Cubs: Picking up the pieces after a strange trade deadline

Willson Contreras and Ian Happ are still Cubs and three quality relief pitchers are gone. Moving Scott Effross was a surprise. That’s it? That’s it. To quote a former Chicago resident named Marty Byrde “OK.”

After last summer’s landscape-altering trade deadline, the Cubs went 1-14, then a surprising 19-22 after. Now, they’re 41-61. Since Yu Darvish was traded, players received have just 31 MLB at-bats (Greg Deichmann) and 40 innings pitched (Codi Heuer and Caleb Killian). None of those players are currently on the big league roster. At one point in my life, some friends and I had a line we laughed at “What have you done for me lately?” Well?

Over the past year, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo have a combined WAR of 7.2 between the three of them. Before being traded, they averaged a cumulative 13.5 WAR. Am I sorry they were traded? No.

Thirty minutes past the 5 pm deadline on Tuesday, I surmised the Cubs still had their catcher and left fielder. When I pulled out my old tattered Roget’s College Thesaurus to look for the right word to describe my thoughts and analysis. Perplexing came to mind, and then the older pages spontaneously started on fire.

In a post-deadline presser Jed Hoyer repeated his oft-stated mantra about the next great Cubs team. We all want that. Where is that going to come from and who will take the field when that time comes? Stats are the way we track players, not the ones we like or whatever. Baseball, as much as any sport, is able to accumulate and assess massive amounts of numbers – and those numbers tell a story.

Right now, only four players have an OPS above .800: P.J. Higgins .869, Willson Contreras .828, and curiously rookies Christopher Morel and Nelson Velasquez at .801. That is it. Yet, only Contreras was in the lineup on Tuesday night

Cubs need to focus on the future when filling out the lineup card

I confess and believe I have stated in other pieces that I enjoyed the success that Rafael Ortega, Frank Schwindel and Patrick Wisdom had the last two months of 2021, and they all played key roles in the team’s 19-22 run late last year. They combined for a 6.0 WAR in that short span. Unfortunately for two of them, that success hasn’t carried into 2022, the league adjusted, all of the above. Their combined WAR this season is 0.1, and two of them are in the negatives.

When the deadline came and went with Happ and Contreras still in tow, two players came to mind: P. J. Higgins and Nelson Velasquez. Trades not being made should NOT cost these two men at bats, in limited roles, they have performed. Velasquez is only 23; play him everyday or send him to Iowa for regular at-bats. Higgins is only a year younger than Schwindel, but right now he has earned at bats at first base. Let’s NOT forget what Christopher Morel has brought to this team: Energy excitement, versatility and production. He has to play nearly every day, somewhere.

I have no idea who will make up the next great Cubs team, but for the AAAA players who aren’t getting it done, thanks for the memories. There has been absolutely no offensive production at first, Matt Mervis isn’t quite ready, so why not play Higgins, who has some versatility.
I was hoping that Alfonso Rivas could turn into a poor man’s Mark Grace. I can potentially see similarities with Morel and Ben Zobrist, Velasquez and Jorge Soler, and perhaps Zach McKinstry and Tommy La Stella.

This isn’t the most organized piece I’ve offered, just rambling thoughts. Rossy, please, every time you fill out a lineup card think of Jed’s “Who is on the next great Cubs team?” Because that’s what matters.