Javy’s Big Celebration, Cash in the Chafin Deal, Rotation Plans, and Other Cubs Bullets

I didn’t see it reported until after I’d written up the full trade and the new prospects, so let me mention it here as a spotlight: The Athletic reports that the Cubs included cash in the Andrew Chafin trade, which is exactly what you want to see them do to improve prospect returns. Again, not every trade partner is going to WANT the Cubs to eat salary in exchange for a better prospect return, but where it can be done, the Cubs need to be doing it. You get opportunities like this only so often – it’s been seven years since the Cubs last sold off – and they need to be maxed out.

•   Given their multiple beefs over the years (including the biggest one back in May), you KNOW both Javy Báez and Amir Garrett wanted that moment last night so badly. Báez, sitting out with a bruised heel, comes up as a pinch hitter with the bases loaded and one out, knowing that decent contact in the air ends the game. Garrett, struggling through the worst season of his career, knew that Báez was a strikeout candidate, or maybe he could just get a groundball. Báez appeared to be jawing before the at bat even started (we couldn’t see Garrett), and it took just one pitch for him to end it. And he wanted Garrett to know what he’d done:

•   First of all, lol at Willson Contreras playing his part and making sure that Báez touched first base. Of course, he was ALSO just making sure his teammate was protected in case there was an issue. Second of all, Báez doesn’t do that at any other player in baseball besides Garrett. Clearly, their acrimony runs deep. Was it too much? I doubt it. I can’t say for sure, but we’ve seen Garrett’s interactions out there, and he certainly can’t complain. We’ll see what the Reds’ pitchers think of it tomorrow. They have not sit quietly in recent years, including that time they threw at Anthony Rizzo’s head last year.

•   (Also, to anyone who was saying after the game that Javy “threw his bat at Garrett” … that was silly. He threw the bat down. Straight down. (Oh, also also: why was Javy doing the sweeping motion with the bat in the first game of the series? Does that have some additional meaning, or was he just excited to do something with his bat?))

•   Nico Hoerner, describing that moment and match-up last night (Cubs.com): “That’s kind of all you can ask for, as far as a moment in baseball …. It is a team sport, but the pitcher-hitter, one-on-one confrontation is a very real thing, and especially when there’s history like that. It’s just that much more special. It’s incredibly fun to watch. He’s a special player.”

•   How about Keegan Thompson last night? I just love watching his demeanor out there. So steady. He comes out in the 8th inning of a one-run game, allowing a single to kick things off and then a catcher interference puts a second guy on. He just misses on a 3-2 pitch to the next guy to load the bases with nobody out. Then he strikes out the next guy with a nasty curveball, gets inside with a cutter to a lefty to get a pop out from the next guy, and then blows 95 mph past the third guy to end the inning with no damage. It’s likely that Thompson will see a start or two or three in the second half in anticipation of his offseason development and a shot at a rotation spot in 2022, and I really look forward to it. The makeup is obviously there, and the pitch mix has always been there. What he’s needed is the ability to miss a few more bats when he gets into strikeout position, and sure enough his swinging strike rate has been steadily climbing since the start of the year. He’s developing as we watch.

•   We know that Justin Steele, who is pretty much stretched out now at Iowa, is going to get some starts in the second half.

•   Speaking of the rotation, it’s still not remotely clear what’s going to happen if and when Jake Arrieta is ready to return. I’m sure the Cubs are content to punt the decision as long as they can, but Arrieta (hamstring tightness/reworking things) threw a 70-pitch simulated game yesterday (The Athletic). Clearly, he’s staying stretched out, but I do wonder if the crowded rotation and the desire to see some younger guys in the second half could lead to a choice for Arrieta: you can stay and pitch in the bullpen (which might help you extend your career in free agency if you show out), or we can let you try to catch on with another club.

•   Nice play up the middle by David Bote last night, with Nico Hoerner trailing behind and thinking, dang it, man, I was also going to make a great play:

•   The Cubs are hiring a systems developer if you are that kind of person.

written by

Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

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