It wasn’t a sexy deadline. The buzzer has sounded and there is no cost-controlled starter, no lights-out closer, and no bat to help bail out a sputtering offense.
The Cubs did get some help, however. The 5th starter was a sore spot for the Cubs all year and while Dan Haren isn’t the stud he used to be, he can still be effective and give the Cubs quality innings down the stretch. And with Jason Hammel not 100% and Kyle Hendricks going through his first full MLB season, they needed some depth in the rotation as well. The Cubs can now have a chance to win every time out. That alone is big and will take some of the burden off what has been an outstanding performance from their top 4.
Tommy Hunter has some experience in high leverage roles and the Cubs bullpen has shown some vulnerability of late. Jason Motte has struggled and Pedro Strop hasn’t been as lights out as he was last year. Neil Ramirez appears to be out for the season and none of the Cubs AAA arms they were counting on as depth have stepped up and shown themselves to be viable in-house options.
Equally important is that the Cubs essentially gave up nothing with regard to their plans for the next few seasons. Ivan Pineyro was Rule 5 eligible and there was a good chance he was going to be lost anyway. Elliot Soto is a fine utility type player, but middle infield is an area of tremendous depth for the Cubs. He will likely get a better opportunity in Miami.
The Cubs bought themselves a fighting chance down the stretch without sacrificing their long term plan.
One could argue that other teams, such as the Mets, made better moves on paper and have improved more than the Cubs. To that I say that we have to be careful about winning trade deadline trophies. It was just 7 months ago that everyone was saying the Padres won the offseason — and just a year removed from when everyone, myself included, assumed the A’s (or perhaps the Tigers) had cleaned up and were going to run away with the AL pennant. It turns out that the Royals made the biggest run down the stretch and much of it came through improvements within their current roster. It is also an argument I made just 2 weeks ago.
When it comes to offense, that is undoubtedly the hope for the Cubs. They recently added Kyle Schwarber and are finding more ways to get him into the lineup. Javier Baez is now a phone call away at Iowa and Tommy LaStella is rehabbing in Tennessee. Miguel Montero is also getting closer to a return.
But even that only tells part of the story. It isn’t difficult to imagine the Cubs getting better play from Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, Addison Russell and, of course, Stariin Castro down the stretch. Dexter Fowler has already begun to turn things around and it appears that Anthony Rizzo may be snapping out of his funk as well.
The Cubs will have more time to evaluate long term options like Baez, LaStella, and others as they head into what is now a very important offseason. The middle infield picture was still fuzzy and the hope is the Cubs will have a more clear picture by the offseason. Will they trade Castro? Will he be open to a move to 2B or even the OF? 3B, perhaps? Where does Baez fit in? What about La Stella? Or is there a solution from outside the organization? What about CF? Is Dexter Fowler the answer or will it come from outside the organization as well? Will the Cubs need a big bat to take some of the pressure off the young core?
All of these things are unclear as of right now and as we have said many times, this organization doesn’t make franchise-altering decisions without clear information. If the answer isn’t there, they won’t force the issue and gamble. They’ll retreat and gather more information until they can make a more informed decision.
The temptation is to say they should have done more. Maybe. Nobody knows for sure. But that is precisely the point I am making. The Cubs aren’t going to go all-in for a one game playoff where anything can happen. They aren’t going to overpay the first moment they sniff contention. As far as that goes, they’re already a year ahead of schedule anyway. They didn’t expect to have all the answers by now and they don’t — and a shot at a wild card play-in shouldn’t make them pretend that they do.
I am okay with the way they played this. They took their shot at the bigger goal — the cost-controlled pitchers and the 3 year window ahead of them. But it just wasn’t there, at least not at a price with which they felt comfortable. They didn’t overextend for 2015 t the expense of the long term. They kept the bigger plan in place, knowing that 2015 isn’t going to be their best chance and certainly not their only one. Yet, they still managed to fill some important needs for this season.
It’s going to be a lot of fun down the stretch — and that is only the beginning.
Filed under: Uncategorized