The Rundown: Cubs Making Culture Changes, Happ Returns, Glaring Lack of Bench Depth, More Deadline Intel, Celebrate John Baker Day with Us
The Cubs had a day off but their front office did some heavy lifting in preparation of Wednesday’s trade deadline. And though no major trades were announced, they did spend the day changing the face and direction of the clubhouse, at least the near-term.
The biggest move is that Ian Happ will be recalled from Iowa ahead of today’s game against the Brewers. Happ has been on a Triple-A tear of late and has reduced his strikeout rate while still maintaining his power stroke. He absolutely deserved a chance to return to the bigs and here’s hoping he makes the most of it.
The Cubs could use his personality and an injection of professional at-bats. The front office has always seen Happ as a junior version of Ben Zobrist, and the utility slugger seems to have finally overcome most of his poor habits at the plate. Jed Hoyer said as much on 670 The Score’s McNeil & Parkins Show yesterday.
“I give him a lot of credit for staying patient and true to what we talked about,” said the Cubs GM. Happ will spend most of his time in the outfield with an occasional start at second base.
The fanbase seems pretty stoked about the move, but remember, Happ was hitting just .242 at Iowa overall and he is essentially replacing one of the more reviled Cubs’ players in recent history. Though the moves aren’t directly connected, Addison Russell was sent to Iowa the day before Happ was recalled.
The young slugger is a career .242 hitter in the major leagues with 39 home runs and 112 RBI, including 24 home runs in 115 games in 2017.
In back-to-back games for Iowa at the end of June, Happ went 0-for-9 with 3 strikeouts, watching his OPS drop to .715. However, since July 2 he is hitting .348 with a 1.129 OPS and nearly as many walks (17) as strikeouts (18) while mashing 10 extra-base hits, including five homers. It was that extended hot streak that gave him this chace.
It’s also entirely possible that the Cubs called him up because scouts want to see Happ hit against major league pitching. He has been mentioned in a number of different trade scenarios, including one that could net Tigers outfielder Nicholas Castellanos or much-needed bullpen help. In fact, this may merely be a precursor to a major trade or three.
It’s also possible that the Cubs could pass on Castellanos. Happ is younger, cheaper, better defensively, has more club control, and is no stranger to big hits.
Cubs News & Notes
- Left-hander Cole Hamels will “likely” return from the injured list August 2 or 3 if he gets through one more rehab start unscathed.
- The Cubs remain interested in Castellanos and Toronto’s Eric Sogard. The Blue Jays veteran has a .370 OBP this season, something the Cubs could really use in the leadoff spot.
- The Cubs are “cautiously optimistic” that Zobrist will return to the team by September 1 or shortly thereafter.
- Kris Bryant has had a nagging knee injury since the All-Star game but doesn’t seem to be overly concerned.
- The Cubs’ lack of bench depth is glaring and was exposed badly in the series against the Giants.
- Chicago will enter their series with the Brewers tied for first in the NL Central with the Cardinals, who beat the Pirates again yesterday afternoon. The Cubs and Red Birds will start a three-game series in St. Louis on Tuesday to conclude the current road trip.
- Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich enters tonight’s game with a 13-game hitting streak.
- The Cubs-Brewers rivalry has grown exponentially over the last two years and has nearly the same frenzied fanaticism as Cubs-Cardinals.
- Here’s how evaluators from around the league see the NL Central leading up to Wednesday’s deadline.
- Minor league starting pitcher Brailyn Marquez set a franchise record with 14 strikeouts in yesterday’s game for South Bend.
- Cubs Charities is auctioning off those 1969 throwbacks the Cubs wore last week. You can enter a bid for a chance to procure one of the game-worn jerseys through July 28.
Bid on these game-used 1969 throwback jerseys to support #CubsCharities through July 28! https://t.co/x3zGcCYMuC pic.twitter.com/BNWM9DBFWJ
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) July 25, 2019
The trade market has been pretty lukewarm since the break, but things will escalate rather quickly should any of these dominoes fall.
The Giants are allegedly telling teams that Madison Bumgarner will not be traded. Former Mets GM Steve Phillips is going to lose his mind on his morning show for MLB Radio.
Accordingly, the Giants now see themselves as buyers and are unlikely to trade any of their sought-after relievers. This confirms a report from MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi that the Giants were scouting Detroit’s Matthew Boyd on Tuesday.
The Phillies and Indians have had discussions centering on Cleveland starting pitcher Trevor Bauer, even though Philadelphia general manager Matt Klentak on Tuesday downplayed the chances of his team making a blockbuster deal. The Tribe has been hot recently, too, narrowing their deficit to just two games behind the Twins in the AL Central.
Multiple executives said they’ve been led to believe that Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman will be traded in the coming week.
The Dodgers have the best record in the National League, but that won’t stop them from trying to upgrade their bullpen.
MLB insider Ken Rosenthal indicated yesterday ($) that the Padres “likely would require a package along the lines of what the Yankees received for Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller in 2016″ to deal Kirby Yates, who is under control through 2020.
The Mets are aggressively attempting to trade starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard.
Rival evaluators say they believe the Mets are fully intent on dealing Noah Syndergaard before the trade deadline. "It's beyond listening," said one. "They want to move him."
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 25, 2019
How About That!
There was another three-homer game last night, and this time it was by a 39-year-old player with 382 career home runs. His performance last night represents his first career hat trick. It was the fourth time in the last two weeks that a player has gone yard three times in one game.
The Red Sox savaged the Yankees last night in New York’s ugliest loss of the season.
Yankees shortstop Troy Tulowitzki announced his retirement yesterday after 13 seasons in baseball, the bulk of which was spent with the Rockies when Tulo was considered one of the best shortstops in the game.
Blake Snell needs arthroscopic elbow surgery and will be sidelined for at least four weeks.
Joey Gallo will also miss some time, as the young slugger will have surgery to repair a broken hamate bone in his right wrist.
Thursday’s Three Stars
- Nelson Cruz – The “Boomstick” enjoyed the first three-tater game of his career, helping the Twins paste the White Sox 10-3. Cruz also had five RBI on his 3-for-5 evening.
- Jacob deGrom – The Mets ace won his sixth game of the season with a strong effort against the Padres. DeGrom pitched seven shutout innings with nine punch outs, while allowing just one walk and four hits across seven innings.
- Xander Bogaerts – The Red Sox shortstop enjoyed a 4-for-6 night, going yard twice with with four RBI as Boston thrashed the Yankees 19-3.
Not a Star
Masahiro Tanaka had a very forgettable game, giving up 12(!) earned runs in 3.1 innings in yesterday’s start. He is just the second Yankees pitcher to give up that many runs in a game.
I’ll be attending John Baker Day at GMan Tavern a week from Saturday and I hope some of our readers will be there to join me in the festivities. Cubs podcaster and raconteur Danny Rockett (aka Son Ranto) is hosting the event, which includes a Cubs game watch with musical performances from Katie Day and The Bleacher Bum Band. There’ll also be a live podcast taping with your favorite Cubs media personas from Cubs Insider, Ivy Envy, Cubs Related, Climbing the Ivy, Son Ranto, Outside the Ivy, and Cuppa Cubbie Blue.
Baker will participate and sign autographs after the game, including a Q&A session.
The event raises money for the Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network and tickets are still available. Come have a beer and a little Saturday fun with us!
The Orioles’ Stevie Wilkerson is the first position player to have ever recorded a save.
closer stuff pic.twitter.com/Z2GbJJA92y
— Fabian Ardaya (@FabianArdaya) July 26, 2019
They Said It
- “I was watching [Bryant] walk up to the plate and you could see [his knee] was bothering him. That’s right before he hit the home run, too.” – Joe Maddon
- “Coming [to Chicago], it just felt like baseball was the only thing that mattered and everyone in the building got that.” – Jason Heyward
Friday Walk Up Song
Hammer to Fall by Queen. Busy day for an otherwise idle Thursday and still the trade deadline looms.