Theo Epstein’s deadline trades just barely meet the needs of the Chicago Cubs.
To no surprise, the moves Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein made during this year’s deadline were not blockbuster deals. Instead they were what most predicted: cheap, not aggressive, but still kind of effective.
Will they help the team down the stretch? Maybe, but the new faces coming to the North Side will be no more than role players. That might not be the worst thing. At the end of the day, the Cubs (20-14) have struggled, yet still find themselves in first place by 3 1/2 games. If the team’s star players can get back in their groove during the final 26 games, this group can still be a force to be reckoned with come playoff time. So perhaps I am being too critical of Epstein, but allow me to explain.
It’s been four years and this team still does not have a true leadoff man. Epstein has spoken publicly on this issue, yet the Cubs continue using patchwork and duct tape to fix the problem. No team can win a World Series without a traditional leadoff man who can set the table for the rest of the lineup.
It looks like the Cubs will roll with Ian Happ, who has been effective through 15 games as the team’s first hitter: .308/.400/.846, 2 walks, two strikeouts, 1.246 OPS.
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The question now is can he sustain this down the stretch and into the postseason. Only time will tell, but it would have been nice to get a proven man for the job instead of putting more pressure on an unproven Happ. The Colorado Rockies acquired outfielder Kevin Pillar from the Red Sox for basically nothing: a PTBNL and international bonus pool space. I find it hard to believe Epstein could not swing a similar deal.
Aside from a leadoff man, the Cubs have desperately needed some bullpen help. To solve this problem the team acquired LHP Andrew Chafin (6.2 IP, 9 H, 4 BB, 10 K, 8.10 ERA) from the Diamondbacks and LHP Josh Osich (15.2 IP, 16 H, 5 BB, 20 K, 5.74 ERA) from the Red Sox, both in exchange for PTBNL or cash considerations.
How does this strengthen the bullpen? Well they are some needed left-handed arms, but other than that their numbers say, “not much”. Meanwhile, the San Diego Padres acquired RHP Trevor Rosenthal from the Royals in exchange for a PTBNL and Edward Olivares, who is not even on the top 100 prospect list of MLB.com.
Two moves I think will be beneficial are the acquisitions of designated hitter Jose Martinez and outfielder Cameron Maybin. They are not superstars by any means, but some veterans who provide depth and can swing it well against left handed pitching. Now the test will come for Ross who will need to figure out a way to integrate these players into the rotation effectively.
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OVERALL GRADE: C-
Earning a C- can be defined as just barely meeting a “satisfactory performance” which is what I think these moves are, just enough to maybe improve the current state of this team. Ultimately, the success of the Cubs in 2020 will come down to their best players turning it around, in a short span of time.