“Redbird, don’t say you told me so. Give me one more song to go.” – Fleetwood Mac, Blue Letter
The Cubs jettisoned the Cardinals out of Chicago with a 7-2 win just when we were ready to write them off. And hey, a Sunday victory is as rare as a buffalo nickel in these parts! The win pulled Chicago to within 6.5 games of the Brewers with a week left until the trade deadline, and their next six games are against the White Sox and Cardinals.
Are the Cubs buyers, sellers, or neither? My gut says they won’t sell. If they do, they’re certainly stocked with a number of commodities that should be valuable to the league’s real contenders.
Cody Bellinger is the hottest man on the planet right now and he’s padded his next contract with a lot of green since the last week of June. Bellinger hit another home run yesterday and he’s slashing .319/.369/.918 with 14 bombs, 44 RBI, and 12 stolen bases. He bet on himself by signing a pillow contract with the Cubs and it’s paid off handsomely. He’s the team’s best center fielder since Dexter Fowler and their most dynamic outfielder since Kyle Schwarber.
If Chicago’s North Side Baseballers continue to win this week, Bellinger will not be traded. If they struggle, the Yankees, Astros, and Giants will compete for his services. I’d bet the Phillies, Rangers, and Brewers would have some interest, too. The Angels are a dark horse if they decide to go all in next week.
Marcus Stroman has struggled lately but a number of teams have him on their wishlists. It’s still difficult to gauge the pitching market, however. I don’t think the Angels will trade Shohei Ohtani, but Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, and Jack Flaherty will be available. You can add Jordan Montgomery, Dylan Cease, Lucas Giolito, and Lance Lynn to that list, too. That may dilute any potential return for Stroman, so perhaps the Cubs should keep him and see if they can extend him this winter.
Teams don’t often trade with their division rivals, but I wouldn’t mind seeing the Cubs trade Stroman to the Reds for Christian Encarnacion-Strand. They’d probably have to add a kicker, but the Reds are stacked with very good minor leaguers that play on the left side of the infield. Encarnacion-Strand would be the preeminent third baseman Chicago desperately needs. Such a deal would be a rare intradivisional win-win transaction.
The Orioles are another team that would like to add pitching, and they’ve got two potential stud corners in Jordan Westburg and Coby Mayo. It would take much more than Stroman to get both, however. Bellinger would certainly have to be included, and possibly Mark Leiter Jr. If you’re offering that much to Baltimore, you have to at least ask about Jackson Holliday or Heston Kjerstad. Both are most likely untouchable, though.
I wouldn’t mind seeing the Cubs trade Kyle Hendricks to the Braves, Rays, Astros, or Twins so the Professor can have a shot at another ring. Minnesota prospect Matt Canterino is intriguing, as is Atlanta prospect Seth Keller. Leiter could help the Rangers, and Cole Winn could be a nice under-the-radar acquisition. Patrick Wisdom and Trey Mancini are probably available, but I doubt either has much of a market. Drew Smyly will at least get the Cubs a warm minor league body.
It’s hug watch week in baseball, folks, and fans will follow all the rumors until our sense of direction completely disappears. The Cubs will be home to face the Reds on July 31 and Stroman is scheduled to pitch. Perhaps Chicago will be his opponent for that tilt. Stranger things have happened.
Cubs News & Notes
- Broadcaster Pat Hughes was inducted into the Hall of Fame yesterday, and Marquee Network published his entire acceptance speech.
- Hughes was humbled by the honor but was also a bit nervous about giving his speech.
- Lost in Bellinger’s heroics was another outstanding outing by starter Jameson Taillon.
- The Cubs should keep Bellinger and try to extend him according to Tim Stebbins of MLB.com.
- Patrick Mooney of The Athletic concurs, and he also stated that the deadline isn’t as complicated ($) as Cub fans tend to make it.
- Jim Bowden disagrees, saying the Cubs should move Bellinger and Stroman for prospects ($) and call up Crow-Armstrong.
- The Cubs activated shortstop Dansby Swanson on Saturday, optioning Jared Young to Iowa as the corresponding move.
- Every game is important with the deadline just eight days away.
- David Ross believes the Cubs are primed to make a push for the playoffs.
- Swanson is right there with Ross.
- Does Jed Hoyer have the guts to keep his roster intact, or will he fold just as the Cubs are playing their best baseball?
- Hendricks will take the bump when the Cubs visit the White Sox for a two-game set starting tomorrow night. He’ll be opposed by Michael Kopech.
- Hall of Famer Fred McGriff has fond memories of his stint with the Cubs, but regrets not helping Chicago get to the World Series.
- The latest Saturday Baseball Quiz by Bill Chuck of the Chicago Sun-Times is a tough one. I answered three questions correctly.
Odds & Sods
40 Years Ago Today: Kansas City #Royals legend George Brett unleashes his fury during an all-time classic game vs. the New York #Yankees at Yankee Stadium in what will forever be known as "The Pine Tar Incident"! (July 24, 1983) #MLB #Baseball #History pic.twitter.com/3AhBAOJbQI
— Baseball by BSmile (@BSmile) July 24, 2023
- Milwaukee (55-45): Outfielder Sal Frelick had an outstanding debut against the Braves on Saturday.
- Cincinnati (55-46): Luke Weaver has an 8.79 ERA in his last 10 starts, but the Reds have won nine of those games.
- St. Louis (44-56): Ex-Cub Willson Contreras is reportedly on the trade block, though I doubt a potential acquiring team would want him to catch.
- Pittsburgh (43-56): Buster Olney of ESPN reports that the Pirates and Andrew McCutchen have an agreement in place to keep the outfielder in Pittsburgh past the trade deadline.
Climbing the Ladder
“Nothing can touch me here.” – Mudcrutch, Crystal River
The Cubs are the only NL Central team with a positive run differential, and that could be the determining factor at the deadline. Chicago is 5.5 games out of the final Wild Card berth, too, which is not insurmountable. Seven of the team’s regulars have an OPS+ of 100 or better, the exceptions being Gomes and Mancini.
Adbert Alzolay has five saves this month, but an unsightly ERA of 5.00 since July 1 thanks to poor outings against the Guardians, Brewers, and Red Sox. I’d love to see Daniel Palencia get a shot at closing before the end of the season. I’d rather the Cubs acquire a closer and make a run at winning the division.
- Games Played: 99
- Record: 48-51 (.485)
- Total Plate Appearances: 3,800
- Total Strikeouts: 904
- Strikeout Rate: 23.79%
- Team Batting Average: .252
- Runs Scored: 479
- Runs Allowed: 438
- Chances of Making the Playoffs: 36.2%, 1.7% to win the World Series
How About That!
There are about 15 contenders hoping that the Padres and Mets continue their embarrassing downward spirals and surrender.
The Diamondbacks and Dodgers are interested in Giolito.
Ohtani will have a very direct impact on deadline moves whether he is traded or not.
ESPN’s trade tracker will update as deals are consummated.
Sunday’s Three Stars
- Anthony Rizzo – Chicago’s favorite son enjoyed a 4-for-4 day that included his first home run since May 20.
- Lane Thomas – The Washington right fielder was 3-for-4 with four stolen bases and is reportedly available in trade. The Nationals beat the Giants 6-1 and San Francisco is interested in Thomas.
- Steven Kwan – The second-year Guardians outfielder was 4-for-5 with a home run in Cleveland’s 8-5 loss to the Phillies.
The only Belli Bomb that’s better than pączki.
Cody Bellinger since June 24:
🔥 .446 batting average
🔥 .475 on-base percentage
🔥 .728 slugging percentage
🔥 22 runs, 21 runs batted inpic.twitter.com/ttDH75wf9W
— Codify (@CodifyBaseball) July 23, 2023
Monday Morning Six-Pack
- “Live every week like it’s Shark Week.” – Tracy Jordan. Jason Momoa hosts the week-long television fest on the Discovery Channel, which kicked off yesterday. I love that baseball hugs and shark attacks intersect this week.
- Barbie and Oppenheimer gave North American movie theaters their best weekend since Avengers: Endgame arrived four years ago. The former grossed $155 million at the box office, while Christopher Nolan’s dark drama about the atomic bomb sold $80.5 million in tickets, dismantling expectations. I’m going to see one of the two movies, and I’m sure you can guess which one.
- Both movies were successful at a time when studios may have squeezed all the juice they can out of tired IP. The fifth Indiana Jones disappointed, the seventh Mission: Impossible underwhelmed, and Disney plans to pull back on making Star Wars and Marvel content.
- Elon Musk replaced Twitter’s bird with an “X”, which is like, well, putting lipstick on a pig.
- The Federal Reserve will likely announce another interest rate increase this week, but this could be the final hike in its 16-month quest to bring down inflation. If the Fed hikes 25 basis points as expected, interest rates would be at their highest level since 2001. Expect the markets to snooze through the meetings, though the frozen orange juice futures pit should be electric.
- The Jurassic Park/Goonies easter egg is my favorite part of this list of Hollywood’s most-paused movie scenes.
They Said It
- “I’ve never been in this situation before so I don’t know what to say, or what not to say. So I’m just going to say I’m going to focus on the game.” – Bellinger
- “Everybody in the clubhouse would say [Bellinger] is amazing, love having him here. It’s also sick that he smacks homers, too.” – Justin Steele
- “You’re just starting to see the best version of us. We’re all in this together. Jed’s watching. It’s a result-based industry we’re in. You got to win games. So the more we can do that, the more the front office has confidence [in us].” – Ross
Monday Walk-Up Song
An underrated deep cut by the Stones.