Chicago Cubs: Late additions will play critical part in playoff push


Callups, late acquisitions will be important down the stretch for the Cubs

The saying goes “it’s not how you start but how you finish that matters”. For the Chicago Cubs, it may also be amended to say it’s not WHO you start with but who you finish with. The key players have been there all along. Anthony Rizzo, Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta. Kris Bryant followed shortly thereafter. Then you have the addition of Addison Russell as well. But it’s the names that joined the Cubs roster a little after those guys that will have a huge bearing on their chances in the postseason. 

Kyle Schwarber is the first that comes to mind, and his impact this season has been tremendous. While his numbers have come back down to earth after his torrid start, his .270 average along with his 13 home runs and 38 RBI’s in just 48 games coincided with the Cubs elevated play.

The recent addition of Austin Jackson just inside the cutoff for acquiring players that are eligible for the postseason roster was under the radar but very important. The timing of it was lucky in that Schwarber went down with the rib cage injury right after, keeping the Cubs from having to shuffle players too drastically. The idea behind his acquisition was to have a backup plan for Dexter Fowler should he miss any time. Chris Coghlan has been versatile, and could play center in a pinch but would not be a long-term solution this season.

The pitching staff has seen the most change in recent weeks. Partly due to injury, the rest to reinforcements. Dan Haren was brought in to solidify the No. 5 spot in the rotation which had been an area of concern. Tommy Hunter was acquired from the Orioles for Junior Lake, who never seemed to reach his potential in Chicago. And now Fernando Rodney will play a key role in late innings with guys like Neil Ramirez and Jason Motte out.

Haren fared better in his last outing but hasn’t recorded a quality start with the Cubs yet. But he’s reliable and will take the ball every fifth day. You know what you’re getting with Haren though. He pitches to contact, but might allow the long ball (has in nine straight games).

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Hunter allows Joe Maddon flexibility with him, as he’s done middle relief, but also closed some games in the last two season. Hector Rondon seems to be dialed in, but having as many options at the backend has been a key point of emphasis for Maddon. Rondon will be the closer–most of the time…until he’s not.

Rodney has been a very successful closer in his career, amassing 236 saves in 13 seasons. The last two seasons have been a struggle for him, but since 2012 he’s saved 48 games twice, once with Maddon’s Rays. He’s a pitcher that Maddon knows and is comfortable with, and so far I’ve not seen a reason to question Joe.

Will any of these guys be as big a part of this run, as say, Kenny Lofton was in 2003? Only time will tell. That’s part of the joy of baseball. It’s not just the superstars that can be a hero at any given moment.

Next: Russell stepping up in second half