“Never seem to get far enough staying in between the lines. Hold on to what you can waiting for the end, not knowing when.” – Son Volt, Windfall
When a team starts the season with a 9-15 record and a number of players on one-year deals, talks of baseball’s trade deadline inevitably accelerate. Last year, president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer deconstructed the offensive side of his roster by trading away veteran pending free agents Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Javier Báez. The midsummer fire sale occurred after Hoyer took over for Theo Epstein and traded Yu Darvish, which he followed by non-tendering Kyle Schwarber.
Yesterday, MLBTR listed 18 pitchers who could be potentially moved this summer, and four were Cubs. The obvious suspects are Kyle Hendricks, Marcus Stroman, Drew Smyly, and Wade Miley. Though some of our peers believe it’s a little too early to start thinking about wholesale changes, I disagree. Stroman and Hendricks might be the toughest of the four to move, but at least gutting this year’s roster won’t mean breaking the hearts of the team’s fans as well.
Let’s face it, folks, the Cubs are pretty awful and the blue light is on. Moving Hendricks might seem like a bit of a stretch because he seems to be on the bad side of age regression. Still, I expect the front office will listen to anyone who wants to court the nine-year veteran. Stroman would make an excellent No. 2 or 3 starter in a contending team’s rotation but his salary may be a factor. Smyly and Miley are obvious trade candidates because each is on a one-year deal.
Hoyer and GM Carter Hawkins will probably entertain offers for a number of offensive players, too, and the only untouchables are Seiya Suzuki and backup catcher Yan Gomes, who would become the starter once Willson Contreras is inevitably dealt.
The fun part about trade speculation is the discussions among armchair GMs about what the return packages may look like. Based on experience, Hoyer is probably looking to acquire low-level, high-ceiling minor leaguers for anybody he trades. Of course, most fans will target top-five organizational prospects, though that’s unlikely except (maybe) in the case of Stroman.
Like last year, it seems as if this year’s roster was constructed with an eye toward the trade deadline. Hoyer may not want to say the Cubs are conducting a rebuild, but there’s a lot of damning evidence to the contrary. Make no mistake, the North Siders aren’t good enough to turn this thing around to the point where the front office may become buyers, and they’re certainly not going to sit on their hands for a team that started the season with a best-outcome potential of wining 80-82 games.
Fangraphs now projects the Cubs to finish the season with 73 wins, and no team that has a predicted winning percentage of .450 should cling to any hope of reaching the playoffs, even with this year’s expanded postseason. In fact, the prudent thing to do would be to start tearing down this year’s roster sooner rather than later, especially with starting pitchers on the block. Their value lies in the number of starts each could make with an acquiring team.
Cubs News & Notes
- Miley made his first rehab start for Triple-A Iowa last night and looked fantastic.
- The Cubs aren’t sweating Suzuki’s first slump – yet.
- The team realizes that patience is necessary with the dynamic rookie outfielder. Suzuki is still acclimating himself to living in the United States while trying to play baseball against much tougher pitching than he faced in Japan.
- Mike Napoli has a goal to one day be a major league manager, so he’s spending a lot of time at the ballpark working with Cubs players while playing a lot of cribbage.
- Closer David Robertson – who may have the highest value among the short-term Cubs – enlisted his neighbor to help him prepare for the 2022 season.
- With the first month of the season in the books, Ian Happ is the team’s obvious MVP so far.
- James Triantos is the organization’s best pure hitting prospect.
- Pete Crow-Armstrong was named as the organization’s minor league player of the month. Pitching honors went to Porter Hodge.
- Hi-Chew is partnering with the Cubs to bring its delicious chewable candy to Wrigley Field. Ticket holders should keep an eye on the left-field video board during a designated inning break as players face off in a video game-style home run derby. The candy will also be available to fans during all Kids Sundays while entering the ballpark.
- The Cubs are among the most hated teams in baseball according to Twitter data pulled by an online betting site. I think we can blame Tom Ricketts and some of the insufferable bandwagon fans for that, um, accolade, as I’m guessing most of the vitriol comes directly from the team’s fanbase. Sorry, not sorry.
Odds & Sods
The Reds front office is tanking, the team is getting worse, and Cincinnati is making no attempt to disguise its intentions.
The Cincinnati Reds are now 3-22.
They have scored an NL-worst 79 runs. If they doubled that, it would still be fewer runs than they've allowed, 166.
Their 6.90 ERA is a full two runs worse than the next-worst team. Not nice at all.
This is tanking at its absolute ugliest.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) May 5, 2022
Climbing the Ladder
“You were right about the stars. Each one is a setting sun.” – Wilco, Jesus, etc.
Cubs starters have made just three quality starts through 24 games. Since beating the Pirates 21-0 on April 23, Chicago is 53-for-289 (.183) with 97 strikeouts, averaging 1.9 runs per game. They’re 2-7 in that span and are 7-for-51 (.137) with runners in scoring position in those nine games.
How About That!
The Brewers have hit 20 home runs in their last six games, drawing comparisons to the 1982 team that was lovingly known as Harvey’s Wallbangers, a portmanteau of the sweet-tasting adult libation once popular in Milwaukee nightspots and the team’s manager, Harvey Kuenn. The Brewers went 72-43 and reached the ’82 World Series after Kuenn took over for Buck Rodgers on June 1.
Twins shortstop Carlos Correa was removed in the 7th inning of Thursday night’s 5-3 loss to the Orioles after being hit by pitches in consecutive plate appearances. He is scheduled to undergo a CT scan on his right middle finger this morning.
It’s almost impossible to top last year’s group of free-agent shortstops, but this year’s crop, which could include Correa, Trea Turner, Dansby Swanson, and Xander Bogaerts, should be the talk of this winter’s Hot Stove season.
The Mets had lost 333 consecutive games when entering the 9th inning trailing by six runs or more. Thanks to Starling Marte, that streak is over.
The Red Sox bullpen is failing the team again this year, and Boston fans are starting to panic. Perhaps Chaim Bloom will be contacting Hoyer about Robertson.
Thursday’s Three Stars
- Shohei Ohtani – The two-way superstar pitches seven shutout innings with 11 strikeouts against the Red Sox in Fenway Park. He was also 2-for-4 with an RBI at the plate, a nice all-around performance in the stadium that was once the home to Babe Ruth.
- Willy Adames – The Brewers are a much stronger offensive team this year and Adames is one of the reasons why. The shortstop was 2-for-4 yesterday with two home runs and four RBI as Milwaukee improved to 18-8 with a 10-2 win over the hapless Reds. The Brewers went yard five times in the first three innings against rookie starter Hunter Greene.
- Manny Machado – The San Diego third baseman was a one-man wrecking crew with two solo shots as the Padres edged the Marlins 2-1.
Father and son waited to catch a baseball for more than 2 hours during batting practice at Wrigley Field. @maitaiguy0 made sure the young fan got a ⚾️ souvenir to remember his first @cubs baseball game. #ballhawk #ItsDifferentHere pic.twitter.com/p5b7ItCOMS
— Cubs Ballhawk 🐻⚾️ (@CubsBallhawk_) May 5, 2022
They Said It
- “Just got to keep going. It’s just baseball sometimes. You’ve just got to stick with the process and the results will even out, but it’s a frustrating feeling, for sure, when the results are not going your way.” – Hendricks
- “I think we were really good at seeing the fastball early on, jumping on the count. We’ve gotten spun a lot more early in the count, [and] slowed ourselves down, and that can put you in between at times. I think we’re going through the ebbs and flows offensively of the season, pitchers adjusting to us and us adjusting back.” – David Ross
Friday Walk-Up Song
Dyslexic Heart by Paul Westerberg