A change in culture and performance is coming to the Chicago Cubs and disposing polarizing second baseman Addison Russell to Iowa is just the beginning. I don’t know this for sure because I am not privy to the inner mechanisms of the front office, but I can smell it in the air. I believe some big moves are coming.
Theo Epstein has certainly stuck his neck out for Russell over the past 11 months, and the infielder continues to make him look stupid for doing so. By yesterday morning, Epstein had seen and heard enough, and the first of what is certain to be a few changes took place. What comes next is anybody’s guess, but I’d say nothing is off the table. The Cubs go into too many spurts where they look complacent, lack positional depth despite having about six layers of redundancy at second base and outfield, and appear directionless whenever they leave the 773 area code.
Yesterday’s 4-1 win over the Giants probably hasn’t changed the way the front office is now viewing the trade deadline. I do believe Epstein is positive this team has the pieces to win: All-Stars at catcher, shortstop, third base, and first; a top-three rotation, at least in the National League; and a lights out closer. I also believe they need significant help along the margins to compete with the Dodgers and Braves, let alone the teams within the NL Central. One executive has even stated the Cubs have “cast a wide net” when it comes to next Wednesday’s deadline.
According to ESPN’s Jesse Rogers, conversations with many teams are ongoing. While names such as Nicholas Castellanos, Eric Sogard and those lefty Giants relievers (Will Smith and Tony Watson) have been discussed, the scope of their discussions with other teams also includes many more players not yet ready for public consumption. That likely includes current members of Chicago’s roster.
One guy who will not be traded is Javy Báez.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) July 24, 2019
When Jon Lester was a late scratch yesterday, it screamed of being a showcase game for Tyler Chatwood, who didn’t disappoint. Could it be possible the Giants and Cubs are working on a deal that may include Chatwood and others? The unlikely starter said he found out just a few hours before the game that he was taking the bump, and whatever is allegedly ailing Lester won’t keep him from starting Saturday against the Brewers. The veteran lefty is 5-3 with a 2.35 ERA in nine career starts against Milwaukee.
In addition to using their swingman as currency to acquire a professional hitter or left-handed reliever, moving Chatwood would give the Cubs a little salary relief. The right-hander is owed whatever is left on his $12.5 million salary for this season, plus $13 million for next year, and he turns 29 in December.
Lester, according to several Cubs, started to feel ill Tuesday and arrived at Oracle Park with a fever Wednesday morning. Chatwood, whose final pitch yesterday was a third strike past pitcher Tyler Beede clocked at 98 mph, should certainly draw some attention, and not just from the Giants. It’s a given that scores of scouts were in attendance yesterday as both teams are likely to make a number of moves in the coming week.
Cubs News & Notes
- It’s completely possible that Russell has played his last game with the Cubs. I don’t know if any other front office is willing to take a chance on the 25-year-old middle infielder, however.
- The Cubs have so many potential moving parts that it’s hard to know what their deadline priority is, though rumors about Castellanos are a daily occurrence.
- Sogard is on the team’s radar with the deadline approaching, but it’s not the first time Chicago has eyed the infielder (see link above).
- As for who would fill Chatwood’s role as swingman in Chicago’s bullpen if he were traded, I’d say Alec Mills has earned that chance.
- Of the 15 teams in the National League, 12 are on pace to win 74-86 games, including the Cubs. Decisions are looming and July 31 will probably be one of the busiest deadlines in recent memory once the sellers identify themselves. All it takes is for one team to get weird and then all hell will break loose.
- Kris Bryant left yesterday’s game in the 5th inning with a sore knee, but should be okay to face the Brewers.
- Anthony Rizzo was tossed yesterday after striking out in the fifth inning. He seemed perplexed as to why he was ejected by home plate umpire Jordan Baker.
- For what it’s worth, Baker is no stranger to controversy and is also somewhat of a litter bug.
Indians starter Trevor Bauer is at the top of the Yankees wish list. Of course, the Yankees would settle for any of the available premium starting pitchers, including Stroman, Robbie Ray, Matthew Boyd, and Madison Bumgarner.
How About That!
For the third time in last 10 days, a player had a three-homer game.
Here are the ridiculous numbers for the just-concluded Yankees-Twins series, in which New York took two of three at Target Field: 57 runs scored, 20 home runs, 111 baserunners.
Condensed from CBS Sports and MLB.com, and try to stay with me here: In the 8th inning of yesterday’s game, the Rays executed the Waxahachie Swap — that is, they moved reliever Adam Kolarek from the mound to first base, with Chaz Roe subbing in and retiring a hitter before Kolarek moved back to the mound and Nate Lowe replaced Roe at first base. In moving Kolarek elsewhere, the Rays had to sacrifice the DH. In the bottom half of the inning, they had to pinch-hit because the vacated DH spot was up. Red Sox manager Alex Cora filed a protest.
Cora says Rays kept the DH, meaning they had a pitcher, first baseman, pitcher and DH in the lineup. "Hard to explain…there's a lot. Illegal substitutions but we'll see what happens."
— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) July 24, 2019
Wednesday’s Three Stars
- Shane Bieber – The Indians starter threw a one-hitter, striking out 10 Blue Jays’ batters in Cleveland’s 4-0 win.
- Sean Doolittle – The Nats closer earned two saves on the day as Washington swept a doubleheader against the Rockies. Colorado is as cold as the Nationals are hot.
- Justin Verlander – I still wonder how good the Cubs would be had they acquired the Astros ace at the deadline two years ago. All JV did yesterday was stifle the A’s for his 13th win of the season, striking out 11 Oakland batters in six innings of work. Verlander has 183 strikeouts on the season.
- Honorable mention – Paul DeJong belongs in the top three because he had three taters yesterday, but I choose not to name Cardinals players unless it’s completely unavoidable. Yes, I dislike the Redbirds that much. The St. Louis shortstop was 4-for-4 with five RBI on the evening.
They Said It
- “Russell is a great shortstop, a great middle infielder, really skilled, and a lot of teams want him. As to where he fits and what goes forward, that’s going to be a value choice on the part of the Cubs.” – Scott Boras
- “Overall, guys are excited about what’s going to happen. The organization has made it clear that they want to add pieces to help us win.” – Brad Brach
- “With everything that had been going on, you get on an airplane not winning that game, that’s where the dialogue becomes fabricated in a negative way. It’s very difficult to control that. You try to, but it is. Everybody had ownership in today’s win.” – Joe Maddon
Thursday Walk Up Song
Just Another Day by Oingo Boingo. Cubs win on the road despite sitting Lester and losing Bryant and Rizzo, Chatwood looks like an ace, Russell gets canned, fans are dealing with deadline anxiety, and Papa Joe waxes on and on. The day-to-day is always wacky in the Cubs’ current ecosystem.