The Rundown: Hoyer in Spotlight as Cubs Start Great Reset, Ricketts Legacy in Question, Rizzo Gets Some Advice from Lester, White Sox Poised for Deep October Run

“If you believe in magic come along with me, we’ll dance until morning till there’s just you and me.” – The Lovin’ Spoonful, Do You Believe in Magic?

The Rundown

Believe it or not, there is a large subsection of Cubs fans that believe the team as it sits currently has a chance of going on a run and getting into the postseason. Though that would indeed be magical, it actually borders on delusion. The Cubs are 13 games out of first place, and 9.5 out of the second wild card with four teams to pass. Per FanGraphs, the Cubs have a 0.0% chance of getting into the playoffs. The good news is that their chances can only go up from there.

To those that are defending the trades Jed Hoyer made, or are in denial that he did not throw Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Javier Báez under the bus yesterday, the common theme among them is that Tom Ricketts is going to be a big spender this winter in free agency. And, apparently, that spending is going to launch the North Siders into their next competitive window. However, everything Hoyer and his entourage have done screams loudly that that is simply not the case. The Cubs would have to buy gobs of starting pitching in free agency, and that’s basically what got them here in the first place.

The same can be said for those who think the Cubs could have bought and/or traded for premium players to build around their core. Again, with a dearth of quality starting pitching throughout the organization, that would be pure folly. At some point, Chicago is going to have to draft and develop quality starting pitching. Perhaps Justin Steele is someone they can count on soon, and he is capable of posting an elite WHIP. First-round draft choice Jordan Wicks could be another though, frankly, I’m surprised that MLB Pipeline doesn’t list him as a Top 30 prospect.

Brailyn Márquez is injured, and Adbert Alzolay struggles a great deal against lefties. Caleb Kilian, who was acquired from the Giants in the Bryant trade, should be one of the system’s fastest risers. So, yeah, the Cubs are improving when it comes to developing starters, but they still have a ways to go. Other than Willson Contreras and Kyle Hendricks, they don’t have much in trade capital this winter.

Ricketts indicated in his letter to season ticket holders that fans need to be patient during this Great Reset, but truthfully, this is a rebuild and one that lacks premium starters. The system is deep with middle infielders and catchers, so it’s possible a guy like Nick Madrigal can be flipped for a pitcher. That said, he’s pretty much a one-tool player, and though Hoyer seems to value contact-over-power hitters in restocking his farm system, Madrigal lacks the necessary plate patience to play at an elite level. He could be a high-energy sparkplug in the mold of Dustin Pedroia or, more likely, he could be the second coming of Billy Ripken, which is to say, serviceable at best.

Finally, don’t expect any of the players Hoyer traded last week to return via free agency. I suppose it’s possible, but the odds are really against that happening. They’ll be among the most-hyped free agents available this winter, but Bryant and Báez will be well beyond Hoyer’s budget, and Rizzo might feel a little too disrespected to entertain the thought of coming back. In fact, the 2022-23 winter probably offers the best available free agents, though I just don’t see Hoyer buying players that are entering their age-31 season or later, ever.

Cubs News & Notes

  • On the heel of last week’s moves, it’s probably a good time to think about the legacy that will be attached to Ricketts if/when his family ever sells the ballclub.
  • Hoyer indicated yesterday that he basically had no choice but to engineer a clearance sale of sorts, but he also said he did get all of the players he targeted in return, insisting that he is not copying Theo Epstein’s plan from 2012.
  • That said, if it looks, sounds, and smells like a rebuild it probably is. In fact, Hoyer has been almost contradictory at times in describing his plan of attack going forward.
  • At least Hoyer showed some heart in deciding where to trade his core players, and Bryant continues to show endless class when talking about his time with the Cubs.
  • As late as June 11, the Cubs were 11 games over .500 and considered to be buyers at this year’s deadline. The epic collapse that followed changed everything.
  • While the Cubs wait for reinforcements from their affiliates, keep your eyes on Alzolay, Steele, Keegan Thompson, Codi Heuer, Patrick Wisdom, and Manuel Rodríguez. Their successes or failures will probably be the barometer in which to gauge the team’s next competitive window.
  • The fire sale by the Cubs and Nationals indicates both organizations are relearning how to rebuild.
  • Jake Arrieta hopes the fans will rally behind the current squad, and reiterated what it means to be a Chicago Cub.
  • Jon Lester provided some indirect advice to Rizzo after the first baseman was traded to the Yankees. “Everything happens for a reason,” said Lester. “Maybe [Rizzo] sees the grass isn’t greener and he wants to come back. Maybe he sees something else and wants to play the free-agent [game]. I’m excited for him. That weight on his shoulders has hopefully been lifted. He can just go play and not worry about anything.”
  • Despite down years for both teams, the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry remains among baseball’s best.
  • In case you haven’t seen the letter Ricketts sent to season ticket holders, here is a complete synopsis.

Odds & Sods

You may not know a lot about Rodríguez other than the fact he throws some serious gas. This is a great read and gives Cubs fans a new hero of sorts.

Climbing the Ladder

“Where do we go from here, now that all of the children have grown up? And how do we spend our time knowing nobody gives us a damn?” – Alan Parsons Project, Games People Play

  • Games Played: 104
  • Total Plate Appearances: 3,926
  • Total Strikeouts: 1,020
  • Strikeout Rate: 26%
  • Team Batting Average: .227

With 58 games to play, the Cubs’ magic number to avoid finishing in last place is 46. It’s doubtful, and almost logically impossible, that Pittsburgh will catch Chicago. Baby steps.

How About That!

Yankees’ ace Gerrit Cole has tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss his next start.

The Brewers placed closer Josh Hader on the COVID-19 injury list after he tested positive as well.

The White Sox have more than enough pitching depth to make a deep postseason run this fall.

The Southsiders built a mega-pen at the deadline and were one of the league’s most inspired buyers.

To say Blake Snell has been a big disappointment for the Padres would be an understatement.

The Rangers claimed outfielder DJ Peters off of waivers from the Dodgers and then designated David Dahl for assignment. Dahl was an all-star in 2019 and will probably be picked up as soon as clears.

Jesús Luzardo said he learned of his trade to the Marlins via Twitter.

The trade that sent John Axford from the Blue Jays to the Brewers for cash considerations cost Milwaukee exactly one dollar.

Monday’s Three Stars

  1. Eduardo Escobar – Quite a debut for the new Brewers’ infielder. Escobar reached base in all of his at-bats, hit his 24th home run of the year, and with four RBI now has 70 on the season. He is already a fan-favorite up here.
  2. Alex Dickerson – The Giants outfielder plated four runs on a 2-for-5 night that included a home run and triple. San Francisco just keeps winning.
  3. Ty France – The Seattle first baseman enjoyed a very nice 3-for-5 night with a double, a solo blast, and three RBI as the Mariners downed the Rays 8-2.

Extra Innings

As Cubs fans, we are most certainly prospect hounds once again. Madrigal and Pete Crow-Armstrong seem to be the types of players that have historically piqued the interest of vice president of scouting Dan Kantrovitz.

They Said It

  • “I didn’t know the whole scope until I got back in. “It’s definitely been really tough. Still is. It’s going to take a while to process. It’s just very different around here without those guys. It was a crazy 24 hours. Still probably processing it all. It’s going to take a while.”Kyle Hendricks
  • “You don’t let a crisis go to waste. There is no reason to go halfway.” – Jed Hoyer
  • “I don’t know what the definition of a rebuild is.” – Hoyer
  • “I know what was offered. I know what the dialogue was. We put our best foot forward. We tried our hardest. Those efforts were not reciprocated.” – Hoyer
  • “With each trade, we targeted players we really liked and we wouldn’t move from that position. Was it emotionally difficult? Yes. Do I think it was absolutely the right thing for the organization? I do.” – Hoyer

Tuesday Walk-Up Song

Parted Ways by Heartless Bastards – It’s still difficult to fathom that the Cubs have torn the whole thing down.

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