Zambrano , back in 2011 as well. The Cubs starting pitching has been flat-out dominant of late, posting a 1.29 ERA over the last 16 games. That is some great stuff but it doesn’t mean much if you don’t score runs. Thankfully, the Cubs offense produced four of them on back to back nights to help them keep pace in the Wild Card.

Jorge Soler homered in the third showing he might be getting his swing back after a stint on the DL before the break. Chris Coghlan and Jonathan Herrera also produced RBI’s to get the Cubs the W. This is what this team needs to do with the abundance of mediocre teams they are set to face the next few weeks. Take care of business and beat the teams you should.

Kyle Schwarber will get a chance to aid that cause after getting recalled from Triple-A Iowa for Friday’s game with Montero down with a thumb injury. He had three hits in his second half debut but was relegated to a bat off the bench the next two nights as Maddon massages him back into this lineup carefully. He is slated to catch 3 out of the 4 upcoming games in Cincinnati which should have Cubs fans drooling at the thought of him continuing his tear.

Schwarber three hits

The Cubs have also decided that it was time to move on from Edwin Jackson as they have designated him for assignment in preparation to call up Rafael Soriano. While for some this news may be grounds for celebration as Jackson’s results have been disappointing to put it mildly, that is not the case inside the Cubs’ clubhouse as Jackson’s departure caused several teammates to offer their regrets at losing such a positive clubhouse guy, great team player, and even better human being. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out in baseball, and the relationship between the Cubs and Jackson is evidence of that. While he never lived up to his contract in terms of dollars, he did show up to work for years as the Cubs had little going on the field. He mentored younger players and exhibited professionalism even as his performance slipped and his role changed. Still, the Cubs gave him plenty of chances to turn it around, but it just wasn’t meant to be. A fresh start will benefit both parties and all involved have handled it with class.

Next Up: It’s Clayton Richard on the mound in Cincinnati tonight to take on Michael Lorenzen and the Reds. Game time is 6:10PM CST.

Let’s Go Cubs!

 

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Looking at the Cubs Potential Trades & Rumors: Part 2

Posted on 17 July 2015 by Bob

Part 2 of this series takes us to the team I consider the most likely trade partner, the Oakland Athletics. These clubs have a history, most notably last summer’s blockbuster trade that sent Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the A’s in return for Addison Russell. We all know how that panned out. The A’s lost a heart-breaking Wild-Card game to Royals who rode that momentum all the way to the World Series. The A’s then shipped Samardzija to the White Sox, Hammel returned to the Cubs in free agency, and the Cubs now retain one of the best young players in the game in Addison Russell. Don’t tell me Billy Beane won’t want to make up for that now that the two club’s positions have been somewhat reversed. It is now the A’s who have what the Cubs need as they should be sellers after under-performing in the first half to the tune of a 41-50 record.

Scott-Kazmir-2

The Cubs need pitching and a veteran outfield bat. The A’s have both in Scott Kazmir and Ben Zobrist. Kazmir is a veteran pitcher who currently holds a 2.56 ERA and after a year away from baseball in 2012, has rebounded nicely. He should command a decent contract in free agency but would be a nice arm for the Cubs to add that could bolster the rotation. Package him with utility man Ben Zobrist, a Joe Maddon favorite from his days in Tampa, and would it be too crazy for the Cubs to entertain dangling Javy Baez or Billy Mckinney and a few other prospects to make this happen. A perfect marriage is somewhere with these two teams as the A’s would love to replenish their farm system after last season’s trades hurt them in the long run.

Verdict: Pull the trigger! (So long as Kyle Schwarber is NOT included in any deal.)

 

The last trade partner is also the most intriguing in terms of upside as any deal here would carry great risk but also great reward. It’s no secret that the Cincinnati Reds are going to be sellers at the deadline and after the All-Star game is over and the hoopla in the Queen City dies down, I expect that talk to intensify with the likes of Johnny Cueto, Aroldis Chapman, and Jay Bruce all being dangled as trade bait. Neither pitcher will be cheap to acquire and that means that the price paid will most likely be for a rental; always a gamble as Oakland can attest to firsthand after last year.

Apr 7, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Johnny Cueto (47) pitches during the second inning against the Washington Nationals at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Do the Cubs want to risk Schwarber or Baez in a Cueto deal? It would be a “wild card” move in hopes of making the Wild Card game, but would that be worth it if Cueto walks at season’s end? It’s never easy making these kind of decisions, but my gut says there would have to be more than just Cueto in any deal for prospects to afford the Cubs some insurance. This is intriguing and there will be many teams who jump into the Cueto market, but the Cubs do have pieces, it’s just a question of whether or not a move can be made that doesn’t trade on the Cubs future in favor of the now.

Verdict: Up in the air.

 

As you can see, there are a lot of potential trades and an equal, if not greater, amount of speculation out there. Ultimately, I think the Cubs will make a few moves but nothing that rocks the boat too much. Just a few pieces to stabilize the pitching staff and provide some depth, while picking up a veteran bat from somewhere. My instincts tell me that none of the Cubs top level players or prospects will be made available in any trade with the exception of Javy Baez. I think Theo Epstein wants to see what he has in this club for a full year before making the tough decisions on Starlin Castro, Kyle Schwarber, etc.  Hopefully, a few teams get desperate to offload some players and the Cubs can stay healthy. The next two weeks will tell us a lot. Enjoy the ride!

 

 

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