Chicago Cubs won’t have their pick of the best available this deadline

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Last year, the Chicago Cubs knew that adding a lock-down closer would be what they needed. It took Gleyber Torres and a few other players, but it helped net them Aroldis Chapman. This year? Not as easy, as they need pitching–and so does every other contender.

We’re getting to that part of the season that everyone has an opinion about. The trade deadline is nearing, and the Chicago Cubs are still very much part the “buyers” crowd. Even if their record makes us feel differently. The overall impression is that the Cubs won’t be part of anything “blockbuster.” Yes, they need pitching. Quality pitching under team control. But that comes with a price that the Cubs might not be willing to pay just yet.

Here’s the other part of this that we seem to forget. While we’re talking about what the Cubs should do, teams like the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals haven’t folded up shop yet. Even the Pittsburgh Pirates might find themselves at a crossroads of buy or sell very, very soon.  So we can say it’ll take Jeimer Candelario and Ian Happ to get, say, Sonny Gray (Strictly hypothetical, folks). If one of the other teams can offer something better in return? We don’t get Gray and now were chasing the team that did.

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Everyone needs pitching

The Cubs staff is eighth in the NL in ERA for starting pitching. They trail every other Central team except for the Cincinnati Reds–who are in dead last. The Cubs are fifth overall, as the solid effort from the bullpen pulls them up past the Pirates (7th), but still behind the Cards (3rd) and the Brewers (4th). If it wasn’t for the bullpen, this conversation might not be happening as the Cubs might be sellers (worst case, neutral)  instead of buyers at the deadline.

So this year, the Cubs have essentially reversed course from last year. A rotation that was damn near untouchable last year has faltered and been hurt, while the bullpen has been as steady as they come. How to address the offense is beyond me. It’s the same players. They’ve all regressed. I’m going to believe that at least a handful of them will turn their fortunes around. Hopefully, that would be enough to come back and win the Central.

The bats are already there

The Cards, Cubs and Pirates occupy the 10-12 spots in the NL in batting. The Brewers have proven to be a potent offense (4th), and a front-line starter might help push them over the top. This isn’t just the Cubs offering the package they feel is worth it and waiting to hear back. And it’s not just a question of more prospects or a better player. It’s about what the team feels it will need in the short-term.

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The Cubs front office won’t panic. But I would like to see them fire the first salvo. A move could force the Brewers or Cardinals into a move that won’t benefit them long-term. Fans might not feel that way about the game of baseball, but this is how it operates. Teams don’t go “all-in”. That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.

It’s no secret that the Cubs will need pitching after this year. Are they willing to give up the bigger pieces to get it at the deadline? Maybe. But several other teams that might feel “closer” than the Cubs could be willing to go bigger, which would leave the Cubs without that arm that they might need to get back to the playoffs. But Joe Maddon has had an amazing second half the last two seasons, so let’s not count out the Cubs just yet.