Cubs didn't consider themselves serious players for Justin Verlander

Cubs didn't consider themselves serious players for Justin Verlander

Regardless of where Justin Verlander ultimately hoped he'd end up, the Cubs didn't consider themselves to be serious players in the veteran pitcher's market this August.

The waiver deadline passed Thursday with the Cubs only making one move - acquiring outfielder Leonys Martin as a pinch-runner/defensive replacement type of guy.

Verlander, meanwhile, went to the Houston Astros, with the Detroit Tigers receiving three prospects in return.

The Cubs have been one of the teams linked to Verlander in rumors for months and while they did check in on him even after the nonwaiver trade deadline passed on the first day of August, GM Jed Hoyer said they never even got to the point where they discussed untouchable prospects with the Tigers.

"Houston was pretty aggressive early on," Hoyer said Friday morning at Wrigley Field. "They didn't make a big starting pitching deal at the deadline, so I think they were aggressive with their offer right away.

"Detroit kinda liked that offer all along. I think they were pretty focused on Houston all along. Because of that, because they had a deal they liked that they sat on for a bunch of weeks, we never got deep into it. In the end, I think it worked out for Detroit and for Houston. But I think that was gonna be the result for almost the entire month."

At best, Hoyer described the Cubs' interest as a fallback option.

"Early on, they had a deal on the table that was really appealing to them that their process was run with that in mind," Hoyer said.

The 34-year-old veteran has rebounded after a rough start to the season and is now 10-8 with a 3.82 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 176 strikeouts in 172 innings. He finished second in AL Cy Young voting last year with a 16-9 record, 3.04 ERA and league-leading 1.00 WHIP. 

Verlander also has two full years and around $60 million left on his current contract with a vesting option for his age-37 season in 2020. 

The Cubs are in a totally different position now than they were a month ago when the Verlander rumors were hot and heavy. 

The starting rotation has keyed the second-half surge with Kyle Hendricks regaining health and production while Jake Arrieta once again looks like his Cy Young self. John Lackey has also been better since the All-Star Break, tossing seven shutouts in Friday's 2-0 win over the Braves. 

Even the Jon Lester injury proved to be minor as the Cubs ace makes his return Saturday against the Atlanta Braves. Assuming Lester's start goes off without a hitch, the Cubs are at the point where they're seriously considering keeping Mike Montgomery as a starter (he'll get the ball Sunday) and rolling with a six-man rotation.

And with the Jose Quintana deal coupled with the prior trade with the Tigers for Justin Wilson and Alex Avila, the Cubs don't have much in the way of enticing prospects left to deal, even if the Verlander talks with Detroit never advanced to that stage.

So Verlander wound up with the team with the best record in the American League over the defending World Champs, even if the Cubs were his first choice.

Nico Hoerner makes great catch in first game with South Bend

Nico Hoerner makes great catch in first game with South Bend

Cubs first-round pick Nico Hoerner made his debut with the Class-A South Bend Cubs, and he did not disappoint.

The 23-year old shortstop showed off impressive hops during an acrobatic grab in the topf of the second inning in his first game with the South Bend Cubs. Hoerner will surely be an exciting defensive prospect with ability like this.

As far as offense goes, through four at-bats at South Bend, Hoerner is batting .500, and this comes after he hit .318 with a home run and two RBI through seven games with the Eugene Emeralds, the Cubs Class A short-season affiliate.

Here is to hoping we continue to see big-time plays from Hoerner.

Jose Quintana can't wait to face Eloy Jimenez someday

Jose Quintana can't wait to face Eloy Jimenez someday

One year after arguably the biggest trade ever between the Cubs and White Sox, both sides are feeling pretty happy with their returns.

Jose Quintana has had a bit of a disappointing 2018 campaign overall, but he's been really solid lately, posting a 3.00 ERA and 1.27 WHIP since April 22 — a span of 14 starts.

He struggled in two starts against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship Series last fall, but shut the Nationals down in two games (one start, one relief appearance) in the NLDS, allowing only 3 hits and a pair of walks in 6.1 innings.

All told, Quintana is 15-9 with a 3.86 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 185 strikeouts in 182 innings a Cubs uniform.

Meanwhile, the White Sox boast one of the strongest farm systems in the game thanks to Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease, the main pieces from the Cubs for Quintana last summer.

Jimenez has a .313 average, .912 OPS, 12 homers and 46 RBI in 65 games this season between Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte. The 21-year-old outfielder was ranked the No. 4 prospect in the game by Baseball America prior to the 2018 campaign.

Cease is a bit further away from Chicago, but the 22-year-old is also having a strong season. He's 10-2 with a 2.95 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 10.7 K/9 in 16 starts this year, with his last 3 outings coming for Double-A Birmingham.

Some Cubs fans may be expecting an ace out of Quintana, but there's enormous value in a guy that's under team control through the 2020 season and due just over $30 million for the 3.5 seasons' worth of contributions.

Still, Quintana understands it was a hefty cost the Cubs paid for his services and he embraces the challenge.

"These guys are gonna be All-Stars,"  Quintana said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "I've heard good things. I want to continue to do the best I can, but I know it was a huge trade. I know [the Cubs] paid a lot for me. That's a good feeling, you know? 

"It helps that [Jimenez and Cease] are doing good. I know they're younger, but it's amazing to be in that trade. I'm more happy right now to be here. Best of luck to them. 

"One time I'm going to face Jimenez, too, so I'm going to enjoy that."

We may not have to wait long to find out: The Cubs head to the South Side Sept. 21-23 for a 3-game set, when Jimenez could be getting his first taste of MLB life as a September call-up for the White Sox.