Willson's Team, Ortega's Fire, Rivas's Walk-Off, Kimbrel's Debut, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Willson’s Team, Ortega’s Fire, Rivas’s Walk-Off, Kimbrel’s Debut, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

The post-Trade Deadline adjustment is always tough, but it’s been seven years since I had to do the “oh, the Cubs aren’t competing anymore” adjustment (in addition to the loss of all these core players). I wonder when I’ll feel like I’ve settled back into a normal rhythm?

•   As usual, you don’t expect a guy to say anything different at a moment like this, but Willson Contreras remains open to being a key part of whatever core the Cubs create going forward (The Athletic):

“I’m not thinking of getting moved,” Contreras said. “I’m thinking of guiding these guys in the right way. I’m trying to be the leader. I’m going to do my best. I know I can assume the role of a leader. But I’m not thinking of getting traded or anything like that. I’m just playing my game …. I would love to stay here. I love Chicago. I love my city. I love the team. This is the only team that I’ve played for. If they want to rebuild around me, I’m open to talks.”

•   All fine by me, though you always do worry about marrying up TOO long-term with a catcher heading toward 30, especially when he’s been leaned on as heavily as Contreras. Perhaps the Cubs can now pull back on the throttle quite a bit, and then with the DH next year, figure out a way to protect Contreras a bit more. I like Contreras as a leader for this team going forward.

•   As for a trade this offseason, I think you’re naive – as a fan, I mean – if you don’t acknowledge it’s a real possibility. It will basically be the same calculus as the Trade Deadline: if an extension isn’t happening, and if there are good offers for just one year of Contreras, the Cubs probably pull the trigger and sort out what to do behind the plate in the short-term. In-season trades for starting catchers are tough because of the way the catcher needs to be working so closely and implicitly with the pitching staff (when you trade for that guy in-season, you might not get as much “value” because of that adjustment period). In the offseason, though? We just shouldn’t rule out some team that loves Contreras coming to the table with a big offer, and then trying to extend him. (Which, you know, the Cubs could also do!)

•   How about Rafael Ortega, eh?

•   Ortega, who has had many years of being a great Triple-A player and just not coming through in his big league shots, is relatively raking this year. The 30-year-old outfielder is hitting .294/.347/.450 (115 wRC+), thanks in primary part to an absolutely stupid 34.6% line drive rate. He’s just constantly roping the ball. Since July 3, when he finally started getting regular starts, he’s hitting .375/.426/.554 (162). Against righties this year, he’s hitting .326/.373/.505 (135). Although he’s been completely unusable against lefties, he has certainly shown himself to be a more than capable starter against righties and/or a 4th outfielder on a good team. Needless to say, if he keeps doing anything close to this, the Cubs will keep him on the 40-man roster all offseason.

•   The Iowa Cubs pulled off a walk-off win, with Alfonso Rivas rocketing one to the gap to continue his scorching streak:

•   Rivas, a first baseman by trade, but who has started to see some outfield time, could very well come up at some point the rest of this year so the Cubs can evaluate him for the first base starter job in 2022 (and/or he can see big league pitching, learn more about what he needs to work on, and then use that over the offseason and in the early part of 2022 to continue developing at Triple-A). After a rough first week shaking off the rust of the long layoff, Rivas is hitting .292/.433/.490 at Iowa, with a 152 wRC+ and nearly matching walk and strikeout rates in the teens. The power was a question, but he’s certainly hitting for enough to make you excited (especially when considering the K/BB). Rivas, 24, is Rule 5 eligible this fall, so he’s going to have to be added to the 40-man roster at some point soon anyway. I think I’d like to see him come up and make a lot of starts, because you kinda need to know how big league pitchers will attack him (particularly when you consider that Triple-A pitchers clearly aren’t giving him enough trouble).

•   Keegan Thompson started that game, by the way, throwing three hitless innings as he stretches out.

•   Craig Kimbrel made his White Sox debut last night, throwing a clean inning in a game in which the White Sox trailed:

•   Javy Báez homered in his first game with the Mets, a wild win over the Reds. He got a curtain call. Still hard to swallow, but good for him and Mets fans:

•   One big thing I’m still adjusting to? Rookie league being called the ACL. Every time I see one of these tweets about a Cubs prospect, my brain mashes all the words together into one quick data point and it tells me “OH SHIT HIS KNEE IS EFFEDDD!!!!” Kevin Alcantara’s knee is fine, for now:

•   Joey Votto just barely missed homering in his 8th straight game, tying a record. THIS CLOSE:

•   Welp, I already love this guy:

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Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.