August 1st. Put it in your calendar, circle it, smack it, flip it, rub it down, oh no. That’s the MLB trade deadline and, until then, we don’t really know anything about the remainder of the season. So as every baseball pundit in North America ramps up their speculations on who will be buyers and who will be sellers, one potential blockbuster deal seems to be on everyone’s mind.
And I absolutely hate it.
After the Cubs lost four games in a row (a season high), everyone seemed to be freaking out, declaring the Cubs’ run at a historic season over and even saying it was the Giants and/or the Rangers who were actually the best team in baseball. It also didn’t hurt that the Warriors lost the NBA Finals to the Cavs after a historic season of their own. So with that parallel in mind, it became pretty evident that if the Cubs want to win a World Series this year, they’d need big-time help in the bullpen.
Also during that losing spell, it became pretty evident that Wilson Contreras is the Cubs’ catcher of the future. Contreras unloaded on the first pitch he saw in his Major League debut, driving Wrigley Field insane with giddy thoughts of potential dominance going forward. Then after the standing O, the pinch-hit homer and the curtain call, he had to go back to the bullpen and warm up relievers.
Contreras represents yet another rookie and another impossibly-young player to be plugged in to the Cubs’ lineup. But he also represents a giant roadblock for the injured Kyle Schwarber to find a spot on the field when he returns next season. A knee injury basically eliminated his chance at being the Cubs’ everyday catcher, anyway. And he was already a defensive question mark in left field. So I don’t know where you put the guy. And as much as I hate to say it, he’s a DH playing in the wrong league.
So that got everyone thinking. The Yankees aren’t going to the playoffs. They need to rebuild for next year. They also have two amazing relievers they could unload for huge returns. And they have that short porch in right, which could turn Schwarber into trash-goateed Babe Ruth 2.0. So Kyle-Schwarber-for-Andrew-Miller rumors have been swirling around baseball universe, making a nation of Cubs fans, who see a light at the end of a 108-year tunnel, decide if they want to think with their heads or with their hearts.
And like I said, I absolutely hate it.
Luckily for my heart, my head tells me it’s not going to happen. I mean, I understand it. Especially if it means World Series hardware. But I don’t think the Cubs would trade a beloved and injured young player (the guy who cranked a ball into the Allegheny in the Wild Card game and dropped another on top of the right field scoreboard in the NLDS) for a middle reliever. Want to send Chris Sale or Jose Quintana up north? I can deal with that. But I just think something inside me would die if I had to picture a pouty-lipped Kyle Schwarber getting on a plane to New York with his crutches and walking boot. My heart just couldn’t take it.
(UPDATE: Theo Epstein, basically just said a trade involving Schwarber ain’t gonna happen and that the Hulk will be back in a Cubs uniform on Opening Day 2017.)
Okay, let’s go around the league and see how everything else is shaping up before August 1st.
Name me any team over .500 in the division and I’ll tell you they need pitching. And nobody more so than the Boston Red Sox. I have to assume David Price’s ERA will be closer to his FIP in the second half. And Steven Wright has been great when there isn’t any humidity. But having to keep starting Clay Bucholz isn’t any fun for anybody. His baseball card should just be a picture of John Farrell on the bullpen phone.
The Orioles, Red Sox and Blue Jays are all projected at around 86-89 wins. But you can’t just out-hit your own pitching forever. Ask the ice-cold Red Sox, whose offense finally came back down to earth the past two weeks. And, sure, the Blue Jays gave up SEVEN home runs against the White Sox this week and still won the game. But that’s fucking stupid.
I don’t think the Orioles have the farm system to do a big trade. So they might have to just keep swinging for the fences for the time being (56 home runs in the month of June is an all-time MLB record for the month). But you have to assume Red Sox’ GM, Dave Dombrowski, is going to try to pull off something big (Julio Teheran? Sonny Gray? Gerrit Cole?), because if they don’t, Papi isn’t going to end his career in the postseason. And Dustin Pedroia is going to spend a lot more time on the mound screaming at whoever sucked most recently.
You know who doesn’t need pitching – the Cleveland Indians, who have won a franchise record-tying 13 games in a row. June was the best month in their team history. And they are the first team to win this many games in a row since the A’s won 20 in 2002. And no, they haven’t lost since the Cavs ended the city’s 52-year championship drought. Looks like Believeland might have to get ready for another parade.
To do that, they probably need another bat. Although they’ve certainly been hitting lately. I don’t think they can count on Michael Brantley doing much, but this dilemma essentially makes the Indians this year’s New York Mets. If I recall correctly, the Mets went to the World Series last year. Great pitching wins in October, after all. And that staff of Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer, Josh Tomlin, Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco is pretty great.
The Astros are actually relevant again. But it might be too late to catch the Rangers, who still have the best record in the league. I don’t know how long that lead will hold with Yu Darvish, Derek Holland and Colby Lewis on the DL. And the fact that a team who needed help in the pen as much as the Cubs do could now prefer to go after another starting pitcher. But they do have the depth to make some big moves.
Let me get this straight, when the Cubs lose four in a row and are only on pace to win 106 games, everybody thinks they’re falling apart. But when the Nationals lose seven in a row, put Stephen Strasburg and Jonathan Papelbon on the DL and have a slumping Bryce Harper, everything is totally chill?
I guess it didn’t hurt that the Mets are also having major problems with injuries, need to replace David Wright at third, signed domestic abuser, Jose Reyes and probably have people all over Queens Googling ‘bone spur’ because of Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard. This could be a disaster waiting to happen. Even Zack Wheeler, who is probably trade bait at this point, had a setback in his Tommy John recovery. To say that this team can’t afford any more injuries is like saying Bartolo Colon is entertaining whilst running the bases.
For a brief moment, it looked like the best team in the division was actually the Miami Marlins. And picking up Fernando Rodney shows that they’re actually going for it. But everyone is still pretty far back of the Nationals, who ended up sweeping the Mets and have won five straight after their seven-game skid. Daniel Murphy still leads the league in hitting. Lucas Giolito could be a huge addition to the rotation. And they could end up putting Trea Turner in center. The Nats are going to win the division. But I guess I’m just excited to see how Dusty Baker ruins it.
I can’t really stress enough how much I’d love the Cubs to get help in the bullpen. And they probably miss Dexter Fowler. And they could stand to play a little better defense. And they’ve had some general injury problems, overall. But the good news is, despite going 1-6 last week (the worst stretch in the Maddon Era), the Cubs still have the best record in baseball. And they still have the lowest ERA in the Majors, despite Jake Arrieta proving he’s human in the first half.
Maybe they won’t win 116 games. I can accept that. But it’s not like the 2001 Mariners had much to show for doing that either. They’re still up 11 games on the Cardinals. Kris Bryant hit three home runs and two doubles on Monday, for 16 total bases. And he denied the Cubs fans a curtain call on the road. They also played three pitchers in left field and saw Javier Baez hit a grand slam in the 15th inning on Tuesday. Listen, most of the rest of the division is thinking about which players to dump for their rebuild. So things could be worse.
One of the most-talked-about teams in the trade market has been the Pittsburgh Pirates, who are tanking at a rapid rate. In their perfect scenario, Gerrit Cole and Francisco Cervelli would be healthy and Andrew McCutchen would be hitting. But since none of those things are true, there haven’t been many players on the team who aren’t being discussed in trade rumors. The thing is, the Pirates have a pretty soft schedule at the end of the season. But they’re still 13.5 back in the Central, 3 games under .500 and 3.5 back in the Wild Card. So basically, we have until August 1st to picture how good Cole, McCutchen, Mark Melancon and Francisco Liriano would look in other uniforms.
I don’t know what I hate more, the ‘even year’ thing, or everybody acting like Madison Bumgarner is hillbilly Ted Williams. He’s hitting .182 for fuck sake. Shouldn’t we be discussing the 1-2 pitching combination of Johnny Cueto and MadBum potentially mixing it up with Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester in the playoffs? Instead, this guy is DHing for himself in Oakland (he hit a double, raising his average from .175) while everyone runs to the nearest bathroom stall to jack their dick off. Michael Jordan hit upper deck shots in batting practice, everybody. 12-year-old Prince Fielder did too. I saw a clip of JJ Watt hitting a bomb in Houston last year. So, yes, Michael Jordan, 12-year-old Prince Fielder and JJ Watt are also the best hitters of all time. Shut up.
While this week’s post seems to be littered with injuries and team needs at the trade deadline, what better place to close than the Los Angeles Dodgers? That’s a team that already had major rotation problems and then Clayton Kershaw went down on the DL in the middle of a historic season. I know Brandon McCarthy and Hyun-Jin Ryu will be back soon, but the Dodgers probably need to make a big move. And I don’t think Bud Norris is the answer.
Alright. That’s it for this week. If you need more from me, tune in to Comedians Talking Baseball with Joe Kilgallon and me on iTunes. And in the meantime, Ichiro needs 12 hits and the Cubs’ magic number is 74.