Just Continue to Not Be Terrible, Smyly Status, Brault Emerging, Suzuki Struggles, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Just Continue to Not Be Terrible, Smyly Status, Brault Emerging, Suzuki Struggles, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs have a one-gamer in Baltimore this afternoon, before turning around and heading back to Wrigley Field for a weekend series against the Brewers. The original Orioles series was just a two-gamer as it was, so the Cubs need to win today to avoid “the sweep.”

Meanwhile …

  • The Cubs have now won four straight series, and are actually at .500 since June 24. The games before that all count, and .500 ain’t great, but hey, this team is probably not abysmal. More losses are coming against better teams, and the final record won’t be pretty. But it’s possible that the second half of the season will show enough progress that a competitive 2023 Cubs team does not feel like a pipe dream, especially with a productive offseason. That’s gotta be the goal from here, right? It’s not just about looking the part for future free agents, as Nico Hoerner discussed, but also about confirming for the decision-makers that this is a roster worth making significant additions this offseason to compete in 2023.
  • Drew Smyly was quite solid once again, and it raises the question of whether the Cubs would waive him so that a contender could claim him (remember, there are no trades in August anymore, so it’s just a straight waiver claim). That would (1) allow Smyly to pitch on a contender down the stretch if he wanted, (2) open up innings for the Cubs to use on other pitchers if they wanted, and (3) save the Cubs some of Smyly’s salary and the buyout on the mutual option that’s coming after the season (they are never exercised, and he’s definitely going to be a free agent).
  • It wouldn’t surprise me if it’s a conversation the Cubs have had with Smyly to gauge his feelings. If he’s happy to stick around, the Cubs might not go this waiver route, and instead might want the head start on trying to re-sign him for 2023. But it’d be hard to blame a guy for wanting another chance to pitch in the playoffs, and if the Cubs save a few million that can be repurposed for 2023? So be it. Just rational.
  • It’s been only 7.2 innings across 6 appearances, so it would be a mistake to draw any conclusions just yet. But, like I said yesterday, Steven Brault has looked mighty interesting in those outings with the Cubs. What’s notable is that this is the first time in the 30-year-old lefty’s career that he’s been a full-time reliever, as opposed to more of a swing guy (or, for a while, a full-time starter). Moreover, his pitch mix has changed dramatically in the role/with the Cubs, becoming more of a sinker-slider guy than he ever was before. Oh, also? He’s an EXTREME low-spin guy, who throws from an EXTREME extension – and we know the Cubs do love pitchers who are weird in one or more ways.
  • This might be a guy that the Cubs have actually unlocked a bit, since that is something they do quite frequently with guys like Brault (past sporadic big league success, some health questions, weirdness in the profile). Not gonna sleep on the Cubs’ extreme volume of relief options for 2023 and the looming 40-man roster crunch, but I do think there’s a chance that Brault shows enough over the next month and a half to be tendered a contract (he’s controllable via arbitration, where he might make something in the $2 million range).
  • Great catch by Ian Happ yesterday:
  • Seiya Suzuki turns 28 today, which is unfortunate timing because there was something else I wanted to note today (it is not a birthday gift): Suzuki has officially fallen to “below average” overall production this year, with a 98 wRC+. We knew there would be ups and downs and adjustments and re-adjustments this year, but I don’t think it can be argued that below average overall offense would be acceptable on the season. Let’s see how the next month and a half go. He still LOOKS the part to me, but he’s had just ONE barrel since July 26. That’s not what you need from him. Not close.
  • This winds up being true for a lot of teams – even good teams – and, when doing it after the fact, ignores the guys who were surprisingly good, but it’s still pretty damning:
  • Maybe damning is the wrong word. It is confirmation of how many PAs were available this year for substantial upgrade. That doesn’t mean the Cubs didn’t have reason to give SOME of those guys runway, and it definitely doesn’t mean the Cubs can just magically choose to give the right players more PAs next year. It’s more just a note that, yup, a whole lot of really bad bats got a whole lot of plate appearances for the Cubs this year.
  • … and the Cubs still have wound up having a nearly league-average offense (99 wRC+, .313 wOBA).
  • I am mostly joking with this tweet, but the factoid is still kinda fun:
  • Fun with memes but that, in the process, makes a point I actually believe:

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.