After several blockbuster deals in recent summers, Theo Epstein cautioned against expecting the Chicago Cubs to make such a move ahead of the deadline.
As the Chicago Cubs went from feel-good story to perennial postseason favorite, the front office got aggressive. In each of the last two seasons, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer pulled the trigger on big-time moves to shore up an already loaded group in hopes of making deep October runs.
And, to a degree, they accomplished that goal. Of course, Chicago won it all in 2016 – erasing a century of disappointment. Last season, despite falling short of making it back to the Fall Classic, they still reached a third consecutive National League Championship Series.
But, if you ask Epstein, it’s up to this group to get the job done in 2018. There’s no star power on the way to shore up a team looking up at the Milwaukee Brewers in the standings.
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"“You’re always looking to fortify and add a little bit, and you always have Plan B and Plan C in case of injury or bad performance,” Epstein said. “There’s no way we’re going to go out and acquire starters the caliber of a locked-in Kyle Hendricks or a locked-in Jose Quintana. The majority of our answers lie within, that’s for sure.”"
The references to Hendricks and Quintana likely refer to their respective struggles this season. I delved into the former earlier this week and we’ve talked multiple times about Q, as well. Neither has pitched to their ability and that leaves a major void in the Chicago rotation.
Darvish leaves a major void in rotation
Of course, the biggest hole? That comes in the form of injured right-hander Yu Darvish. Epstein opted for the Japanese right-hander over Jake Arrieta (at least to a degree) last winter and, so far, hasn’t come out on the right side.
He’s made just eight starts for the Cubs and the latest reports indicate he’s unlikely to return shy of August. In the meantime, Mike Montgomery continues to take the ball every fifth day in his spot. But you’d still like more depth when it comes to the starting rotation.
"“Every year is different with the marketplace and the nature of that team’s season,” Epstein said. “For us, we’re still in the mode of assessing. On the position-player front, right now there’s not a lot we’d want to go get. There’s not a lot of roster spots to fit guys in. We have guys who have to sit on a given day. It’s not like we’re actively looking at anything on the position-player side. With the pitching, we’ll know a lot more in the next few weeks.”"
In short, the plan is exactly what we’ve expected. Epstein isn’t going to unload a guy like Addison Russell for someone like Manny Machado. The Cubs don’t need to add an arm with star power. They need the guys they’ve put money and faith into to start pitching to expectations.
And, if a deal presents itself to shore things up, Chicago will undoubtedly pounce. But despite the standings, there’s no panic in the offices at Clark and Addison. Nor should there be.