Chicago Cubs: Theo Epstein did it right at the deadline this year

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

The trade deadline is volatile, even for the Chicago Cubs. Also, if a hitter or pitcher is performing well until the trade, they might not be after. The Cubs, as of now, have benefited from their moves.

The season is far from over. But the Chicago Cubs seem to have made the right moves at the deadline. From Craig Kimbrel to Nicholas Castellanos to everyone in-between, the Cubs look to have made the right trades. This is a fluid topic, as some are in new leagues and other players will adjust to them. But some teams weren’t as lucky (Looking at you Shane Greene.)

I’m not going to give them a grade, because I know that whatever I grade them? It’ll be an ‘F’ if they don’t make the postseason. But what I will do is assess what the players have done in their time here. And how valuable they’ve been to the team as a whole.

When the Cubs acquired David Phelps, I thought I recognized the name. He’s a Notre Dame guy, and he’s pitched very well for the Chicago Cubs in small samples. Phelps has thrown just five innings but has recorded a 1.80 ERA with one walk and six strikeouts. He has a save, a blown save and one hold.

His aLI (average leverage index) is 1.49. 1.0 is average, below 1.0 is low pressure and above 1.0 is high pressure. He’s been thrown into the fire, but Joe Maddon might not have had a choice. The bullpen was devastated by injuries, and Phelps was forced into higher leverage situations.

That can only work out for the best, as the high leverage innings will be coming. Rowan Wick has picked up a few. Maddon is going to need more than that to get through October with a division crown on their heads.

Steve Cishek and Kyle Ryan will have many of those innings. Pedro Strop has fallen from favor and will have to work back if there’s even time. Phelps has a chance to seize an opportunity here, and give the Cubs a much-needed boost out of the bullpen.

Tony Kemp hasn’t done much with the Cubs, but we didn’t expect much from him, either. He was a second baseman, could pinch-run and added the speed aspect the Chicago Cubs had been missing. He’s only slashed a .188/.182/.281 with one double and for RBI.

But again, we traded Martin Maldonado for him (before the Willson Contreras injury), and got Maldonado from the Royals for Mike Montgomery who wasn’t being utilized properly.

Craig Kimbrel is a mystery. Has he lost it, or just getting up to speed since he didn’t have a spring training? I’ll error on the latter because his stuff has looked good. He pitched in a stretch where he didn’t allow a run in eight innings, saving six games while allowing a BAA of just .115.

He’s looked really sharp at times, but also mortal at others. He’s allowed 2+ runs in three of his outings. The others? Just one run in one of them and scoreless in all others. In his first appearance off of the IL, he allowed a home run while striking out two in two-thirds innings of work.

We’d like to see the Kimbrel who pitched scoreless baseball, saving six games–but that’s just me.

And what can I say about Nicholas Castellanos? He’s done nothing but hit in Chicago. Mostly batting in the second spot, he’s put up a slash line .348/.392/.710 with an OPS of1.102. He’s hit seven doubles and six home runs with eight RBI. I’d say slide him down in the order, but what do I know.

So in turn, the Chicago Cubs filled their holes including the bullpen. They could have done more, but I think they would have needed to part with some MLB talent, and they weren’t willing to do that. Castellanos has been a great fit, and I’m on the ‘Castellanos train’ to sign him after this season. 

It's time to trust Chatwood in critical spots. dark. Next

The Chicago Cubs hit on what they needed to. The question is if it’ll be enough to win the Central. In the Central division, there may be two teams coming out of it. But as the Cubs found out, it’s much harder to be the Wild Card team. Assume nothing.