A pair weeks in the past, the Cubs had positioned themselves as doubtless consumers throughout commerce season. As not too long ago as June 24, Chicago was tied with the Brewers atop the NL Central, 9 video games over .500. The previous two weeks have been an unmitigated catastrophe for the North Siders, although.
Between June 25 and July 7, the Cubs misplaced eleven consecutive video games. They snapped that streak with a win over the Phillies final night time, however Chicago enters tonight’s matchup in opposition to Philadelphia with an uninspiring 43-44 document. The Brewers, in the meantime, have rattled off a 10-3 stretch over that point, opening up an 8.5 recreation lead on Chicago inside a 14-day span. (The 45-41 Reds have additionally since handed the Cubs to leap into second place within the division). Chicago isn’t a complete lot nearer within the Wild Card race, trailing the Padres by seven video games (with Cincinnati and the Nationals additionally above them within the standings).
An eleven recreation shedding streak can definitely tank a crew’s season, and it appears it’d’ve within the Cubs’ case. On June 24, FanGraphs gave Chicago a 35.7% likelihood of creating the playoffs; coming into play right now, their odds had been down to six.4%.
With a playoff berth abruptly seeming extremely unlikely, the calculus for the Cubs entrance workplace modifications significantly, a indisputable fact that president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer acknowledged this night. Talking with reporters (together with Jordan Bastian of MLB.com, Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune and Gordon Wittenmyer of NBC Sports Chicago), Hoyer sounded way more prepared to maneuver gamers off the large league roster than he’d been a pair weeks in the past.
“Eleven days in the past, we had been definitely totally on the shopping for aspect … and clearly (groups) at the moment are calling to see which gamers are out there,” Hoyer stated. “So it’s a really completely different situation than we’d anticipated. Life comes at you quick.” Requested whether or not the entrance workplace is prepared to make gamers out there, Hoyer famous their duty to think about something “that may assist construct the subsequent nice Cubs crew,” citing their aforementioned dwindling playoff odds.
The implications for the Cubs are apparent. Three of their highest-profile gamers — Kris Bryant, Javier Báez and Anthony Rizzo — are all slated to hit free company on the finish of the season. If the crew isn’t contending in 2021, it stands to motive all or any of them might discover themselves on the transfer over the subsequent few weeks.
Definitely, there’d be loads of curiosity in each member of that group. Bryant has bounced again from a disappointing 2020 to hit a really robust .269/.349/.498 with sixteen dwelling runs over 324 plate appearances this yr. He’s making way more constant arduous contact and barreling balls up at a charge he hasn’t since his MVP peak. Bryant’s manufacturing has tailed off after he acquired out to a scorching begin to the yr, however his mixture of wonderful season-long numbers and general monitor document would make him maybe the highest participant on the commerce market had been the Cubs to make him out there.
Rizzo’s .250/.343/.439 line is down quite considerably from his greatest seasons. It’s nonetheless above-average offensive manufacturing, although, and he continues to supply a uncommon mixture of bat-to-ball abilities and arduous contact (to say nothing of high quality defensive marks at first base). Báez has struck out at an alarming 36.6% clip this yr en path to a .234 batting common and a .282 on-base proportion. However he’s additionally popped 21 dwelling runs and slugged .496, and he’s a comfortably above-average defender and baserunner.
Between their profession accolades, key roles on the 2016 World Sequence crew, and impending free companies, that trio figures to attract essentially the most fanfare prematurely of the July 30 commerce deadline. They’re removed from the one gamers on whose availability different groups may inquire, although. Zach Davies, Joc Pederson and Jake Marisnick are helpful gamers set to succeed in free company this winter. (Marisnick has a mutual possibility for 2022, however mutual choices are not often exercised by each events).
Willson Contreras, controllable through arbitration by 2022, is likely one of the recreation’s greatest catchers and was the topic of commerce dialogue final offseason. Nearer Craig Kimbrel is having an unbelievable bounceback marketing campaign, pitching to a 0.57 ERA with a 46.2% strikeout charge and eight.5% stroll proportion after struggling mightily between 2019-20. Kimbrel’s $16MM wage for 2021 now appears greater than cheap, as does the matching possibility on his contract for 2022.
Definitely, it’d be a shock to see all of these gamers change groups within the subsequent few weeks. Hoyer pushed back in opposition to the thought the Cubs had been planning to kick off any form of full-on rebuild, whilst he acknowledged that the 2022 roster will look completely different from the present iteration. He additionally famous there’s nonetheless some chance — slim because it now appears — the crew performs its manner again into rivalry over the approaching weeks.
The Cubs have eighteen extra video games earlier than the deadline. After dealing with the Phils tonight, their slate by July 29 consists of seven video games in opposition to the Cardinals, six in opposition to the lowly Diamondbacks, and 4 in opposition to the Reds, one of many groups they’ll have to leapfrog for a postseason spot.
Profitable 13 or fourteen of these contests may get the Cubs sufficiently near the postseason image that the entrance workplace decides to not orchestrate a sell-off. The core of the present membership has been pivotal to arguably the franchise’s most profitable five-year run in over a century. It definitely wouldn’t be a shock to see Hoyer and his entrance workplace give the group as lengthy a leash as attainable this summer time to attempt to play their manner again into the combination.
Nonetheless, the almost certainly situation is that the membership’s dreadful previous two weeks dug them a gap too deep to return again from. That’s an inescapable actuality Hoyer acknowledged this afternoon, one which will end in a number of of the franchise’s most necessary gamers of latest reminiscence donning new uniforms in a number of weeks’ time.