Cubs executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer made their bones with the Boston Red Sox, helping build the 2004 World Series team that finally took down the New York Yankees. That intense rivalry shapes how the Cubs view the St. Louis Cardinals and the no-shortcuts belief that a championship-caliber organization is built to win 90-plus games year after year.
The Yankees now have the potential to unlock the entire market around the Aug. 1 trade deadline, whether it’s shutdown relievers (Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller) or change-of-scenery starting pitchers (Nathan Eovaldi, Michael Pineda) or an outstanding postseason hitter like Carlos Beltran.
Even if the Cubs don’t make a deal with the Yankees, a sell-off in The Bronx could have major October ramifications at Wrigley Field if, say, Miller gets traded to the Washington Nationals and Chapman winds up throwing 100-mph heat for the San Francisco Giants.
Do you really think it’s in the Pinstripe DNA to become sellers?
“It’s hard for us to really comment about what they’re going to do,” Hoyer said before Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to the New York Mets. “That’s their ownership and (general manager) Brian Cashman’s job to sort of outline how they see it. Certainly, they have desirable pieces for everyone on the market. I don’t think there’s any question (about that). There’s a reason people ask that question over and over. But that’s not our job to talk about their future plans.”
While the Yankees take up all this oxygen and generate so much trade buzz, Epstein’s front office likes to kick the tires on just about everything and won’t get locked in on only one team or blinded by a particular player’s talents.
Yes, the market for starting pitching is especially thin at a time when there aren’t that many overall difference-makers available. But Hoyer also pointed to the Red Sox flipping Jon Lester to the Oakland A’s in the Yoenis Cespedes deal at the 2014 deadline (an eye-opening experience outside of Boston that ultimately helped the Cubs sign the $155 million pitcher).
“That was like a total shock,” Hoyer said. “I think we should expect the unexpected.”
“Woof,” manager Joe Maddon said when asked if he expects the Cubs to make more additions at this point. “Yeah, Dexter, George, Nathan. We have a lot of guys from within, so I don’t know.”
That would be outfielders Dexter Fowler and Jorge Soler recovering from hamstring injuries at Triple-A Iowa, where six-time All-Star closer Joe Nathan might only need one more appearance before returning to the big leagues at the age of 41 after a second Tommy John procedure on his right elbow.
“I can’t tell you absolutely that there’s going to be anybody coming from outside,” Maddon said. “I know our guys are actively speaking to a lot of different groups. But we have stuff here already that we have to evaluate and look at.
“If it’s obvious that it’s an upgrade, absolutely, you’re always looking to make your group better. I’ve been involved in these situations in the past where there’s been a lot of talk and nothing has occurred.
“The teams that I’ve been working with have done really well by utilizing people from within, whether it’s a minor-league guy or (someone) like a Joe Nathan, as an example, who’s had a lot of experience and is working his way back up.
“I don’t really worry about stuff like that. If, in fact, something shows up, we’ll work with that person. If not, we work with the people that we have.”
Epstein’s front office can think outside the box and get aggressive, but internal solutions and under-the-radar moves might be the only answers if the farm system doesn’t have any ready-for-prime-time pitchers to deal, there’s a shortage of premium talent on the trade market and the Cubs won’t move big-league pieces like Kyle Schwarber and Javier Baez.
“We’ve said you can’t have untouchables and you have to be willing to explore bold ideas,” Hoyer said. “That said, we really like our core and I think that’s something that we plan to build around.”