Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

old stove featureIt’s a little easier to be jazzed up about rumors when the Cubs are playing well. With an uneven stretch over the past three weeks – and with last night’s loss – talking about rumors feels a little less jazzy. In fact, it’s easy to get a little … desperate. To feel like the Cubs have to do something and to do it quickly lest they keep losing. I promise you understand that feeling, just as I promise you that it’s completely irrational.

There is no trade to be made – no trade that makes a lick of sense, anyway – that will immediately turn things around for the Cubs. Instead, there are only trades that could help the team over the course of the final two months (and maybe beyond). That’s why starting pitching is still a focus, even if it’s easy to forget on a day-to-day basis that another starting pitcher is very much a need. Just because you’d like to see the Cubs have more offense doesn’t mean the pitcher isn’t needed. And, as we’ve discussed before, “adding offense” isn’t all that simple for this particular Cubs team.

  • Speaking of which, Cubs GM Jed Hoyer reiterated the point (ESPN), noting that, although the Cubs are looking for a utility type, any kind of significant offensive improvements are going to have to come from within. There is literally just one spot in the lineup that you could even point to as a realistic place to remove a guy from the lineup and replace him with an import (Starlin Castro at shortstop), but where are you going to find a huge bat at shortstop to bring in? Or at second base (shifting Russell to short)? Would you really want to do that right now if you could? That bat might belong to Javy Baez, who is working his way back right now. Maybe you can dream on a guy like Ben Zobrist, contributing in a bunch of places and improving the offense, but so many teams are going to want him that the price – even for a two-month rental – is going to be extreme. If you’re being realistic right now, you’re hoping to see the Cubs add a utility player (or a 4th/5th outfielder) with a solid (probably lefty) bat. Not sexy, but that’s the reality. And then you’re hoping that lineup gets out of its collective funk. The talent is there.

  • By the way on Zobrist: he’s have his first negative value defensive year since 2008. Mean anything? Year-to-year defensive stat fluctuations happen and you should usually ignore them in favor of the much larger career sample. But it’s interesting, since Zobrist is playing with another team for the first time. He’s played almost exclusively at second base and in left field this year for the A’s, rating horribly at both positions. Again, doesn’t really mean anything, I just found it curious. He’s hitting just fine.
  • On the pitching side, the Cubs need additional depth in the rotation (at a minimum) and probably another quality arm in the bullpen. I loved the flyer on Rafael Soriano, but it’s hard to see him emerging as a back-end guy at this point. Neil Ramirez may or may not be able to work his way back into that role by the end of the year. Jason Motte is good, but he’s such a high contact guy that one-run games will always be a little dicey. We’ve seen the tight rope Pedro Strop walks. Hector Rondon and Travis Wood are solid. James Russell is mostly OK as a LOOGY. But Carl Edwards, Jr. continues to battle extreme command problems at AAA, so he doesn’t look poised to jump in down the stretch just yet. Zac Rosscup looks good as he works his way back, but he’s coming back from a shoulder issue. I could go on, but you’re getting the message: adding a quality reliever would not be overkill.
  • Speaking of which, the Rays may deal a reliever or two from their loaded bullpen.
  • Jon Heyman’s latest is loaded with things and stuff, so check it out. There’s too much to recount here in a fair way, so I’ll just urge you to read it. The Padres might sell really big. That’s one of the things and some of the stuff.

  • Speaking of which, here’s this:

  • I feel like an irrational turd for suddenly feeling like the Shields-Castro swap that looked like a silly idea just a couple weeks ago now looks good. I think that’s probably wrong-thinking (yes, to be quite clear: it’s wrong-thinking), as Shields is owed far more money for far fewer years going forward, and Shields’ future years are ages 34-36, while Castro’s are 26-29. If you’re asking me to bet on one of those guys providing more value on his contract during the period he’s controlled, I’m still betting on Castro, as tough as he’s made that this year. If the Padres want to eat some of Shields’ contract? Like, a lot of the $63 million he’s owed after this year? Sure, maybe we can talk then.
  • As for Cashner, I’m not quite sure why the Padres “really want to move” him, but maybe it’s because they think they can get a lot of value – and/or maybe they think he’s going to break.
  • This is interesting:

  • Recall, Jonathan Papelbon has a partial no-trade clause that allows him to block deals to a large number of teams (not including the Cubs). If he plans to wield that clause to block deals to teams where he believes he will not close (and thus his $13 million 2016 option won’t vest), that could mean the Cubs have a leg up *if* they want to re-engage the Phillies on Papelbon (the Cubs are not on his no-trade list). At last check, the Cubs were no longer talking to the Phillies on Papelbon, perhaps partly due to cost and partly due to the bullpen’s success, but let’s keep an eye on things, eh? Maybe the deadline creeps up, the Phillies have very little options, and decide it’s better to get a little something (for a guy who extremely vocally wants to be traded) than nothing at all.
  • Jon Morosi reports that the Orioles – who are slipping rapidly – are giving serious thought to becoming sellers. That would be extremely interesting for the market given their many free agents to-be, including Chris Davis, Matt Wieters, and Wei-Yin Chen.
  • The Mets have picked up a couple bats already, but they’re not done, according to Jon Heyman, who writes of stalled talks on a Justin Upton trade.
  • Another mention of the Cubs and Mat Latos (previously discussed here), and the Yankees may be interested, as well.
  • The Blue Jays are actively talking Jeff Samardzija with the White Sox, per Jon Morosi. We know that the Jays liked Samardzija dating back to before last season.
  • All eyes will be on Cole Hamels today, as this could be his final start with the Phillies. Mid-game, he will change dugouts, and then pitch in relief for the Cubs to close out the game after giving up a bunch of runs to the Cubs because sabotage.

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