Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves looked very similar … until they didn’t
By Thomas Erbe
Approaching the All-Star break in July, the Chicago Cubs endured and 11-game losing streak that ultimately sealed the fate of the 2021 season. Jed Hoyer and the front office decided to shop around and eventually became big-time sellers at the trade deadline, trading the likes of Kris Bryant, Javy Baez, and Anthony Rizzo. Now the team is headed into free agency with only three contracts on the books, and will need to be players in the Hot Stove season.
Unlike the Cubs, the Atlanta Braves front office decided they were still in a position where they could make a move on the NL East and contend for a championship. One of the first moves they made was a trade with the Cubs for outfielder Joc Pederson after young star Ronald Acuna Jr. went down with a season-ending injury.
On July 15, the day the deal for Pederson went down, the Cubs carried a record of 44-46. They were eight games out of first place in the NL Central and 7 1/2 games out of a Wild Card berth with half a season left to play. Quite frankly, with a roster consisting of Pederson, Baez, Bryant, and Rizzo, there was plenty of time to make a move.
Was the offense perfect? Not by any stretch. But had the team went out and added some badly-needed starting pitching, perhaps even threading the needle by trading someone like Craig Kimbrel, who was in the midst of a resurgent season, the second half could’ve gone very differently for Chicago.
Chicago Cubs went all-in on selling while the Atlanta Braves chased a crown
On that same day, the Braves had a record of 44-45, just a half game record better than the Cubs. They were 4 1/2 games out of first in the NL East and seven games out of a Wild Card spot.
The Atlanta Braves chose to be buyers and make key additions to go for it, and they are now in the World Series. Their key trade deadline pickups – including Pederson, former Cubs slugger Jorge Soler and Adam Duvall – have all played huge roles for the team here in October.
Meanwhile, the Cubs’ season tanked from there, and they’re now sitting at home wondering where to go from here.