The Rundown: Cubs Sweep Phillies, Young Cubs Delivering Big Plays, Horton Signs, Soto and Ohtani Rumors Gain Steam
“Just about a year ago I set out on the road. Seekin’ my fame and fortune, lookin’ for a pot of gold. Things got bad and things got worse, I guess you will know the tune.” – Creedence Clearwater Revival, Lodi
The Cubs swept the Phillies in Philadelphia to start their post-All-Star break schedule, and, well, break up the Cubs! That’s just what president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer and GM Carter Hawkins intend to do. The Cubs are hosting the Pirates in a two-game set starting today that could mark the last Wrigley Field appearances for a number of players. Willson Contreras and Ian Happ head that list which may also include Patrick Wisdom, Drew Smyly, Wade Miley, David Robertson, Mychal Givens, and who knows who else.
One player that is probably not going anywhere is outfielder Nelson Velázquez. Baby Boomstick had quite the weekend at Citizens Bank Park, blasting three home runs. He finished the series 4-for-6 with five runs scored and seven RBI. Best of all, he didn’t strike out once. Future first-string catcher Yan Gomes went yard twice in yesterday’s 4-3 win as home runs were up dramatically league-wide this weekend. Perhaps MLB is using Home Run Derby baseballs to start the second half.
Cubs rookie Nelson Velázquez has homered three times in this series against the Phillies! pic.twitter.com/0gvIRkOP9w
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) July 24, 2022
The big weekend by Velázquez offers a nice glimpse of this team’s future. The Cubs are counting on the slugger to lead the parade of minor leaguers expected to make their big league debuts over the next few seasons. Velázquez, Nico Hoerner, Seiya Suzuki, and Christopher Morel will probably be the new faces of the franchise starting next week, and it’s fantastic to watch each of them producing the way they have this season. In a dismal season, those four have provided the bulk of Chicago’s smile-worthy moments, along with Keegan Thompson, Justin Steele, P.J. Higgins, and Scott Effross.
After last year’s trade deadline, we enjoyed the exploits of Wisdom, Frank Schwindel, and Rafael Ortega to ease the hangover after Hoyer shipped his core pieces out of town. It was fun, but those three never seemed to generate the type of interest that Chicago’s younger players do. That’s understandable because last year’s replacements never carried the staying power that this year’s will. In fact, I don’t think anybody would be shocked if Schwindel and Ortega are traded, too.
For the second straight year, the Cubs are going to look vastly different once the deadline passes. The difference between last year and this can be summed up by the word “hopeful.” Once Hoyer and Hawkins clean house, Chicago’s (it’s not a) rebuild will enter its next stage. Come next week, the team will consist mostly of foundational pieces with a pipeline from the minors that is expected to be well traveled in 2023 and ’24.
Cubs News & Notes
- The Padres have reportedly discussed the option of trading for both Happ and Contreras.
- Kyle Schwarber told Contreras and Happ that getting traded “is not the end of the world.”
- The Mets are reportedly interested in both players, as well as closer David Robertson.
- Chicago’s starting pitching was the key to the weekend sweep.
- Top draft pick Cade Horton signed with the Cubs this weekend, agreeing to a bonus that was slightly under slot.
- Fourth-round pick Nazier Mulé has yet to sign, though he said he will skip college and start his professional career.
- Per Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic, many Cubs veterans are trying to stay optimistic that they will not be traded ($).
- Sharma dropped an excellent column yesterday regarding who to keep an eye on post-deadline, including Marcus Stroman.
- Hawkins joined Cubs Live! with Cole Wright prior to Saturday’s game against the Phillies.
Odds & Sods
With all of the Juan Soto rumors, I can’t help but think what a letdown it will be if he’s not traded.
The question is not whether a team will have to give up an immense amount of talent to acquire Juan Soto, but how likely it is those players come back to haunt them.https://t.co/lCkmZCNFtV
— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) July 25, 2022
Climbing the Ladder
“Nobody’s weak until somebody’s strong. No one gets lucky until luck comes along.” – Eric Clapton, It’s In The Way That You Use It
Morel had two hits yesterday, and is now slashing .283/.354/.850 and should be getting mentioned as a potential Rookie of the Year candidate. Schwindel was 0-for-4 and his BA dropped to .231. His OBP is an unsightly .275 so it’s safe to say the magic of last season is completely gone. Smyly pitched a strong six innings and earned the win.
The three-game sweep in Philadelphia was Chicago’s first of the season.
- Games Played: 95
- Total Plate Appearances: 3,636
- Total Strikeouts: 844
- Strikeout Rate: 23.23%
- Team Batting Average: .245
- Runs Scored: 411
- Runs Allowed: 479
How About That!
The Yankees are said to be very interested in Soto, and the Angels have reportedly received calls about the availability of Shohei Ohtani.
An informal poll of front office executives indicated the Dodgers and Padres are the favorites to acquire Soto. The group was split nearly 50/50 on whether or not the Nats would trade their star right fielder.
Athletics catcher Sean Murphy is drawing quite a bit of trade interest.
Pete Rose will make an on-field appearance with the Phillies for the first time since his lifetime ban.
Today marks the deadline for the league and the MLBPA to agree on an international draft.
Justin Verlander became baseball’s first 13-game winner this weekend.
Buck O’Neil is finally a member of Baseball’s Hall of Fame.
Sunday’s Three Stars
- Dylan Cease – He’s back! The former Cub tossed six shutout innings at the Guardians to improve to 10-4 with a sparkling 2.03 ERA.
- Sandy Alcantara – The Marlins hurler struck out 10 Pirates batters and lowered his ERA to 1.81. As great as the starting pitching has been this year, I think the 1.12 ERA Bob Gibson put up in 1968 is safe.
- Kris Bryant – Playing left field for the Rockies yesterday, Bryant had his best game of the season. He stroked two doubles and went deep once with two RBI, though Colorado lost 10-9 to the Brewers.
Raise your glass in honor of the beloved Steve Goodman.
Happy Birthday up there, Steve Goodman
I'll try to celebrate with a cold Budweiser for both of us. https://t.co/UpR7Ed1jM2
— MusicMentor (@Music__Mentor) July 25, 2022
Monday Morning Six-Pack
- If you follow us over at Bears Insider we debuted Camp Notes this morning. The Bears have new helmets, rookie safety Jaquan Brisker did not report to Halas Hall, nobody knows if Robert Quinn will, and all eyes will be on Justin Fields starting this week.
- Fourteen years after the debut of Iron Man, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is still expanding. At San Diego’s Comic-Con this weekend, execs laid out the end of Phase 4, previewed Phase 5, and even teased some aspects of Phase 6.
- The trailer for “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” nearly broke the internet on Saturday.
- Lollapalooza will take over Chicago’s lakefront starting on Thursday.
- The Sakurajima volcano in Japan erupted on Sunday night, prompting officials to raise their warnings to the highest level.
- It’s so hot that the roads are melting in Europe, and as the Tour de France wraps up, some are asking: Is this worth the continued investment?
They Said It
- “I love it here, I love being a Cub. This is a really fun organization to be a part of, home games are amazing, and this clubhouse is awesome. We haven’t gotten off to the best start, obviously, our record is not where we want to be. But showing up every day, everyone has smiles on their faces. Being in a lot of different clubhouses, you really soak that in as a player. You look forward to going to the field every day. There are winning teams where there’s not that vibe. The Cubs do have that going for them.” – Smyly
- “I haven’t looked into [the trade rumors], I don’t know. Maybe we keep winning, who knows, could be buying.” – Smyly
- “I’ve seen the growth and I think you guys have too. The way Justin [Steele] started out and really labored through three, four innings at times and the pitch count is way up there. The competitive pitches are much better, the consistency at which he handles moments and adversity, the body language, being able to pitch when you don’t have your best stuff. I’ve seen that for both those guys. Keegan [Thompson] had a couple bumps in the road, a couple starts, but has really gotten back to what he does well. Pitching with his fastball, attacking hitters and been able to sustain his stuff for six, almost seven innings. I’ve seen both those guys really take on a nice routine and consistent workload.” – David Ross
Monday Walk-Up Song