You know, when I first started discussing the Cubs entering a “just do nothing until the All-Star break” phase after losing, what, that first game in Milwaukee, I will admit, I didn’t see the Cubs losing another six in a row after that.
Part of the philosophy there espoused was the idea that you cannot make every single game a referendum on the buy-sell decision, a philosophy echoed by Jed Hoyer this weekend. Even an entire horrible series sweep may not MAKE the decision for you, when there are time and schedule and opponent and injury factors to consider.
But here’s the thing. After last night’s loss – the 10th in a row, and the 4th straight where the starting pitcher gave the Cubs a chance to win (which had been the biggest concern) – you’re not just evaluating the buy-sell decision on the basis of a game or a series or even one losing streak. Every day, information is accreting, and some of it comes in dramatic bursts. Eventually, there’s a tipping point, where even as you acknowledge the micro-slim possibility of a heater this month, you balance that tiny chance against the much, much larger chance that even with some wins this month, things are not going to go well enough in August and September with this team to make a difference. Then you balance THAT balance against the idea that, while every season is sacred, next year matters, too. And the next year. And the next year.
If you’ve been following the team closely this year, and if you incorporate all the factors for consideration, you wake up this morning drawing only one conclusion.
The Cubs have to sell this month.
Maybe the Cubs cannot actually put deals together until after the All-Star break – there’s a lot of thinking that teams are all gonna mostly hold until after the draft – but I think the decision can go ahead and be made today. Whatever fractional shot at a super hot streak that the Cubs might’ve thought was conceivable is no longer large enough to outweigh the value in just going ahead and setting course. It sucks to be in this place, but the last 10 games have convicted me, especially against the backdrop of an organization that will be in transition in any case.
Remember: selling this year was always the default position for 2021, no matter what the front office may have said publicly. Their actions – the Yu Darvish trade, the lack of notable signings in the offseason, the lack of extensions, and the singular focus on one-year deals – told the story of the season. Take a shot in the first few months, see what’s what, and then very likely sell off.
The Cubs got hot during the soft part of their schedule despite injuries and weak starting pitching, and the players/coaches deserve a lot of credit for that. But when the reality of June arrived, and the stress on the bullpen increased, it all just became so clear. I’m not sure you needed a 10-game losing streak to see it.
So make your phone calls. Let teams know you’ve shifted your focus to the future, and if they want to hit you up – sooner or later – you’re listening. Despite their recent failings as a team, the Cubs are loaded with interesting trade pieces for contenders, so Jed Hoyer should be a pretty darn popular dance partner.
Moreover, if some team wants to get aggressive as soon as this week, go ahead. Pull the trigger on the right deal. I tend to think that won’t happen because of the interrelated nature of a developing market, but there’s absolutely no reason to close the door on it at this point, even with your most valuable players. There’s just no sense, at this point, in hoping for a six-game winning streak to close the first half and thinking it’ll change your direction. Hope is not a strategy, and even if you got your six-gamer, it shouldn’t change the plan.
* * *
Selling this month will necessarily mean that we might be saying goodbye to some beloved Cubs, and we’ll get into that part soon enough. But what it doesn’t have to mean is a full-on rebuild. So I’m gonna be pushing back against that idea in the coming weeks and months, even as I’m now fully on board with selling this month.
Competing in 2022, even with a roster that might look decimated come November and even with a farm system that is heavy on guys who absolutely won’t arrive next year, should not be taken off the table in July 2021. Free agency is going to be too loaded and the Cubs’ resources too great for them not to consider how they could make useful additions for another hey-let’s-see-what-happens shot in 2022. Maybe we wind up in this same cycle next June/July, but stripping the team to the bones AND not doing anything useful in free agency is simply not something the Cubs, in the NL Central, need to be doing.
That’s not the conversation for today, which is why I add it here at the end as an addendum. But it felt necessary to mention now that we are, in our coverage, in “sell mode.”