Cubs

Steve Phillips: Cubs should trade Schwarber for Cole Hamels

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Steve Phillips: Cubs should trade Schwarber for Cole Hamels

The Cubs need starting pitching, that much is clear.

But will they trade elite prospects to acquire one of the top pitchers on the market? Maybe Cole Hamels?

[RELATED - Cubs can’t hold onto prospects forever but could cash in at trade deadline]

Former New York Mets general manager Steve Phillips joined Kap and Haugh Tuesday and said he wouldn't give up Kris Bryant for "anything" and would balk at letting go of Addison Russell, too. But he would absolutely leverage the Cubs' current top prospect Kyle Schwarber for Hamels.

"To get Cole Hamels in a deal, I would absolutely trade Schwarber," Phillips said. "And I would trade Javier Baez. I don't think Baez is going to be an impact guy; I don't think he's gonna come back to haunt you. I think he'll hit some home runs, but he won't be a functional-enough player because of his swings-and-misses and the strikeouts compared to the walks. I would be willing to take the chance."

The issue with Baez is the Phillies haven't seemed to be interested in him, or at least not enough to get rid of Hamels. But Schwarber?

Schwarber has already had success at the big-league level - .364 average, .982 OPS during his six-game stretch earlier this month - and owns a .312/.425/.575 (1.000 OPS) line in the minors this season between Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa.

There are still questions over whether or not Schwarber can be a capable catcher at the highest level, but the bat seems to be legit.

[MORE: Cubs waiting for trade market to accelerate after getting swept by Cardinals]

Meanwhile, Hamels will be 32 in December and is still owed more than $100 million on the seven-year, $159-million extension he signed.

Hamels has a career 3.27 ERA and 1.14 WHIP and has averaged almost a strikeout per inning over his 10-year career. He has made at least 30 starts in each of the last seven seasons and is on pace to do so again in 2015.

Hamels could be a game-changer for the Cubs, but would it be worth giving up a guy like Schwarber (assuming, of course the Phillies would take that deal)?

Phillips had to face decisions like this when he was GM of the Mets from July 1997 to June 2003. During the five full seasons at the helm, he engineered four winning teams, two playoff appearances and even made it to the World Series in 2000 (the Yankees beat the Mets).

"I wouldn't mind if the prospects I gave up turned out to be good players," Phillips said. "I look at it like this - are they as good at their position as Cole Hamels is? Probably not. Most prospects don't fulfill that ultimate potential. Even if they do, I'm getting the timed value of that today rather than waiting three or four years down the road and it's a good chance to get to the playoffs.

[SHOP: Buy a Cubs 4th of July hat]

"... In my mind, it's worth doing something like that. Schwarber - love his bat, but I'm not convinced where he plays. He's not gonna catch. There's no indication from anybody I've talked to that he's going to be an adequate starting catcher to handle a pitching staff in the National League.

"He looks more like a DH than anything else. So if Philadelphia wants to get him and figure it out, so be it. But I would absolutely put him in a deal for Cole Hamels."

It might have been just another dinger in homer-happy All-Star Game, but Willson Contreras will remember it forever

It might have been just another dinger in homer-happy All-Star Game, but Willson Contreras will remember it forever

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Willson Contreras’ third-inning home run might not have ended up standing out too much in an All-Star Game featuring a jaw-dropping and record-shattering 10 dingers.

But, obviously, it will always stand out to the guy who hit it.

“I enjoyed every single second that I spent out there.”

Remarkably, Contreras repeated his feat from two seasons ago, when he hit his first big league homer on the first big league pitch he ever saw. Ditto on Tuesday night at Nationals Park, when he launched the first pitch he saw as an All Star out over the wall in left field.

“When I hit the ball and thought it was gone, I went back to 2016, playing in Chicago. It was the same thing, first pitch for a homer,” Contreras, all smiles, said following the American League’s 8-6 victory. “I’m really blessed with these kinds of situations. Those moments, they’re going to be history and they’re going to be in my mind and my heart.”

Contreras’ long ball was the highlight of the evening for fans watching back home in Chicago. Javy Baez got a hit in his first All-Star at-bat but was outdone by his teammate. White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu was hitless in his two trips to the plate.

And while it will be a highlight on this night for Cubs fans, it will be a highlight forever for Contreras, who enjoyed the heck out of his first All-Star experience.

“‘I did it, I did it,’” he said when asked what was going through his head. “I knew it was something special. And I wasn’t trying to do too much because these guys are nasty, throwing 98 in the first inning. I just tried to get the hit out.”

The nasty guy he went deep against was Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Blake Snell, whose 2.27 ERA on the season made him a very worthy inclusion on the AL roster. But Contreras was more impressed with the guy who started the game for the National League, raving about Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer after the game.

“He was great, man. Great stuff, he gets so into the game,” Contreras said. “I would like to have him one day on my team or play with him for a few years. That guy is amazing.”

That’s not the current Nationals star Cubs fans are dreaming about, Willy, but point taken.

But it wasn’t Snell or Scherzer or even Baez or Jon Lester, also in the NL dugout, who Contreras was thinking about the most during his home run trot. Instead, Contreras was thinking about his grandfather, Ernesto, who passed away a few years ago.

“My grandpa, he died in 2015,” Contreras said. “I grew up with him.

“He didn’t play ball. But I feel like every time I go out there and step into the box, he’s at my back. It just feels amazing when you hit a homer or do something special, look at the sky and you know that he’s there smiling somewhere.”

It all made for a pretty incredible night for Contreras, who has officially and loudly taken his place among baseball’s best on the game’s biggest stage.

The only thing that was missing? The ball.

Yeah, Contreras didn’t get the ball, not that he really expected to. But if you’ve got it, he wants it.

“I don’t think they’re giving it back,” he said with a grin.

We’ll see. Social media’s a powerful tool. So reach out.

Manny Machado as a Dodger creates a formidable foe out west for the Cubs

Manny Machado as a Dodger creates a formidable foe out west for the Cubs

Well, it's finally happening, or at least it's going to happen. The Athletics' Ken Rosenthal reported during the MLB All-Star game that the Baltimore Orioles had agreed to officially move their franchise player Manny Machado. Neither team has confirmed anything at this time, but the deal has reportedly been as close to a done deal for the last day or so, and it would seem Machado is destined for finish his 2018 campaign in Hollywood. 

Of course, with this addition, the reigning National League champions look primed for another deep postseason run. Though, the club is clinging to a half-game lead in the NL West, with Machado in tow the Dodgers are right with the Cubs and Brewers as the elite squads in the National League. It could be argued the Dodgers didn't necessarily 'need' Machado, with an offense that was already in the top 10 in runs scored, but Machado might be the perfect addition for the Dodgers. 

After losing their young star shortstop Corey Seager for the season with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery, the Dodgers were in need of a more permanent solution at shortstop. And despite Machado's defensive metrics showing a steep decline in his glove at shortstop, the Dodgers will welcome his robust slash line of .315/.387/.575 while ignoring any shortcomings on defense. 

But what this means for the Cubs, who are only two games off the 2016 World Series club pace, is the path to another championship will likely require another run-in with the Dodgers. The club's biggest threat has been at this point the Brewers, but it's not hard to envision the Dodgers distancing themselves as the clear favorites in the National League with Machado in the heart of the order.

The good news for the Chicago is at least Machado didn't end up in Milwaukee, but that also could mean the Brewers make a more concerted effort to acquire pitching before the July 30th deadline. The Cubs will also see the return of Yu Darvish, who despite only managing to win one game this season in a Cubs uniform, will be a massive upgrade over the scuffling Tyler Chatwood. If the Cubs pitching can start producing like many expected them to before the start of 2018, and guys like Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant start to hit alongside All-Stars Javier Baez and Willson Contreras, it's not hard to imagine the Cubs separating themselves from the pack in the 2nd half of season. 

The Dodgers are no strangers to blockbuster deadline deals, acquiring Yu Darvish in a similar three-month rental situation, but the Cubs getting a bat like Rizzo right and an arm like Darvish healthy would be better than any deal Theo Epstein could make to improve this team. And if it's not enough, the Cubs have a solid track record of grabbing former Dodger rentals in the off-season. The push for the playoffs starts Thursday for the north-siders.