Six weeks stand between now and the non-waiver trade deadline on Aug. 1, and the Chicago Cubs are projected to be buyers for the second straight summer. Though a great deal can change between then and now, as of today, it is evident what is on the Cubs’ shopping list.
The Cubs bullpen has had its fair share of ups-and-downs in the first 67 games of the season. And nothing bears that out like the following statistics:
- Collectively, the Cubs bullpen ranks 10th in ERA (3.51) and eighth in xFIP (3.96). On the other hand, they rank 20th in FIP (4.07) and 20th in fWAR (0.7).
- The group has been fortunate with batted balls (.253 opponents BABIP is the second lowest in baseball) but not-so-much when balls are hit in the air with a 13.7 HR/FB% that ranks as the eighth highest.
- This is the same bunch that owns the league’s eighth best strikeout rate (24.7%) and the fifth highest walk rate (10.7 BB%).
- Epstein recently told 670 The Score’s Bruce Levine that trade talks have already begun to progress — thanks in part to the two-Wild Card system. Epstein said there is a bit more action at this time than 10 years ago in the previous playoff format and is “open-minded about upgrading at some point.”
- More from Epstein, via Levine: “Every organization has areas of strength and areas of concern. … There will come a time that there is a deal out there that makes sense. We can bolster any weaknesses we may have at that time. … Obviously, you have to match up with other teams (to make a deal).” As for the potential needs, Levine reports that bullpen depth and a left-handed hitting outfielder are high priorities.
- For what it’s worth, the Cubs started addressing relief depth earlier this year without making any trades by signing Joel Peralta and Brian Matusz (who could ultimately end up as a starter) to minor-league deals, while Joe Nathan was added with a major league deal as he rehabs from Tommy John Surgery.
- As far as the left-handed hitting outfielder portion of needs is concerned, Chris Coghlan (.267/.353/.400/.753 in 17 PA since returning to the Cubs) qualifies as far as depth is concerned. The Cubs still could look to add more depth from the outside, but let’s not forget they still have Jorge Soler and Tommy La Stella on the disabled list with hamstring injuries and on the road to recovery.
- Despite their perceived needs, Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune reports the Cubs are in no rush to make a move. Epstein said that when bullpens give up runs, a perceived crisis gets developed, adding: “The best bullpens give up runs over the course of the season. Right now we have a couple of guys searching for it. Not everyone is locked in down there, but it’s something we may continue to monitor. Every team would love to add an impact reliever at some point.”
- And while the Cubs seem to be looking to lengthen their bullpen, Epstein added: “But I don’t think you’re going to see us react to situations when relievers are going through a little downtrend.”
- So, then, you can expect to hear a continuation of the rumors involving the Cubs’ interest in high-end relievers, but that doesn’t mean a deal is coming any time too soon.
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.