On this day last year, the Chicago Cubs announced to the world that they were really quite serious this time: they traded a package of players, led by Gleyber Torres, to the Yankees for Aroldis Chapman. It was a controversial trade in a number of ways at the time, but the baseball motives were quite clear: the Cubs were going to make the playoffs, and in the playoffs, one of the most valuable pieces you can have on your roster is an elite reliever. It was a risky, but thoughtfully bold move, and I am not at all convinced the Cubs make it all the way to Game Seven without Chapman.
This year’s final week before the Trade Deadline is a totally different animal for the Cubs, who are still in a tight playoff race, and have already acquired the most desirable piece they could – controlled starter Jose Quintana. The Cubs aren’t finished making moves, mind you. But I’d be surprised if they have another big one in this final week like last year.
Of course, I didn’t expect the Cubs to be able to get Quintana, so what do I know? I like being surprised.
- Joe Maddon concedes that the team is looking for a back-up catcher on the trade market, but he also expressed confidence in youngster Victor Caratini (MLB.com). The issue is more about how much sitting Caratini is doing right now, when the preference would be for him to be working and developing. Keep in mind, circumstances brought Caratini, 23, to the big leagues after just 69 games at AAA, and catchers often take longer to develop than other position players.
- Hector Rondon suggested that he might have been tipping his pitches after coming back from the triceps injury last year, which altered his mechanics (CSN). That would certainly explain why he was getting wrecked last year after the injury and earlier this year, despite having good velocity, and why his command had been so spotty.
- Lately, as we’ve discussed at length, Rondon has looked fantastic. The velocity even touched 100mph this week, and his slider looks as sharp as it ever has. I think the command is still not what it was, but perhaps that, too, will continue to come along. What’s relatively clear to me based on reliever usage over the past week and a half is that Rondon has worked his way back into a high-leverage setup role. It’s probably a good time for it, too, with each of Carl Edwards Jr. and Koji Uehara going through a bit of a rough patch.
- I’m glad to hear that Maddon had a conversation with Jason Heyward about leading off before actually putting him in that spot (MLB.com), given that Heyward has previously said that it didn’t really work for him to hit leadoff back with the Braves. For me, I get a little concerned about any changes for Heyward right now whatsoever, given how well he’s been hitting in July (and how well the offense had been clicking with him down in the middle). It seemed like things were working find with Ben Zobrist leading off (or Jon Jay when he was starting), but I guess there must be a reason for the maneuvering. I’d be surprised if Heyward leads off against a lefty today, though. (As I type, the lineup comes out, and sure enough, Heyward is sitting.)
- Speaking of Jay, he had a nice four-hit day yesterday, raising his line from .289/.371/.380 to .304/.382/.398. That’s a better line than Rockies All-Star D.J. LeMahieu! (.313/.371/.395) (Yes, I know how random that is … it’s just … I still find it so bizarre that LeMahieu, and his 87 wRC+, was voted to be an All-Star, presumably solely on the strength of his batting average.)
- Get Hawk Harrelson into this booth somehow, too, and it would be NUTS:
— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) July 24, 2017
- The Red Sox clubhouse may have some issues. After injury and ineffectiveness following his $200 million+ signing, David Price has been a frequent target of fan ire and media criticism over the past year and a half, and it may have spilled over. Dan Shaughnessy recounts what was previously only reported as “disturbing” incident between Price and Red Sox TV analyst (and Hall of Fame pitcher) Dennis Eckersley. And, yeah, it’s not good. You can read it for yourself for the details, but if what is reported is accurate, it seems like there must have been past issues involving Eckersley’s commentary that many members of the team had a problem with, and also, Price was a huge jerk. To put that mildly.
- Giants beat writer Hank Schulman put it much less mildly in a thread that rips Price and the Red Sox clubhouse. This is all just … ugly. It’s the kind of thing you hope never to see happening with your team, and especially when you’ve imported an extremely expensive, long-term player. Thank goodness Jason Heyward handled things so well last year when he was struggling and had all corners deconstructing his issues.
- This is not a promise that we’ll do more on Instagram or anything, but it’s a great picture from a Red Bull photoshoot, so I’ll share it and you can follow BN if you want, but, like I said, NO PROMISES:
- Cast iron cookware is on a ridiculous huge Deal of the Day sale at Amazon, and I know people seem to be super into cast iron cookware, so you’re welcome.