The Rundown: Cubs Drop 3 of 4 in St. Louis, Rizzo Slumping Badly, Core Braces for Trades, Rays Acquire Nelson Cruz

“Yeah I know I ain’t nobody’s bargain but hell a little touch-up and a little paint…”  – Bruce Springsteen, Human Touch

Instant Replay

If you’re looking for a silver lining in last night’s 3-2 loss to the Cardinals, you could point out that the Cubs batted .500 with runners in scoring position one night after going 1-for-14 in similar situations. That logic loses a lot of its luster once you realize the North Siders only managed to get two runners into scoring position all night. That’s what happens when you finish the night with just three hits.

The Cubs will limp home from St. Louis after losing three of four to the Redbirds and it may be one final victory lap for what’s left of the core. Only six players remain from the championship team of 2016, seven if you count Jake Arrieta, who is now in hamstring-tightness limbo while Jed Hoyer tries to figure out who’s staying and who isn’t. Then again, maybe he’s not trading anybody. According to Buster Olney of ESPN, Hoyer is taking somewhat of a laissez-faire approach to the upcoming trade deadline.

Perhaps the Cubs president of baseball operations simply wants his team to complete one final homestand together. The deadline is a week from today and the Cubs will be in Washington when the presumed “frenzy” is expected to hit. If Nationals GM Mike Rizzo is still in buy mode come July 30, he can just have Kris Bryant stroll over from the road dugout to the home digs. Kyle Scwharber and Jon Lester will be waiting with open arms, I’m sure.

More than likely, a very milquetoast market has Hoyer contemplating the ramifications of tendering qualifying offers to his big three at the season’s end. No one said Hoyer has to be a seller, and he’s certainly not going to be a buyer. It wouldn’t be shocking if he followed in Theo Epstein’s footsteps and just hung on to everybody. At least it would give him more time to try to extend one or two.

It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if that happened, right? There’s no way Bryant would sign the tender and it’s doubtful Javier Báez would either. Anthony Rizzo might, but he’s playing like his heart left Chicago when Opening Day came and went without a contract extension. Maybe Hoyer will just move a relievers like Craig Kimbrel, Andrew Chafin, and Ryan Tepera. Unless he is thinking of moving Kyle Hendricks or Willson Contreras, Kimbrel is probably the executive’s only chance of getting a significant return.

With all that in mind, and I know Hoyer hates the term “rebuild,” the Cubs are probably not properly situated to retool on the fly and immediately contend in 2022. Their top prospects will need a little more seasoning and Hoyer will enter this winter needing just as much starting pitching as any of the past five seasons. It’s going to be 18 months or more until the Cubs generate the type of excitement we’ve seen since 2015. Adbert Alzolay and Nico Hoerner are a nice start, but there’s not much in the way of immediate reinforcements just yet.

Cubs News & Notes

  • Alzolay headlines a group of young pitchers who the Cubs could build around and remains at an intersection of the team’s past and future.
  • Chicago’s core is bracing for what could be their last homestand together.
  • Just a friendly reminder that Jason Heyward is still owed roughly $50 million through the end of 2024. He’s slashing .207/.287/.347 after last night’s game.
  • Rizzo is grinding out at-bats in an attempt to end his slump. The first baseman entered Thursday’s game batting .198/.316/.333 in the 24 games since June 16.
  • Cubs’ players say they remain more focused on winning games than worrying about the trade deadline. Too bad it doesn’t show.
  • Bryant and Red Bull have put together some wonderful ad campaigns over the years, and now they’ve teamed up to create a baseball obstacle course that was much tougher than Bryant anticipated.

Odds & Sods

Jim Gaffigan is Zelig redux.

Climbing the Ladder

“Through the mud and the beer, and the blood and the cheers, I’ve seen champions come and go.” – Bruce Springsteen, Wrecking Ball

  • Games Played: 97
  • Total Plate Appearances: 3,551
  • Total Strikeouts: 934
  • Strikeout Rate: 26.3%
  • Team Batting Average: .225

How About That!

The Twins and Rays completed the biggest trade of the season so far when Tampa Bay acquired Nelson Cruz from Minnesota for two pitching prospects.

It wouldn’t be shocking to see the Padres grab all the trade headlines as the next week progresses.

White Sox outfielder Yermín Mercedes decided to end his retirement after one day.

The Yankees continue to show interest in Rockies’ shortstop Trevor Story.

A 9th inning rally that gave the Giants a huge win over the Dodgers was absolute pandemonium.

Among the team’s most high-profile minor leaguers, Giants catcher Joey Bart is the most likely player to be available, per Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Not a baseball note but definitely worth including here in case other professional sports follow suit: The NFL has sent a memo to its 32 clubs that if games are forced to be postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test, they will go down as forfeits if they can’t be rescheduled.

Thursday’s Three Stars

  1. Sean Manaea – The Oakland lefty was overpowering in winning for the first time since June 14, notching 13 strikeouts in seven innings of work as the A’s downed the Mariners 4-1.
  2. Walker Buehler – He didn’t get the win thanks to a blown save by Kenley Jansen, but Buehler certainly gave the Dodgers a chance to beat the Giants. The right tossed 7.1 innings of one-run ball with nine punchouts.
  3. Adbert Alzolay – If he can just do a better job of keeping the ball in the park, Alzolay could be an ace. The Cubs’ rookie starter had eight strikeouts in six innings of work, but two home runs cost him the win.

Extra Innings

“You spin me, right round baby, right round like a record baby right round, round round.”

They Said It

  • “I’ve been around other teams and groups of people that hang their heads in these situations, but these guys are coming to work every day and getting the work in. Sometimes the ball doesn’t go your way.”David Ross
  • “Um, yeah, I believe [I’ll be with the Cubs after August 1]. I wish I could say 100-percent, yes, but I don’t control that. So we’ll see.”Javier Báez
  • “There’s not much talk amongst each other on trades and all that stuff. It’s all, ‘What can we do to get better today?’ And I know guys have been saying that but that’s honestly what’s going on in here.”Jake Marisnick

Friday Walk-Up Song

Glory Days by Bruce Springsteen & the E-Street Band. All of a sudden 2016 seems like it was decades ago.

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