Although early in the year, it seemed like there were going to be uncomfortable parallels to the 2017 season for the Cubs. But, lately, you could actually make an argument that there are parallels to the unbelievable 2016 season.
Cubs through 87 games:
— FullCountTommy (@FullCountTommy) July 9, 2018
Now, there’s certainly a lot of context not in Tommy’s tweet there – which was not necessarily his point anyway. Instead, he was just remarking on the difference in how things can “feel” in a given season, despite the results being what they are. I don’t think he was saying this 2018 team IS going to be the 2016 team all over again.
Still, maybe the Cubs are taking the 2016 parallel really seriously:
Latest notes: #Mets masking intentions? Why they won’t commit to Ricco as future GM; logic for Trout batting third; how Greinke helped Turner when they were #Dodgers teammates; #Cubs looking for another David Ross?; Machado’s potential All-Star identity. https://t.co/lFZljXIqRv $
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 10, 2018
Among many other notes, Ken Rosenthal and Jayson Stark report that the Cubs have internally considered acquiring a veteran clubhouse leader a la David Ross in 2016, including possibly Adam Jones from the Orioles or Curtis Granderson from the Blue Jays. Moreover, they’ve reached out to other clubs to that end.
Jones, 32, is making $17 million this year, while hitting .280/.305/.429 (99 wRC+) and playing his characteristically passable but not great defense (borderline quite poor) in center field. Granderson, 37, is making just $5 million this year, and is hitting .246/.354/.450 (123 wRC+) in part-time duty, mostly in the corner outfield spots.
Although it’s always a nice idea to have a veteran leader in the clubhouse who can also be a productive (at least) bench player, there are some serious issues with actually making a trade like this, as Rosenthal concedes.
For one thing, the Cubs don’t exactly have an obvious spot on the roster for a position player, something Theo Epstein himself recently laid out very plainly (Cubs.com): “On the position-player front, right now there’s not a lot we’d want to go get. There’s not a lot of roster spots to fit guys in. We have guys who have to sit on a given day. It’s not like we’re actively looking at anything on the position-player side.”
With an eight-man bullpen, the Cubs have four bench spots available, all of which are very much spoken for – (once Kris Bryant returns) the bench is Ben Zobrist, Ian Happ, Tommy La Stella, and the back-up catcher. None of those guys are going anywhere absent a trade, and you aren’t trading those guys just to bring in a veteran presence that doesn’t otherwise dramatically upgrade your team. So the only other possibility would be dropping to a seven-man bullpen, which the Cubs have not shown any inclination to do in the last couple years.
The other issue here is just how much an inorganically-added veteran can really change a clubhouse dynamic for the better, especially one as tight-knit and well-functioning as the Cubs clubhouse. I have no doubt that there is value in having some of those guys around (knowledge, routines, pitcher tips, etc.), but when you’re adding him for just the final couple months of the season, how rapid will that integration be? How much can your young guys absorb? Is there any risk?
All in all, this one is a tough rumor to wrap my head around, absent there being a series of other moves for which this is just an anticipatory kind of thing. Like, if the Cubs were already considering trading from the big league roster to add a pitcher or something, and then in anticipation of that, they’re lining up veteran outfield ducks just in case.
I tend to think there’s just some due diligence going on here in case of injury or something else changing in the next few weeks.