MILWAUKEE — If Joe Maddon was disappointed the Cubs didn’t trade for Cole Hamels or David Price, the manager wouldn’t show it to reporters or complain through the media.
“Both are in the American League,” Maddon said. “If we’re not going to get ‘em, push ‘em in the other league. That’s it. That’s about as emotional as I got.”
Pitching continues to be the focus leading up to Friday’s non-waiver trade deadline, with the Cubs said to be focusing on the San Diego Padres — Tyson Ross would be the prize (at age 28 and under club control through the 2017 season) while Ian Kennedy is more of a two-month Plan B.
The Cubs have discussed another rental pitcher — Dan Haren — with the Miami Marlins. CBSSports.com identified the Cubs as one of at least five teams in on Texas Rangers right-hander Yovani Gallardo, a soon-to-be free agent. The Chicago Sun-Times reported the Cubs have also been in contact with the Atlanta Braves about Julio Teheran, an All-Star last season who is only 24 years old and might need a change of scenery.
Instead of a big-name pitcher walking through the clubhouse doors on Thursday, the Cubs got their shot of adrenaline from Anthony Rizzo, who crushed a go-ahead, three-run homer into Miller Park’s second deck in the eighth inning, leading his team to a 5-2 comeback victory over the Milwaukee Brewers.
Rizzo lined Will Smith’s 94 mph fastball out to right field, erasing a 2-0 deficit and making it 18 homers and 56 RBI in a season that will put the All-Star first baseman in the National League’s MVP conversation.
Win or lose, the Cubs feel like they’ve already made their major offensive investments, building out their lineup for the future.
“Honestly, whatever happens, happens,” Rizzo said. “One player on this team could get hot offensively and carry the load for awhile, and then another guy gets hot. It’s bound to happen (where) someone’s going to take off and start carrying us.”
The Cubs (54-47) are still a third-place team, trailing the St. Louis Cardinals by 10.5 games in the division and moving to two games behind the San Francisco Giants for the second wild-card spot.
That’s the reality for Theo Epstein’s baseball operations department, a less than 50-50 chance to make it to a one-game playoff, limited financial resources and what should be a long runway for all this young talent in 2016 and beyond.
Maddon had seen enough of Hamels by the time the Philadelphia Phillies ace had no-hit the Cubs for the first time in 50 years (after becoming the 2008 World Series MVP against his Tampa Bay Rays). The Cubs couldn’t offer the same package of prospects as the Rangers and would rather buy a marquee pitcher in free agency this winter.
Maybe that’s Price, who developed into a Cy Young Award winner while playing for Maddon in Tampa Bay. At least the Cubs won’t have to give up a draft pick to sign Price now that the Toronto Blue Jays have gone all-in, acquiring the left-handed ace from the Detroit Tigers for three minor-league pitchers.
The Cubs took care of business against the last-place Brewers (44-59), getting a quality start from Jake Arrieta and three scoreless innings from Rafael Soriano, Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon (14th save) out of the bullpen.
The Brewers are in sell mode, trading an All-Star centerfielder (Carlos Gomez) and a starting pitcher (Mike Fiers) to the Houston Astros for four prospects after a different Gomez deal with the New York Mets collapsed.
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At some point in this rebuild, the Cubs will become huge buyers, sacrificing the future and trying to find the right finishing pieces for a World Series run. It just doesn’t sound like this will be the year.
“It’ll be interesting,” Arrieta said. “Around baseball, there’s been some really big moves made, which have excited a lot of people, surprised a lot of people, raised some eyebrows. You really never know. I think some of those things kind of transpire last minute, out of the blue.
“That’s the way these things tend to happen as you get closer to the deadline. It wouldn’t completely surprise me if they made a move — or didn’t make a move. We can win with what we have here. We’ve got the pieces. We’ve shown we can do it in stretches.”