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It’s a special Monday morning in the baseball calendar, folks.
The Cubs have no games left to play before the trade deadline at 5 p.m. on Tuesday. Right now, at 8 a.m. on Monday, the only big-league deal the Cubs have made is trading Chris Martin to the Dodgers on Saturday. Everyone else, as of this moment, are still members of the Chicago Cubs.
The reality is, though, that there are a few who’ll likely be dealt elsewhere in the next 33 hours. The Cubs are sellers, and they have some trade pieces — from veterans on cheap deals to fan favorites — that could net them prospects of use. That’s just where the team is at this point in the rebuild.
But we’ll have much more on that this week. I’ll be in St. Louis for the trade deadline and its aftermath, so CHGO will have a lot of content to come. Until then, I’ve got some thoughts on the Cubs and what’s ahead for them over the next two days. So without further ado, here are my Monday morning thoughts, the day-before-the-deadline edition.
If you thought the trade deadline action has been slow this season, you’re not alone.
I really was anticipating there’d be more deals across the league by now. As I write this, the market has been slow to move. But don’t just take my word for it:
I’ve seen speculation that some of the bigger fish on the block (Juan Soto, anyone?) are holding things up, and once those dominos fall, the flood gates will open. There are plenty of playoff contenders who could use more pieces to make a run, and with the that extra playoff spot, there are even more suitors who’ll be making moves, big and small, over the next day and a half.
On the flip side, there’s plenty of sellers who are likely still holding out for the best deal they can get for whomever they plan to trade. That’s obviously not helping move things along, but who can blame them for not wanting to make a deal just to make a deal?
What means is there’s going to be a lot of action over the next two days, probably even more than last year. And as the tweet above shows, there were a 36 total trades that came the day before and the day of the deadline. With another playoff spot in each league, I’d have to think there’ll be more deals to be made across the majors as more teams try to sneak into the postseason. It feels like it’s about time to start buckling up.
It’s like that one Joker GIF: And here. We. Go.
Now, what does that mean for the Cubs leading up to the trade deadline?
They probably have as many trade chips as any seller out there, from those that are essentially locks to be traded to those that are coin-flips to me. The Cubs probably won’t trade quite as many as the nine they dealt before last year’s deadline, but there are certainly more than a few who could be on other teams two days from now. From the information that’s out there, the Cubs have eight more players (after Martin) with at least an outside shot of getting traded: Willson Contreras, Ian Happ, David Robertson, Mychal Givens, Drew Smyly, Wade Miley, Rafael Ortega and Patrick Wisdom.
This is how I’d group those players going into the final full day before the deadline:
Likely to be gone: Contreras, Happ, Robertson, Givens, Smyly
- These are the five who’ve been at the top of the list in terms of trade chips. Robertson, Givens and Smyly — as veterans on cheap, short-term deals — were seen as candidates heading into the season in the event the Cubs weren’t in position to buy come the deadline. Contreras was a trade chip in the sense that he came into the year in the same boat as Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javier Báez (last year of arbitration, an extension not likely to be had). Happ’s trade candidacy is more of a recent development because of his All-Star season, and his name has popped up in connection with teams across the majors. Barring injuries or unforeseen extensions, these five are expected to be calling new ballparks home in the coming days.
Coin-flips: Ortega, Wisdom
- While they could bring some value to a contender, Ortega and Wisdom certainly aren’t locks to be on the move. A down July for Ortega (.150 average, .496 OPS) has diminished some of his value, and Wisdom really hasn’t been popped up in rumors all that much. Both are also under club control through 2026, and unless they get an offer they like, the Cubs can hold onto them for next season. Can I see either or both being dealt? Yes. Can I see either or both stick around? Also yes. I don’t lean one way or the other for either of them. We’ll just have to see how things play out.
Likely to stay: Miley
- If he’d been at all healthy this season, Miley is probably on the move along with the other veteran arms, but that isn’t the case. Miley has pitched just four times all season and is already on his third on the injured list. He had a rehab start with High-A South Bend on Friday, and reports out of San Francisco are that he’s going to pitch again for Triple-A Iowa this week. Maybe a team needs starting pitching depth and takes a risk on him in the belief that he’ll stay healthy the rest of the way, but I’m not sure how likely that is. Plus, pitchers like Keegan Thompson and Justin Steele are closing in on innings limits, and the Cubs will need arms to cover innings down the stretch. Unless they get an offer worth some value to the system, I’d lean toward them keeping Miley around.
I want to touch on the human aspect of this time of year.
I think fans can sometimes forget that these players aren’t just robots programmed to play baseball. And they also aren’t supposed to just be happy because they get paid to play a kid’s game. Yes, this is their job, and potentially being traded is what they signed up for. But we can’t forget that this game affects them in a way that so few of us can really understand. Take this quote from Contreras, said to reporters out in San Francisco on Sunday:
“Tomorrow’s an off day. We’ll see what happens. It’s going to be a long day. It’s been a long, long week, a long, long month for me. But I’m ready for this to be over, to be honest.”
Contreras is someone who’s spent his entire adult life in this organization, who worked his way out of a poor neighborhood in Venezuela to become a World Series champion with the North Siders. He’s said it himself before; being a Cub is the only thing he knows, but that can all end at the snap of a finger (no, I don’t mean it would literally happen that fast). This is a process that has taken its toll on him mentally. In the event he’s traded before the deadline, he’ll be in a brand new city, and he’ll have to quickly get accustomed to a playing with a whole new group of teammates. That kind of stuff isn’t easy.
Yes, every one of those players, including Contreras, knows that at this level, baseball is a business as much as it is a game. When you’re a good player on a bad team, odds are a good team will come calling. But I believe we can take that for what it is and still know that it does have an affect on players. They’re allowed to feel some type of way about how business is operated. As outsiders, I think we can all do a better job of understanding that.
Perhaps the last thing Contreras will say to reporters (at least as far as what was captured by Marquee’s cameras postgame) is something I truly appreciate.
“I know you guys are trying to do your job, and I’m OK with that. But I feel like I was more saying the same thing over and over, because I don’t know what’s going to happen. And I didn’t want to say anything that I’m going to regret later. I talked to Will [Nadal, the team’s translator] [about taking] some off days and then talk to you guys, but I feel like today was a good day to talk to you guys. Thank you all for everything. If I’m gone, I’m really thankful with you guys, because I know that you guys’ job is not easy, trying to handle different types of guys and personalities. But love you all and wish you all the best.”
I just think it was awesome on Contreras’ part to acknowledge what we do. I’m not complaining about getting to watch and write about baseball for a living. It’s the best job in the world. But it’s also not easy, especially when it comes to talking to a player about a future he has no control over. Sometimes it could feel awkward being in those scrums when Contreras was asked about trade rumors or extension talks, because you understand that a player might feel frustrated answering the same questions over and over.
He was always so willing to give those answers, though, and that’s one of the things I respected about him. I’m glad he understands what our jobs are and that he never got angry about it. You sometimes hear those horror about clashes between players and the media, but that never happened in my time around Contreras. It really was a pleasure to interact with him all season, whether or not there’s any more of that post-deadline.
One of the cool things from last year after all those trades went down was the quick turnaround for Bryant’s Wrigley return. I was actually there covering the game on the Giants’ side, and let me tell you, it was as emotional as you’d imagine.
But so far, Bryant is the only member of the championship team that was traded away at the deadline who’s come back to play on the North Side. He’s the only one that’s gotten to have that warm welcome home from Cubs fans. The Cubs didn’t play the Mets last year after Báez was traded to New York, and they don’t play the Tigers (whom he signed with in the offseason) at all in 2022. They did get to play Rizzo’s Yankees back in June, but that came at Yankee Stadium. The 2023 schedule hasn’t come out, but it won’t be until then that fans will know if a homecoming is in the cards for either of those two next season.
The same is likely to be true for Contreras. His name has been linked to a number of teams recently, but the likelihood that he gets traded to a team that’s still scheduled to play at Wrigley Field this season isn’t high. Here’s a breakdown on the rest of the Cubs’ home series:
- Marlins (1)
- Nationals (1)
- Brewers (1)
- Cardinals (1)
- Reds (2)
- Giants (1)
- Rockies (1)
- Phillies (1)
Looking at that slate, if he indeed does get traded, I can’t see a Contreras return to Wrigley happening in 2022. Milwaukee, St. Louis and Philadelphia are buyers, but I haven’t seen any of them discussed among the teams rumored to be after him. The other five are either sellers or aren’t likely to be looking for a rental piece like Contreras.
Whenever he does come back, he’ll get the same kind of love Bryant and others before him got. I just don’t see it happening this year.
You had to know I was going to touch on David Ross’ double-bird incident at some point. It was too funny for me not to.
You’d think guys are trained to be on their best behavior when there are cameras around, but everyone screws up. It happens. I’m glad Ross addressed it with an unsolicited apology, but I also think it’s just a mistake he’s going to learn from while we all move on. It’s certainly not the worst thing a manager has ever done.
Now, what I really wanted to with this section is praise CHGO Cubs podcaster and resident meme lord Corey Freedman. If you don’t follow him on Twitter (@corey_cubs), his meme game is as strong as anyone’s, and this meme right here is the best one I saw to come from Ross’ double birds:
Corey actually put this one out Thursday night, before we found out Ross’ gesture was directed at Joc Pederson. How Corey foresaw that Pederson was involved, I’ll never know. Maybe he’s psychic. Either way, he won Cubs Twitter that night in my eyes.
In case you missed them, here are some Cubs articles from the past week:
- Four reasons the Cubs shouldn’t trade Willson Contreras
- An emotional (last?) day at Wrigley for Willson Contreras and Ian Happ
- Cubs All-Stars know this series could be their last calling Wrigley Field home
- Keegan Thompson has cemented himself as a starter
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