For many teams early May is too early to start planning ahead to the July trade deadline. They are still close enough to contention that hope remains high and a month’s worth of games are often not enough to fully assess where opportunities to improve may lie or even which players could be deemed expendable assets. For the Chicago Cubs, the organization may already be bordering on that point.
Chicago entered the season with few expectations. The team is in essentially a holding pattern, with a horde of talented prospects progressing through the minor leagues and a roster laden with veterans hoping to make an impact until they are ready to arrive. A month into the season the Cubs sit at the bottom of the NL Central with an 11-17 record entering play Sunday and the reality that they aren’t going to compete this season may be starting to settle in for some.
There have been positives in Chicago. Starlin Castro appears to have moved past his abysmal 2013 season and is hitting .313/.342/.473 to begin the year. Anthony Rizzo is hitting at a .296/.421/.520 clip. Welington Castillo is batting .286/.333/.500. Even Emilio Bonifacio has been a pleasant surprise, checking in at .330/.376/.394 with a team high 10 stolen bases. The rest of the offense has yet to offer much production at the plate.
On the mound the results have also been mixed. Jeff Samardzija has pitched well despite his 0-3 record, posting a 1.98 ERA and 1.244 WHIP. Jason Hammel has looked solid behind him, with a 2.08 ERA and 0.692 WHIP to pair with his 4-1 record. Pedro Strop, Justin Grimm, and Hector Rondon have also looked good out of the bullpen.
Beyond those positives, however, is a roster littered with players who are struggling. The Cubs likely be active on the trade market this summer, moving any players that they can in order to restock the team with assets that could help turn things around. The team has yet to start fielding trade offers, however, as GM Jed Hoyer explained to reporters, including Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago, over the weekend:
I certainly talk to a lot of GMs on a daily or weekly basis, but having a GM call about a specific player? I’m not even sure I fielded one of those yet. Really, that trade talk always dies right at the end of spring training. Usually it’s late May or early June until people sort of reconvene and start talking that way. Right now, the calls are mostly catching up and seeing how people are doing and keeping a dialogue but not specific at all.
There are plenty of possible moves the Cubs could make before the summer approaches. Samardzija has been a popular name amid speculation, notably because of his contract status as he’ll head to free agency following the season unless the team and him are able to work out an extension beforehand (a possible that appears increasingly less likely as the season progresses). Hammel could also be facing a similar possibility, despite recent rumblings that the organization could look to keep him. Jose Veras (once healthy) or James Russell could appeal to a team wanting an experienced bullpen arm. Beyond them just about any member of the team’s pitching staff could potentially be up for grabs, depending on what the return may be.
The Cubs could also looked to deal other players. Ryan Sweeney and/or Justin Ruggiano could bring some outfield depth to a team in the playoff hunt, once each returns from their respective injuries. Nate Schierholtz is another option, one who’s used to being a role player on a playoff contender. Darwin Barney would be an instant defensive upgrade at second base, if a team can handle his nearly non-existent bat.
The perpetual rebuild has grown tiresome for fans of the Cubs and for many of the players. It will linger throughout this season, but as the team starts moving players off the roster it will find the opportunity to start bringing prospects onto it. Hope will begin to grow again in Chicago. It’s merely a question of when that hope will turn into something more tangible.
Tags: Chicago Cubs