The further into the season they get without breaking free from the break-even point, the deeper the realization sinks that the Cubs are just not good. Not now, anyway. And maybe not for the rest of the season. As such, there’s no magic bullet that can solve all the woes.
“Look, if we can improve the club through trade, we will,” Theo Epstein said prior to Thursday’s debacle. “There’s not a player that we realistically can bring in from the outside that’s going to spur us to play at that level.”
I think we all know by now that this isn’t a new idea. In fact, I’ve been saying exactly the same thing for the last couple weeks. Acknowledging that the only real fixes are with the players already in the clubhouse, Epstein did everything but actually shrug. Maybe they’ll make a move, maybe they won’t.
I have no doubt Epstein was harried and frustrated by his team’s performance and the unending lines of questioning about it, but there may have been more to his responses than just that. We’re talking about a man who chooses his words very carefully and who is important to mean what he says without saying exactly what he means.
A stated understanding of the Cubs’ position and their inability to significantly alter the team with a single move could be as much about buying back or salvaging whatever minimal leverage they can muster. It’s not much different than walking away from a negotiation with a vendor, showing them that you don’t really need what they’re selling after all.
I’m probably reading too much into this, but Epstein doesn’t say things by accident and he can’t always be taken exactly at face value.
Verlander talk won’t die
Justin Verlander has long been rumored as a potential trade piece for the disappointing Tigers, and we recently got reports that the Cubs had been asking about him. Then came subsequent reports that Detroit wanted a monster haul for the aging righty.
Teams asking about Justin Verlander; perception is DET looking for big,big,big return w/out salary offset. Owed $70m for rest of '17,'18.'19
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 4, 2017
Apparently Tigers GM Al Avila is living under the impression that it’s a few years ago. There’s no way they’ll be able to get both a “big, big, big return” AND have the acquiring team agree to take on the remainder of his contract. Demanding that would certainly mean the Cubs are out, right? Right?
— Julie DiCaro (@JulieDiCaro) July 6, 2017
This might sound crazy, but I believe the Cubs are actually way more comfortable taking on Verlander’s salary (you should be able to view this as part of three free, but we’ve got subscription info below) than most fans would think. With Jake Arrieta, John Lackey, and Miguel Montero all off the books after this season, they can afford to take on a lot of money without pushing them closer to the luxury tax threshold. Depending on what the Cubs do in free agency, they might even have less money committed.
And who knows, maybe a change of scenery would be good for Verlander, who can eat up some innings and hold down the middle of the rotation. It seems like a foregone conclusion that he will be moved, to the point where even he is admitting it. There’s still plenty of time before the deadline is here and we’re sure to get a lot more from the trade front in the coming weeks.
Schwarber returns, questions too
Remember when Kyle Schwarber was demoted to AAA and then came back exactly two weeks later to the loudest ovation of all the members of the starting lineup and then how he mashed two home runs to lead the Cubs to victory? Well, okay, everything but the home runs and the win.
The reality is that Schwarber went 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts, but if you’re crowing and spiking the ball over being right about his call-up being a bad idea, you might wanna go ahead and put a sock in it. Listen, I didn’t agree with the decision to bring him back up at this point, either. But using one game as evidence of anything is just not being very intelligent. And the thing is, the two K’s had plenty of merit.
After taking a called strike on a curve over the outside corner on the first pitch he saw, Schwarber fouled off every other one of the next six pitches to run the count full before taking a high two-seamer for a strikeout. In his last at-bat, the recalled slugger took a high heater for a strike and then chose not to offer at another that appeared to be out of the zone low. He then took two balls, fouled off two more, took one, fouled two. Then he went down swinging on a two-seam that might have nipped the outside corner.
How is that encouraging? For one, Schwarber only swung and missed once. The early called strikes have been an issue for him all season and he hasn’t performed well at all in deep counts, but it’s hard to argue with the pitches he took Thursday afternoon. Were they strikes? Probably. But that doesn’t mean he could have done anything with them.
Once more, with feeling: Being upset about the quick turnaround on Schwarber’s demotion is fine, but yelling about his strikeouts and ground-outs in one game as an example of some failure by either him or the Cubs is not the best look.
More news and notes
- Fireballing righty Adbert Alzolay has been promoted to AA Tennessee
- Myrtle Beach has been a hotbed of high-level prospect talent
- Thomas Hatch and Eloy Jimenez are still there, but might not be for long
- After being scratched from Wednesday’s start, Dylan Cease was roughed up for 5 runs (3 earned) in 4.1 innings
- He had 3 K’s and 3 BB’s
- The SB Cubs hung up a 10-spot in the 6th to take the win
- Jon Greenberg has the story of Ian Happ’s deep pre-AB breath
- Maybe more Cubs could adopt this practice
- Maybe more Cubs fans could adopt this practice
- The Cubs have been scouting Sonny Gray, and you can also expect Jeff Samardzija’s name to keep coming up
- If you don’t already subscribe to The Athletic, which has added Detroit to a stable that already includes Chicago, Cleveland, and Toronto, you need to get on it
- Join here for 15% off
- You can pick and choose any of the teams from those cities to appear in your feed
- The Athletic employs local writers, some of the best from their respective cities
- No ads or pop-ups, daily newsletters
- Yes, I’m kind of undermining what we do here
- Before the crowd turned into 40,000 sad sacks, they were riled up over the pre-game “Last Out” bobblehead giveaway
- These are fully-grown human adults
- Getting mad about a bauble, or bobble
- I’d say they should be ashamed of themselves, but I’m not sure they possess the requisite self-awareness
— crawly's cub kingdom (@crawlyscubs) July 6, 2017