The Chicago Cubs were considered complete sellers at this years trade deadline, but for a few reasons they were unable to unload any players during the final two days.
Matt Garza was considered the largest chip on the market during the month with a deal coming nine days before the end of the non-waiver deadline. The Cubs did however make five trades in the month of July, so I guess one could consider them as the largest sellers of the month.
Throughout July the Cubs traded off players with expiring contracts that had little to no future with the team past this season. Theo Epstein has came in as President of Baseball Operations and established a build from the ground up approach, which is exactly what he has done. The month of July was no different for Theo as he bulked up the farm system by acquiring young pitching and hitting.
The Chicago Cubs were able to hang on to every piece that was rumored within the last week from an almost certain deal in Nate Schierholtz to a long shot in Jeff Samardzija. All the players rumored this last week have either expiring contracts or are becoming free agents within the next season. The trades that were made by the team last month *(Scott Feldman, Carlos Marmol, Scott Hairston, Alfonso Soriano, and Matt Garza) were all players with two or less years left on their contracts who Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer decided not to move forward with.
The players left on this season’s team will be holding spots for what the Cubs have to bring up within the next two to three years. This season the Chicago Cubs were not expected to contend and the second half is taking form the same way. Manager Dale Sveum has even said that having a .500 record for the second half of the year is goal to have.
Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro are two of the Cubs who are locked in with deals and the young cornerstones that Hoyer and Epstein plan to build around. Rumors have swirled about Castro being moved, but the talent is there and if he is not the permanent shortstop he can make the switch to a new position.
Along with those two blooming stars, the Cubs most recent call-up Junior Lake has been earning his playing time and not giving it up. Since his debut on July 20, he is hitting .316 with two homeruns and five RBIs. Lake has taken over for Alfonso Soriano in left field after the former Cub was traded to the Yankees and has nothing but impressed since his 3-4 debut in Arizona. Another Cub who is continuing a hot streak into August is starter Edwin Jackson, who after last night’s eight inning win, improves to 3-1 with a 1.83 ERA in five starts in July.
The Chicago Cubs starting pitching has really been the staple as of late and the bullpen the known weakness. Every team goes through slumps hitting, as the Cubs have had their fair share, but it is harder to turn around a bullpen that is not able to find one consistent arm to go to. The Cubs led the league in blown saves during the first half of the year and continue their streak with two blown this last series. Hopefully for the Cubs, a few guys can figure it out and can give Sveum the confidence to go to them in the latter half of the game.Lone All-star Travis Wood has been the most consistent starter and Cubs player posting a career 2.79 ERA, but holding only a record of 7-7. Wood has not given up anymore than four runs in his last ten starts, but has only picked up two wins. Expect Wood to continue his great pitching in the second half, which could lead to an extension putting Wood in the Windy City for a long time.
Jeff Samardzija, Edwin Jackson, and a rotation of multiple other contributors will lead the Cubs staff that ranks fourth in quality starts(65) and fifth in BAA(.244) into the later months. Hopefully the second half has better win results for the starters as the team leader is a tie between Wood and Jackson with seven, with Samardzija posting only six. Minus the top three guys, the final two spots of the rotation will likely be rotated around with Carlos Villanueva (2-7, 4.33 ERA) and Chris Rusin (1-0, 2.93 ERA) who makes his second start of the season tonight against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Along with those two, expect spot starts from a few other pitchers who may be called up in September if the Cubs are not making any ground and decide to put a few guys on the shelf for the year.
Within the next few months many players will begin to get the call to have their shot on the year at the big leagues. A few possible candidates would be former organization top prospects Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters, who still have Cubs fans scratching their heads. Mike Olt, acquired from the Texas Rangers in Matt Garza deal, could also make his Cubs debut later on this year and get some starts at 3rd base or a corner outfield spot. Olt was ranked the 44th-best prospect in all of baseball in the midseason prospect rankings by Baseball America.
Another player from that Garza deal who could make an appearance could be pitcher Justin Grimm (7-7, 6.37 ERA) who made seventeen starts for the Rangers this season.
As for the Chicago Cubs top prospects, they will not get time with the big league club until around the 2015 season. Top prospect, Javier Baez, made a large impression on manager Dale Sveum during spring training and with all these prospects coming into form around the same time it will be fun to see what the future holds.
Until then, The Chicago Cubs will continue to put out their pieces that they held onto this trade deadline and hope to see what some of the younger guys can do to produce at the big league level.