Cubs

MLB Power Rankings: Giants surge past Cubs, toward Dodgers

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MLB Power Rankings: Giants surge past Cubs, toward Dodgers

With the nonwavier trade deadline on Friday, expect plenty of movement from the teams fighting to be at or near the top of the American and National Leagues. We've already seen Scott Kazmir go from Oakland to Houston and Johnny Cueto head from Cincinnati to Kansas City. Who else could trade places and affect pennant races in August and September?

With that comes another week of MLB Power Rankings from CSNChicago.com's Tony Andracki and JJ Stankevitz. Stay with us every Monday from here through October for a fresh set of rankings.

Stay tuned for updated rankings every Monday throughout the 2015 campaign. Here's where we're at so far: Preseason rankings | Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8 | Week 9 | Week 10 | Week 11 | Week 12 | Week 13 | Week 14

Rank Team
Last Week Comment
1 1

What is wrong with Matt Carpenter? He's hitting .206 with a .649 OPS since May 2.

2   3

Johnny Cueto (2.62 ERA/3.13 FIP) is a much-needed addition to a rotation with a 4.26 ERA/4.18 FIP.

3 2

Love the addition of Aramis Ramirez. Low-risk, high-reward option.

4   4

Lead is dwindling over the Giants now, only one game up in the NL West entering play Monday.

5 11

Hottest team in baseball with wins in 11 of last 12 games.

6 6

Mike Trout leads baseball with 31 home runs and 6.3 WAR. This is special stuff we’re witnessing for the fourth straight year.

7 7

Your A-Rod update: He’s on pace to hit 30+ home runs with 3+ WAR and turned 40 on Monday.

8 10

In a weak American League, the Keuchel-Kazmir 1-2 punch should be enough to get them to at least the wild card game.

9 5

Bryce Harper has just 3 HRs since June 21. Pathetic.

10 9

With the AL East cannibalizing itself and preseason darlings in the White Sox and Mariners not making a move yet, they’re in a good position even if they don’t play especially well down the stretch.

11   8

A three-game sweep at the hands of the Phillies is awful, yes, but it's not time to panic just yet.

12 12

This lineup could really use David Wright, but nobody seems knows what is going on with him or if he'll ever even play again. Strangest injury ever.

13 15

They haven’t made the playoffs since 1993, and you’d think that’d be enough motivation for them to add a pitcher before Friday, right?

14 14

Ubaldo Jimenez in two starts out of the All-Star break: 7 IP, 15 H, 14 ER, 4 HR. Buck, your starter, woof. 

15 12

#TheReturn of Matt Moore hasn’t gone well: 5 GS, 23 2/3 IP, 7.61 ERA/5.35 FIP.

16 21

Trading for Cole Hamels would be a forward-thinking move, but if Minnesota stumbles, maybe it pushes them closer to that second wild card spot.

17 16

A barren farm system, a team in freefall, an free-agent-to-be ace…everything about this situation screams “sell!” but who knows if a win-now franchise will actually follow through on that.

18 24

They should absolutely sell this week, but not Tyson Ross. Keep him around.

19 20

After obliterating Cleveland, they enter the week five games behind Minnesota for a playoff spot. For as badly as they’ve played this year, all hope isn’t lost.

20 17

Hope they get rid of an outfielder this week so they can play David Peralta more.

21 23

Robinson Cano’s encouraging July (6 HR, .337/.384/.609) could be a good sign toward them finally digging out of their first-half hole.

22 22 Adrelton Simmons is off limits, you guys. Don't even bother asking.
23 18

Nobody’s held accountable” doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement of Terry Francona and another disappointing year on Lake Erie.

24 26

Like the return on the Cueto trade. Loaded up on high upside pitching arms.

25 25

Former White Sox IF Marcus Semien doesn’t look like the answer: .249/.293/.378, 0.5 WAR and 28 errors.

26 19

The lone pitching bright spot, Clay Buchholz, got a PRP injection from Dr. James Andrews and might as well be shut down at this point.

27 27

They should trade Tulo and CarGo and rebuild from there.

28 28

Not sure why they would get rid of Carlos Gomez at this point, but they also don't appear to have any sort of championship window anytime soon.

29 29

If they trade Dan Haren and Mat Latos, who will they form a rotation with?

30 30

Part of me wants that to be it for Cole Hamels in Philly, just so he goes out on a no-hitter. How awesome would that be?

Cubs Talk Podcast: Manny Machado’s value and other Cubs offseason wish list items

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Manny Machado’s value and other Cubs offseason wish list items

Did Manny Machado’s value take a hit at all after he openly admitted hustling isn’t his “cup of tea”? Our Cubs team (David Kaplan, Kelly Crull, Tony Andracki, Jeff Nelson) debate that, plus the potential fit of Machado or Bryce Harper for the 2019 Cubs and beyond.

[MORE: The most underrated storyline of the Cubs offseason]

The crew also runs down the top items on the Cubs’ offseason wish list – ranging from bullpen help to infield depth to a set leadoff hitter – in what may be the most impactful winter in Theo Epstein’s tenure in Chicago.

Listen to the podcast here or via the embedded player below:

The most underrated storyline of the Cubs offseason

The most underrated storyline of the Cubs offseason

There are plenty of intriguing Cubs storylines to monitor this offseason from their potential pursuit of the big free agents to any other changes that may come to the coaching staff or roster after a disappointing finish to the 2018 campaign.

But there's one question simmering under the radar in Cubs circles when it comes to this winter: How will the team solve the shortstop conundrum?

Just a few years ago, the Cubs had "too many" shortstops. Now, there are several different factors at play here that makes it a convoluted mess, as we discussed on the latest CubsTalk Podcast.

First: What will the Cubs do with Addison Russell? The embattled shortstop is in the midst of a suspension for domestic violence that will keep him off an MLB diamond for at least the first month of 2019.

Has Russell already played his last game with the Cubs? Will they trade him or send him packing in any other fashion this winter?

Theo Epstein mentioned several times he felt the organization needs to show support to the victim in the matter (Russell's ex-wife, Melisa) but also support for Russell. Does that mean they would keep him a part of the team at least through the early part of 2019?

Either way, Russell's days in Chicago are numbered and his play on the field took another big step back in 2018 as he fought through a hand injury and experienced a major dip in power. With his performance on the field and the off-field issues, it will be hard to justify a contract worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 million in his second year of arbitration (prorated, with a month's worth of pay taken out for the suspension).

Even if Russell is on the roster in 2019, Javy Baez is unquestionably the shortstop for at least the first month while Russell is on suspension. 

But what about beyond Baez if the Cubs want to give him a breather or disaster strikes and he's forced to miss time with an injury?

At the moment, there's nothing but question marks on the current Cubs shortstop depth chart throughout the entire organization and they're certainly going to need other options at the most important defensive position (outside of pitcher/catcher). 

There's David Bote, who subbed in for Baez at short once in September when Baez needed a break and Russell was on the disabled list. But while Bote's defense at third base and second base has opened eyes around the Cubs, he has only played 45 games at short across seven minor-league seasons, including 15 games in 2018. There's also the offensive question marks with the rookie, who hit just .176 with a .559 OPS and 40 strikeouts in 108 at-bats after that epic ultimate grand slam on Aug. 12.

The Cubs' other current shortstop options include Mike Freeman (a 31-year-old career minor-leaguer), Ben Zobrist (who will be 38 in 2019 and has played all of 13 innings at shortstop since 2014), Ryan Court (a 30-year-old career minor leaguer) and Chesny Young (a 26-year-old minor-leaguer who has posted a .616 OPS in 201 Triple-A games).

Maybe Joe Maddon would actually deploy Kris Bryant at shortstop in case of emergency like a Baez injury ("necessity is the mother of invention," as Maddon loves to say), but that seems a lot more like a fun talking point than a legit option at this current juncture.

So even if Russell sticks around, there's no way the Cubs can go into the first month of the season with just Baez and Bote as the only shortstop options on a team that with World Series or bust expectations.

The Cubs will need to acquire some shortstop depth this winter in some capacity, whether it's adding to the Triple-A Iowa roster or getting a veteran who can also back up other positions. Right now, the free agent pool of potential shortstops is pretty slim beyond Manny Machado.

Epstein always says he and his front office look to try to mitigate risk and analyze where things could go wrong to sink the Cubs' season and through that lense, shortstop is suddenly right up there behind adding more bullpen help this winter.