Given the way the Cubs season is going, their current roster needs, and the departures scheduled for this offseason, upgrading the rotation at the upcoming trade deadline has become something of an obvious priority.
The Cubs are already without two original members of the rotation, Kyle Hendricks and Brett Anderson, while two others, John Lackey and Jake Arrieta, are scheduled to become free agents by season’s end. With plenty of interesting prospects and a number of other talented youngsters at the Major League level, a trade for a starting pitcher just makes sense.
Indeed, Cubs’ General Manager Jed Hoyer conceded as much this week: “Pitching’s a priority, now and this winter. We know that’s organizationally where we need to go.”
HOWEVER, he added that the Cubs won’t rule anything else out, either.
As in, a trade for not a pitcher.
Now, to be sure, fitting in another position player right now would be difficult, but very few of the Cubs’ non pitchers are making much of a statement with their bat anyway. Plus, as I’ve said countless times before, this Cubs front office is creative if it’s anything. If they feel that adding a bat is necessary, then they’ll find a way to do it.
Of course, the Cubs will have to start winning a bit more on their own first, anyway.
“The division thing is a false sense of security,” Hoyer said via CSN Chicago. “I try to measure our team way more against .500, against how we look (on the field) than how we look in the standings, because I think how you look in the standings can be a little bit misleading.” Perhaps he’s right. Are the Cubs a second place team just a game-and-a-half out of first place (yay!) or a team that was below .500 just this past weekend (boo)?
You could argue that the distinction really doesn’t matter all that much. In fact, I think the Cubs have as much or more to gain by adding pieces at the deadline – given their start – than they did last season, and perhaps more so than any other team in baseball. It’s just a different type of gain. Hear me out.
This is a Cubs team that has very clearly underperformed to date, but still projects to win more games by the end of the season than any other team in the NL Central. Unfortunately, because of their slow start, they’re only projected to win 88 games overall. That’s good for first place, sure, but it’s also far from a comfortable cushion. And given the talent in the NL West, there’s almost no shot at entering the playoffs via the Wild Card. So, then, adding 2-4 wins in trade may ultimately be the difference between making the playoffs at all or watching October baseball from home.
For what it’s worth, Dave Cameron recently included the Cubs as one of the nine “definite buyers” at the upcoming trade deadline, for essentially the same reason. And, unsurprisingly, their record is the worst of the nine teams listed and their odds of making the playoffs were second worst. Last season, when the Cubs already had a HUGE lead in the Central, the deadline additions (namely Aroldis Chapman) were almost exclusively about winning in the postseason. This year, they’ll be about getting there in the first place.
In other words, going from 88 wins t0 91 wins is a whole lot more important than going from 100 wins to 103 wins. Fortunately, the Cubs are keeping all doors open and are willing to add on either side of the ball.
Don’t be surprised if they do.
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