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Happy Monday, folks!
We’re now going into the first full week since the trade deadline, and I don’t know that we have any clearer picture of where the Cubs go from here. A couple players who were expected to be traded weren’t, and there was at least one deal that caught everyone off guard.
Compared to 2021, this year’s deadline wasn’t what everyone was expecting, but now that six days have passed, there’s been more than enough time for everyone to sit back and really evaluate how it all went down. And with just two months remaining in the season, the focus shifts to how the the rest of the year goes for the Cubs, in both the major and minor league levels.
You’ve got thoughts, I’ve got thoughts. So let’s get right into it. Here are the latest Monday morning Cubs thoughts, post-deadline edition.
One word sums up the trade deadline for the Cubs: wow.
As much as we assumed the three veteran relievers (David Robertson, Mychal Givens, Chris Martin) were going to be dealt, I don’t think many had Scott Effross on their radars. The years of club control he had left and his potential to be main piece of the bullpen for the foreseeable future just didn’t leave room to consider that he’d be shopped around the league, but both president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer and general manager Carter Hawkins talked about the high amount of interest Effross received from contenders. He was ultimately dealt to the Yankees, who are among the favorites to win it all this year. So, kudos to Effross for becoming the kind of reliever a contender would give up one of their top pitching prospects to have on the World Series journey. He certainly deserves that.
On the flip side, who wasn’t surprised to see both Willson Contreras and Ian Happ remain with the team past Aug. 2? Both of them were seen as the team’s biggest trade chips coming off All-Star nods, but neither were ultimately dealt to other clubs. Hoyer said the offers never reached the value the Cubs wanted. I think you can give him credit for not trading players just to trade them, which would’ve been a disservice to the organization (plus, with Happ, the Cubs can always kick the can down the road to the offseason or wait until next year and hope he performs to the same level he has so far in 2022).
Whether the front office overvalued those players or other team’s just didn’t want to meet the Cubs at their asking price, it was still a shock to get to 5:05 p.m. on Tuesday and see this tweet from The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal:
Again, the Cubs’ moves (or lack thereof) came as a surprise. Hell, I think at one point on the CHGO Cubs show, we set the over/under at 6.5 players traded, and even we still felt like the over had better odds. So to see them stay pat at just four players off the major league roster (in a season where there is now less playing for players hoping to prove themselves at the big-league level) just sort of feels like a missed opportunity.
I’m going to push back a bit on one of the things Hoyer said when we met with him on Zoom last week:
“Maybe because of last year and the fact that we were able to find deals last year for our expiring contracts that really have held up exceptionally well, I think that maybe there was this assumption that we would definitely move him. There was never anything said by us. We’re not going to talk about contract negotiations, but obviously, I’ve been in communication with his agents throughout the month. We never gave any message to anyone that was like, ‘We’re going to trade him at all costs.'”
Sure, he never said publicly that he was looking to trade guys like Contreras and Happ. But I also don’t recall him saying something like, “Those guys are going to get traded only if other team’s offer what we think they’re worth. We’ve spoken to both of them, and assured them that nothing is guaranteed.” It goes back a little bit to that issue of transparency. Hoyer sort of set a precedent with those deadline moves last year, even saying at the time that he didn’t want to let a crisis go to waste and there was no reason to go halfway.
If it’s the case that we just assumed they were getting traded, well then that we just includes everyone across the league — fans, reporters, insiders, etc. Yes, assumptions can be wrong, but that doesn’t mean people were wrong for having them. He set the precedent and didn’t do anything to make us think the same thing wasn’t going to happen this year. It was a weird situation the last few weeks as the two of them were in trade rumors and we continued to ask about it, for sure. But again, when you’re not walking anything back or trying to change those assumptions publicly, you can’t blame people for having them.
Contreras, especially, had a notable return to Chicago.
After all the rumors and speculation and questions, obviously, Contreras is still a Cub. You can tell how happy he is, not just because this whole thing is over, but because he is still with the Cubs, the only organization he’s ever known since making the jump from Venezuela.
“The trade talks have been going on for a while,” Contreras said Friday. “I think I got used to that over the years. It’s kind of hard when your moment comes, when you’re in the trade talks in July. It’s really tough to manage. It’s really tough for me because it was my first time being in that position, and it wasn’t easy to focus, to be honest. I’m just glad that it’s over. I just wanted it to be over. Even if I got traded, I just wanted to be somewhere that I can play baseball, and it didn’t happen. It was over, I’m still here, and I feel relaxed.”
Contreras has always been up front with us and not afraid to tell the truth, and even more so this season. All year, he told us he was in a good place, and his All-Star level of play certainly backed that up. But once that last month before the deadline began, everyone watching could tell the possibility of being traded was weighing on him. In July, Contreras hit just .149, had a .489 OPS and a 45 wRC+. His strikeout rate was all the way up to 29.4 percent.
But after all of that, he can now just focus on baseball. That’s the big thing for him. He said he feels relieved, feels that a weight is off his shoulders. That’s what made this moment in the bottom of the eighth Friday feel so special for him:
That’s the kind of storybook moment made for someone like Contreras, who’s dealt with not knowing his future all season. As the trade deadline passed, he’s free to just focus on baseball. One big swing of the bat and his electric celebration shows that.
Yes, there’s still plenty of speculation to come for Contreras. Unlike with Happ, the Cubs can’t kick the can down the road any more. Contreras is going to be a free agent, so the narrative is only going to shift to what happens to him two months from now. In all likelihood, the Cubs give him a qualifying offer. That’ll hurt his market in free agency, because teams might shy away from giving up a draft pick unless the price is right to sign him.
Whether he does test the market or kicks the can down the road himself by accepting the qualifying offer remains to be seen. For now, it’s really is nice to see Contreras in a better headspace now that he knows he at least has two more months of calling Wrigley Field home.
It’s no secret that the Cubs’ farm system is getting more and more recognition nationally. The quick turnaround of the farm has been one of the highlights of the rebuild.
I asked Cubs vice president of player development what that means to him to see the system quickly rising as a whole. Here’s what he had to say:
“I take a lot of pride in seeing how hard our staff works every day, how much the players come in every day, willing to work, willing to be open-minded with a growth mindset towards learning and getting better. We really focus on the process more so than the results. The process has been really strong, and we want to keep that strong as we continue through the season.”
It’s been great to see the improvements through the minor leagues, but at the same time, it’s a reminder of the moves the Cubs didn’t at the deadline that could’ve helped that improvement even more. Of those six top 100 prospects, three came in those deals the Cubs made going back to 2020:
- Pete Crow-Armstrong (No. 29), came in the Javier Báez/Trevor Williams deal at the deadline last year
- Kevin Alcantara (No. 75) was one of the prospects that came over in the Anthony Rizzo trade at the deadline
- Owen Caissie (No. 97) was on the other side of the Yu Darvish deal back in December 2020
I’m not saying the Cubs would’ve gotten top 100 players back for Contreras or Happ, but there likely would’ve been good players coming over that would go right into a system on the rise. With the infrastructure and a little bit of luck, maybe any of those prospects could’ve wound up high on the prospects rankings at some point. That’s not a guarantee either which way, and because the deals went down, we’ll never really know for sure.
The Field of Dreams game is coming up. I’ll be there, so CHGO is going to have a presence in the cornfields.
Just to give you a taste of what’s to come, take a peak at the Cubs and Reds jerseys that Major League Baseball unveiled this morning:
As much as I think the old powder blue jerseys are the best jerseys baseball has ever had, I can’t knock these at all. They’re great. That old-school Cub logo on the hat is obviously a classic, and I’ve always liked the Bears-esque “C” logo on the jerseys. It’ll definitely give off that old-timey feel MLB is looking for with the Field of Dreams game, just like with the White Sox and Yankees last season. I’m really looking forward to being there in person for this event.
In case you missed them, here are some Cubs articles from the past week:
- Cubs bullpen subtractions offer ‘tremendous’ opportunities
- David Ross juggling winning with development in the second half
- Four takeaways from a chat with Cubs GM Carter Hawkins
- Willson Contreras still with Cubs after surprising end to deadline
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