After making blockbuster Aroldis Chapman deal last year, how aggressive will Cubs be at this trade deadline?

After making blockbuster Aroldis Chapman deal last year, how aggressive will Cubs be at this trade deadline?

The New York Yankees operated in an ideal seller’s market last summer, beginning with the iconic team with the 108-year championship drought, a stash of young blue-chip talent and a front office that’s never afraid to think big.

Cubs president Theo Epstein put it this way after making the blockbuster deal for Aroldis Chapman: “If not now, when?”

The Cubs wanted the parade down Michigan Avenue and got maybe one of the largest gatherings in human history, generations of fans flooding the streets of Chicago last November and spilling into Grant Park. 

For a moment late Friday afternoon, Chapman stood alone on the Wrigley Field mound after beating Javier Baez with a 100.4-mph fastball. That helpless foul tip ended New York’s 3-2 comeback win over the Cubs, another reminder of Chapman’s intimidating presence on the day he got his World Series ring, a Rage Against the Machine tribute on the video board and hugs from his ex-teammates.

What about the trade deadline now that the Cubs are no longer on the greatest quest in professional sports?

“I don’t think the urgency changes,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “The goal is to win every year. I do think that the team last year – their play almost demanded us to be aggressive. We came out from Day 1 and we played like the best team in baseball.

“We were pitching well, hitting well, blowing people out and felt like that team had one Achilles’ heel – the back of the bullpen. And given where we knew we were going in the playoffs, we needed that guy.”

The resurgent Yankees (18-9) were down to their last strike when Brett Gardner blasted a Hector Rondon slider into the right-field patio deck for a three-run homer, but that moment didn’t necessarily reveal deeper issues within the bullpen.     

Wade Davis – zero runs through 13-plus innings and 7-for-7 in save chances as a Cub – had already worked three days in a row. Rondon, a one-time 30-save closer, entered the ninth inning with a 1.59 ERA. Pedro Strop screamed and punched the air after striking out Aaron Judge looking at a slider to end the eighth inning. Carl Edwards Jr. (0.69 ERA) continues to look like someone who could handle that Andrew Miller hybrid role.

“I don’t want to say forced our hand (last year),” Hoyer said, “but with the way they played it was clear that this was a team to be really aggressive for. I think every year you have to feel that out. You have to get a sense of your club.

“Obviously, it’s too early to have a sense of this club. But last year, give them credit, they went 25-6 out of the gate and they made it really clear this was a year to be aggressive.”

The Cubs are 16-13 and leading a division that doesn’t have any other superpowers and playing in a National League that doesn’t look quite as intimidating with the New York Mets and San Francisco Giants already in damage-control mode.

On Cinco de Mayo, it’s impossible to say exactly what the Cubs will need by July 31. But the Cubs conserved resources for that deadline and also have a pretty good idea of what their everyday lineup will look like through the 2021 season, which made elite prospect Gleyber Torres available in the Chapman deal and means someone like Ian Happ could be dangled in a trade for pitching.  

With Jake Arrieta and John Lackey positioned to become free agents after this season – and Brett Anderson taking a 6.23 ERA into Saturday night’s start against the Yankees – the Cubs could be looking at a 60-percent turnover rate for their 2018 rotation.

“You can’t get in a cycle where you’re always doing something for rentals,” Hoyer said. “But at the same time, every season is sacred and you only have (so many chances). There are going to be years where things don’t come together, you have injuries, another team runs away with it. That’s going to happen. So when you know you’re in a good position, (go for it).”

That’s why Torres – who entered his age-20 season as Baseball America’s No. 5 prospect – could become a star in New York and the Cubs will never have any regrets about that 4-for-1 Chapman trade.

“I’m always confident in Theo and Jed,” manager Joe Maddon said. “We gave up a lot. The kid we gave up is very good. However, to win a World Series, I think you do it like 11 out of 10 times.”

Scouting the Cubs' competition: Are the Mets back in contention?


Scouting the Cubs' competition: Are the Mets back in contention?

The expectations couldn't be any higher for the 2018 Chicago Cubs. 

It's 2016 all over again. The goal isn't just a trip to the playoffs or another NL pennant. It's World Series or bust for this group of North Siders.

With that, let's take a look at all of the teams that could stand in the way of the Cubs getting back to the Fall Classic:

New York Mets

2017 record: 70-92, 4th place in NL East

Offseason additions: Jay Bruce, Todd Frazier, Adrian Gonzalez, Anthony Swarzak, Jason Vargas, Jose Lobaton, A.J. Griffin

Offseason departures: Neil Walker

X-factor: Pitching health

For everybody.

The Mets pitchers are suddenly not-so-young and they have zero World Series rings to show for it. In major part because they haven't all been healthy at the same time since that 2015 season in which they shut the Cubs right down out of the NLCS.

Will they ever be healthy again? Who knows? But if — somehow — Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Robert Gsellman are all healthy at the same time and pitching like they're capable of, it's gonna be tough to keep this Mets team at bay (even with an aging lineup).

Of course, expecting that to happen is probably foolish, but it's definitely within the realm of possibility.

Projected lineup

1. Brandon Nimmo - CF
2. Yoenis Cespedes - LF
3. Jay Bruce - RF
4. Todd Frazier - 3B
5. Adrian Gonzalez - 1B
6. Asdrubal Cabrera - 2B
7. Travis d'Arnaud - C
8. Amed Rosario - SS

Projected rotation

1. Noah Syndergaard
2. Jacob deGrom
3. Steven Matz
4. Matt Harvey
5. Zack Wheeler


We've already discussed the starting pitching health. The Mets also have a solid bullpen that will be improved with Jeurys Familia avoiding suspension and Swarzak's arrival after a breakout 2017 with the White Sox and Brewers.

This lineup has been productive in the past, but it's very old. The 2-through-6 hitters are all on the wrong side of 30 and on the bench, Jose Reyes is 34. 

Rosario (22), Nimmo (24) and Michael Conforto (25) inject some youth into this club, but Conforto is hampered by a shoulder injury and doesn't expect to join the team until at least a few weeks into the 2018 season.

Still, if they can stave off Father Time, this lineup should score some runs, even if they're a station-to-station bunch of slow-footed fellows. 

If the rotation is spinning the way they are capable of, the lineup should score enough runs to win a decent amount of ballgames. Thanks to depth on the bench (Reyes, Wilmer Flores, Juan Lagares), the Mets should be OK even if one or two of their old guys hit the 10-day DL.

But this all hinges on pitching. Syndergaard and deGrom are a dynamic 1-2 punch, but MAJOR question marks follow. 

The Mets will probably be a part of the wild card race in the NL, but ultimately won't be playing come October. Too many "ifs".

Prediction: 2nd in NL East, no playoffs

Complete opposition research

Los Angeles Dodgers
San Francisco Giants
Arizona Diamondbacks
Colorado Rockies
San Diego Padres
Miami Marlins
Philadelphia Phillies
Atlanta Braves
New York Mets

As Opening Day approaches, Cubs roster comes into focus


As Opening Day approaches, Cubs roster comes into focus

With less than a week until Opening Day, the Cubs' roster is all but set.

Joe Maddon told reporters in Arizona Friday the Cubs will roll with eight relievers to open the season, which doesn't come as any surprise. 

Left-handed pitcher Randy Rosario was optioned to Triple-A Iowa, leaving Eddie Butler and Shae Simmons as the two most likely guys to take the final bullpen spot.

Butler, 27, is out of minor-league options, which means if the Cubs do not keep him on their big-league roster, they risk losing him on waivers. Simmons still has two options remaining.

Butler also represents more starting pitching depth for the team beyond their five-man rotation and Mike Montgomery. Theo Epstein's front office likes to enter a season with 8-10 starting pitching options in case of injury, so it'd be hard to see the team getting rid of their No. 7 guy on that depth chart.

This spring, Butler has pitched 10 innings over five games with a 4.50 ERA and five strikeouts. He made 11 starts and two bullpen appearances with the 2017 Cubs, posting a 3.95 ERA and 1.43 WHIP.

Simmons, 27, signed with the Cubs as a free agent Feb. 16 and pitched nine games with the Seattle Mariners last year. He's appeared in four games for the Cubs this spring, pitching to a 2.45 ERA with five strikeouts in 3.2 innings.

In carrying eight relievers, that only leaves one position player spot available (backup catcher). Outfielder Peter Bourjos is expected to start the season in the minor leagues.

Veteran backstop Chris Gimenez will probably get the nod on the big-league roster over youngster Victor Caratini.

Gimenez comes with experience and a knowledge and relationship with Yu Darvish and we do have confirmation Darvish is making the Opening Day roster:

The Cubs really like Caratini and he's arguably their top position player prospect, but at age 24, he needs to play every day and see regular at-bats, which he wouldn't get backing up Willson Contreras in Chicago.

With that, here's the projected Cubs' Opening Day roster:


Willson Contreras
Chris Gimenez


Anthony Rizzo
Kris Bryant
Addison Russell
Javy Baez
Tommy La Stella
Ben Zobrist


Ian Happ
Kyle Schwarber
Albert Almora Jr.
Jason Heyward

Starting pitchers

Jon Lester
Kyle Hendricks
Yu Darvish
Jose Quintana
Tyler Chatwood


Brandon Morrow (closer)
Carl Edwards Jr.
Pedro Strop
Justin Wilson
Steve Cishek
Brian Duensing
Mike Montgomery
Eddie Butler