The Rundown: Hoerner Takes Down Pirates, Contreras and Happ Get Emotional, Cubs May Fast-Track PCA, Soto Gets Warm L.A. Welcome
“When it’s through, it’s through. Fate will twist the both of you. So come on baby, come on over, let me be the one to show you.” – Mr. Big, To Be With You
Nico Hoerner is playing baseball like he’s the new face of the franchise and the last man standing. The Cubs will play their final home game before next week’s trade deadline on Tuesday and the clubhouse should look a lot different when they return. Despite winning their fifth consecutive tilt, this year’s selloff is as certain as death and taxes. Chicago’s available players are reportedly in high demand, and once the smoke clears the team will be down to its studs.
Hoerner is having a breakout campaign and he carried the Cubs to their 3-2 win over the Pirates yesterday evening. The shortstop was 2-for-3, including a game-winning double, and future closer Scott Effross shut down the Pirates in the 9th inning to earn his first save. Adrian Sampson started last night’s game and pitched seven strong innings before turning it over to Mychal Givens, who earned the win.
As I’ve mentioned previously, wins and losses no longer matter much in the grand scheme of things. The post-July Cubs will be scrutinized not for their record, but for who they traded away, what they got in return, and the progress of the players that remain and will be part of next season’s roster.
The biggest story of the second half could very well be Marcus Stroman. The Cubs need to know what they have in the hurler to better determine how to attack free agency. It seems unlikely that Chicago will entertain thoughts of signing shortstops Xander Bogaerts, Trea Turner, Carlos Correa, or Dansby Swanson because they should be looking to bolster their staff.
And let me lay my cards on the table for a second. I was one of Hoerner’s biggest detractors but I now believe he is the future at shortstop for this team. Sure, I’d love to see him hit for more power, and yes, he might be better as a Ben Zobrist-type super utility player, but he’s a damn good shortstop. There’s no reason to overspend in free agency, especially with what the Cubs have in the pipeline. Perhaps Hoerner can become that super UT in 2024 or ’25.
Let’s wait until the dust has settled after the deadline to map out our vision for the Cubs. We all love to play armchair GM, and if you want to give Hoyer credit for one thing, it’s that he’s given us a heck of a lot of talking points for the rest of this season and all through the winter.
Cubs News & Notes
- Emotions caught up with Willson Contreras last night in his return to Wrigley Field in what could be his last homestand with the team. “I knew it would get to me at some point,” Contreras said. “I wish this day never came.”
- Contreras is doing his best to soak in all the Wrigley Field moments. I’m sure he will get a standing ovation today, though based on what the team did last year, it wouldn’t shock me if the All-Star catcher is not in today’s lineup.
- ESPN pushes a lot of great content behind their “plus” paywall, but Jeff Passan said the Mets and Astros have been in contact with the Cubs regarding Contreras ($). I don’t run a baseball team but I would think Yan Gomes might be the preferred “catcher” teams seek. A team that acquires Contreras might be more likely to use him at DH and outfield than behind the plate. FOn the other hand, I think a pitching staff will more easily adapt to Gomes. Passan added that unless the Red Sox sell, the Cubs are the biggest non-Soto team to watch at the deadline.
- Passan also mentioned that almost every team with a shot at the postseason has shown interest in Happ.
- The Yankees are rumored to be focusing on Happ and David Peralta as possible acquisitions.
- Add The Sporting News as another publication that believes that Contreras and the Cubs could engage this winter to bring the fan-favorite back to Chicago. It’s starting to sound like the analysts believe Hoyer will garner quite a haul for Contreras, Happ, and closer David Robertson.
- Happ and Patrick Wisdom are two power bats that are available in trade. Wisdom has hit 45 home runs and has a .482 SLG since being recalled last May. He could be a fit for the Brewers, White Sox, or Mariners.
- Wisdom is also in the top 15 in barrel rate, better than Bryce Harper and Pete Alonso.
- Happ doesn’t want his journey with the Cubs to end.
- The Cubs remain optimistic that Kyle Hendricks will pitch again this season. There’s no point in that, honestly.
- If you’re handicapping the National League Rookie of the Year race, the three finalists if the season ended today would have to be Spencer Strider, Michael Harris II, and Christopher Morel.
- “Ace of Spades” Wade Miley has made a huge impact in Chicago’s clubhouse thanks to a new team tradition.
- Per Jim Callis, 6th-round draft choice Will Frisch has signed for $228,000, about $76,000 under slot. The righty missed all of 2022 due to Tommy John surgery.
- There is a strong case to be made that starters Keegan Thompson and Justin Steele are the two most important players to watch over the final two months of the season.
- The Cubs may be fast-tracking outfielder Pete Crow-Armstrong to the big leagues. The 20-year-old has enjoyed a breakout campaign this season and could be ready for a major league promotion by late 2023.
- It looks like outfielder Alexander Canario is on the come, too. After a 4-for-4 display Sunday that included a homer and a double, the organization’s No. 18 overall prospect is batting .371 at Tennessee with seven dingers, eight doubles, and an obscene 1.352 OPS in July. As Dan Patrick might say, “en fuego.”
- LHP Brailyn Márquez is done for the season after having a procedure to clean up his shoulder.
- Brennen Davis, who underwent back surgery in early June, is currently “building up” at the team’s complex in Arizona and is on track to potentially return to game action within the next two or three weeks.
Odds & Sods
You’d have to think Shohei Ohtani would actually like to be traded at this point.
I still say the White Sox should hire Joe Maddon. If I would have told you at the beginning of the season that after 96 games the Orioles and White Sox would have identical records, I would have been ripped a new one in the comments section.
The Angels with Joe Maddon: 27-29
The Angels without Joe Maddon: 13-27 https://t.co/8BAuS1T2mG
— Jorge Castillo (@jorgecastillo) July 26, 2022
Climbing the Ladder
“Oh, I get hysterical, hysteria, when you get that feelin’, do you believe it?” – Def Leppard, Hysteria
Based on the last five games alone, the Cubs are on a pace to finish the season 105-57. Of course, I’m kidding, but I love the pre-deadline will to win. The trades are coming no matter what, but the “I’d rather fight than switch” attitude has been fun. Chicago batters struck out just four times in last night’s win.
- Games Played: 96
- Total Plate Appearances: 3,670
- Total Strikeouts: 848
- Strikeout Rate: 23.11%
- Team Batting Average: .246
- Runs Scored: 414
- Runs Allowed: 481
How About That!
A group of U.S. senators has given baseball commissioner Rob Manfred a three-day extension until Friday to respond to questions about the sport’s antitrust exemption and minor leaguers.
The MLBPA rejected the league’s “final” proposal for an international draft. Both sides agreed to table discussions if an agreement wasn’t reached by July 25. I’m sure they’ll restart the dialogue once this season has ended. The current qualifying offer system will remain in place.
The Tigers have signed first-round pick Jace Jung.
The Reds agreed to terms with their top pick, Cam Collier.
Bleacher Report released a post-draft farm system ranking, and the Cubs are the midpoint team at No. 15. That will probably change once we’ve passed the trade deadline.
Baseball Insider Jon Morosi reports that there is zero chance the Angels will trade Ohtani.
Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado are two of three Cardinals who will not make the weekend trip to Toronto because they are on the non-vaccinated restricted list. If the Blue Jays make the playoffs, they may have a built-in advantage over some teams.
Phillies GM Dave Dombrowski is not giving up on his team’s chances and is said to be pursuing pitching on the trade market.
Carlos Rodón has reached 110 innings pitched, which means his player option has vested and he will become a free agent at the season’s end. The Giants could be buyers and sellers this week if they feel they have no chance of retaining Rodón.
The Rangers have signed Dallas Keuchel to a minor league deal.
Teams have been reluctant to trade top prospects the last few seasons but that may change this year. In addition to extra postseason berths creating additional demand for big league acquisitions, teams are drafting better and a lot of systems are saturated with too many good players.
Monday’s Three Stars
- Kyle Freeland – The Rockies starter was in rare form last night, holding the Brewers to four meaningless singles in a 2-0 win. Freeland finished with seven punchouts and issued just one walk.
- Juan Soto – Playing in front of his future home fans, Soto had two hits and plated two runners as the Nationals surprised the Dodgers 4-1.
- Jeimer Candelario – The Tigers’ third baseman has had difficulty getting over the Mendoza Line, but three hits last night pushed his average up to .203, and he had a home run with three RBI to boot.
Seeing Contreras like this almost makes me tear up.
The heart and soul of the Chicago Cubs. We love you, Willson. Credit: @Taylor_McGregor pic.twitter.com/exk028M8SD
— OBVIOUS SHIRTS® (@obvious_shirts) July 26, 2022
Tuesday Morning Six-Pack
- Jaquan Brisker has signed, Roquan Smith is holding out, and nobody knows if Robert Quinn will report. Here are your Tuesday morning Chicago Bears camp notes.
- The Bears got some much-needed help for the offensive line with the addition of Michael Schofield.
- Mayor Lori Lightfoot unveiled three separate plans for Soldier Field with the common goal of keeping the Bears in Chicago. It looks cool, but the Bears issued a statement saying they have no interest, and the group Friends of the Park is upset that Lightfoot bypassed the feasibility study. By the way, the FOTP said the plans are probably not feasible.
- A food fight between publishers and librarians is the dramedy you didn’t know you needed
- The Mega Millions will hold a drawing tonight for a jackpot of $810 million. If won at that amount, it’d be the fourth-largest lottery prize in history. I need to go buy a ticket. Odds are 1-in-302 million.
- Joni Mitchell graced the stage at last weekend’s Newport Folk Festival and reportedly stole the show. It was her first live performance in two decades.
They Said It
- “[Hoerner] wants that moment probably more than anyone I’ve been around. Nice base hit for him there.” – David Ross
- “I’m just trying to appreciate everything and all the memories I have here. Probably my last homestand.” – Contreras
- “I don’t want my Cubs journey to end. I don’t want to stop putting the uniform on and coming here every day.” – Happ
- “[In Keegan], I see a guy who’s confident in his ability and knows what he can do now in this league, and you’re starting to see him take off. Even the little blip of a week that he had, he was working on stuff in that process. So he knew he was gonna be better for it as he got through.” – Tommy Hottovy
Tuesday Walk-Up Song
Let’s just call it “Hair Band Tuesday.”