The Chicago Cubs have made some big trades in the last week. The question now is what’s next.
Mike Montgomery was traded for last week to help the bullpen. Today, the Chicago Cubs agreed to a deal that sent four players, including Adam Warren, to the New York Yankees for Aroldis Chapman. As you are aware, Warren was part of the trade that sent Starlin Castro to the Yankees in the off-season. With the moves made to help the bullpen, coupled with Dexter Fowler‘s return from the disabled list, what is next for the Cubs?
Are there any holes left on this roster? It is hard to see, but maybe. The infield is set in place and, hopefully, will see action in their regular positions for a majority of the season. Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo‘s production has established them as MVP-caliber players for the NL. Addison Russell‘s defense and hitting with runners on base (.280/.482/.840) is valuable. And, Ben Zobrist is the catalyst for many of the big moments for the season. Add in Javier Baez, and the infield is in great shape for the rest of the season, barring injury.
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The starting rotation is arguably the best in all of the MLB. They boast a 3.04 ERA (best in MLB) and a .215 opponents batting average. The struggles of late are typical of any season, but the recent performances of Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel, and Kyle Hendricks show promise. Hendricks is the surprise of the rotation, with the third best ERA in the majors.
One of the struggles for the Chicago Cubs this year has been the outfield, mostly due to injury. Defensively, they have been great. Jason Heyward has shown why he is one of the best in the business, with athletic catches and throws that hold runners to singles. There have been more players in left field than operational CTA trains during rush hour. Still, defensive is not an issue.
It is at the plate where the outfield as struggled. Most of the issues are because Fowler missed over 20 games with a hamstring injury. For right field, mostly Heyward, the team is 13th in the NL in BA (.240), but sixth in runs (55). Production from center is solid, but it is the platoon in left that has been the best. Between all the player who have spent time in left field, they are tops in runs scored (70), fourth in home runs (15) and RBI (53), and third in OPS (.822). This is between ten players, not including any pitchers that made appearances there. That is right. Ten players have been in left field. For comparison sake, Christian Yelich has played 87 games in left for the Marlins, but has less run scored and RBI.
The good news is, even though many Cubs fans are ready to jump ship when the call to the pen happens, the pen improved this week. Adam Warren was traded along with some prospects to the Yankees for Chapman. The Cubs also acquired Mike Montgomery from the Mariners for a prospect. And, Joe Nathan made his return to the MLB on Sunday, picking up the win with an impressive response to giving up a triple and a walk.
The issue now becomes how to manage the pen. Is Chapman now the closer or does he set up for Hector Rondon? Does this move Pedro Strop to the seventh inning? Regardless, if the rotation can get through six innings, the final three will be interesting. This leave Travis Wood, Clayton Richard, Carl Edwards, Montgomery, and Nathan to fill out the long relief and situational match-ups. It is to think that this staff is one to be feared.
So, what is next? Is there room to improve? Sure. There are still talks about obtaining Josh Reddick from the Oakland Athletics. While the move may be positive, it is also easy to see that it is not need. If, and it is an if right now, Heyward can show signs of producing offensively, that would be a big boost. With him hitting lower in the lineup, he should see more pitches with runners on base. The Cubs’ bench is solid and can provide rest of all parts of the team. The roster is set.
The only concern I can see if the second spot in the line up. Bryant and Rizzo need more runners on before they come up. It is nice to see Fowler in the leadoff spot, but putting Russell – who has only hit into six double plays – may be the answer to the problem. Then you have Zobrist, Heyward, Contreras in the four through six spots. It could be amazing.
So would be winning the World Series.