Cubs

Theo, Cubs staying realistic with trade deadline bearing down

theo-epstein-cubs-7-03-15.png

Theo, Cubs staying realistic with trade deadline bearing down

Theo Epstein's front office is still determining how to proceed during the 2015 MLB trade deadline.

Heading into the July 4 weekend, the Cubs stood at 42-35 with a 1.5-game lead on the National League's second wild card spot. 

That puts the chances of the Cubs making the playoffs at 68.7 percent, according to FanGraphs.

The Cubs are a young team with three rookies in the everyday lineup once Jorge Soler returns and questions at the back end of the rotation. It's not a guarantee Epstein and Co. are going to go all-in to try to get a major piece down the stretch.

"You have to assess realistically what your chances are and be honest," Epstein said.

[MORE: Cubs: The power dynamic between Joe Maddon and Theo Epstein]

The Cubs returned to Wrigley Field on Friday for a 10-game homestand heading into the All-Star break on the heels of an impressive three-game sweep of the Mets in New York in which the pitching staff gave up just one run in 29 innings. 

But Epstein cautioned that even though things looked rosy Friday morning, it's best to avoid "snapshots" of how a team is doing during a small sample of games.

The Cubs are 2-7 against the St. Louis Cardinals, who entered play Friday leading the majors with 51 victories despite a three-game losing streak.

There may be a sense around the Cubs as a team on the rise once the young players figure things out more and some key guys return from injury, but they still won't hit the halfway mark on the season until next week.

"You don't win any blue ribbons or gold stars for half a decent season," Epstein said. "We're just trying to get better, trying to see what we need to do to make sure that we're still relevant three, four months from now. That's what matters.

"It doesn't matter too much where we're at right now. It's part of the process, part of the grind and our guys are doing a great job of working hard and staying focused."

[RELATED: ESPN poll: Cubs' Joe Maddon voted best players manager]

With the addition of the second wild card in each league and the fact that one of those wild card teams will be going home after just one postseason game, Epstein explained that the current system does change the way teams think heading into the trade deadline.

"It maybe increases the number of buyers, but it also adds — for teams that are more in wild card contention than division contention — an element of caution, too," Epstein said. "There is a natural inclination not to go too hog-wild on the short-term rental because you may be only looking at one [playoff] game.

"So you don't let that dominate your thoughts, but it's in the back of your mind, I think, for most clubs that are clear wild-card contenders and not division contenders. I'm not saying we're in that boat, just speaking generally."

Epstein also mentioned how the second wild card keeps more teams in contention longer, increasing demand while decreasing the number of teams looking to sell with months still left in the season.

This is the first time in Chicago Epstein's front office will be looking to buy at the deadline instead of sell, but the Cubs president of baseball operations built two World Series winners with the Red Sox in Boston and understands the trade market in July isn't always what it seems. 

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Get a new Cubs hat right here]

"You have to be creative, you have to be patient, you have to be understanding and you have to recognize that the trade deadline is not a panacea," Epstein said. "It just gets a ton of attention for natural reasons, but if you go back and look, rarely is it a defining factor.

"Maybe the trades in Boston in 2004 really helped. But more times than not, when we've made deals, it's just kind of hit-and-miss. The guys you get, sometimes they don't perform and then other players you've had all year step up and you play well.

"If you look at the history, teams that go to the World Series, it's very rarely a deadline deal. It's just an opportunity to address things, maybe for this year, areas of need or maybe do something to set yourself up for next year if you've got something that might be hard to address in the offseason. 

"Yeah, we know what we'd like to do, but we're realistic about what we might be able to do."

Kyle Hendricks takes in a Blackhawks game with... Bastian Schweinsteiger?

hendricks-schwein-1018.jpg
NBC Sports Chicago

Kyle Hendricks takes in a Blackhawks game with... Bastian Schweinsteiger?

A Cubs pitcher taking in a Blackhawks game in a suite is nothing special, but doing so with a World Cup winner is... different.

Kyle Hendricks was spotted by the cameras of Thursday's Blackhawks-Coyotes broadcast on NBC Sports Chicago. The guy he was standing next to was none other than Chicago Fire midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, a World Cup with Germany and Champions League winner with Bayern Munich.

Hendricks is known for being reserved on the mound and in his interviews with the media. Meanwhile, Schweinsteiger was filmed yelling "Bear Down" in the hallway of Toyota Park after a Fire practice earlier in the day.

There's no telling what inspired Schweinsteiger to do this, but he has definitely embraced Chicago sports teams since joining the Fire in March of 2017.

Makes you wonder what Hendricks and Schweinsteiger were talking about. Best places to get brats in Chicago?

Ben Zobrist provides a hilarious glimpse into how he's spending a free October

Ben Zobrist provides a hilarious glimpse into how he's spending a free October

Ben Zobrist won't win the Comeback Player of the Year award this winter, but maybe he can take home a Grammy for Best New Artist?

The Cubs veteran infielder/outfielder posted a hilarious video on his Instagram Wednesday night showcasing how he's been spending October after the Cubs were unceremoniously ousted from the playoffs after on the third day of the month.

It's a fantastic music video of Zobrist lip-syncing to Mumford & Sons' "I Will Wait" while he nearly knocks the TV off the wall of his home by swinging the bat indoors pretending to hit off Clayton Kershaw and frolicking around a field that looks shockingly similar to Hershel's farm from the second season of "The Walking Dead":

View this post on Instagram

It always takes me a few weeks to process the season and begin the offseason. Here are my thoughts.....along with a unique way of making light of the postseason that should have been......... (special thanks to @dimtillard for help with Video) Maybe you feel the way I do. It was a very quick and abrupt ending to a good season for us. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth. But let’s not forget all the good that happened. This game and this team gives us something to pass the time, to express our love and passion, to feel the joy of the wins and the pains of the losses, and it calls us to unity when we so easily can be divided about so many other things. Each game is a microcosm of life. The game itself is not Life, but it helps us deal with life in a way. I’m thankful for even the painful losses at the end. The game can be a great teacher. I felt privileged to play with this team and play for our fans all year. We were stretched and we grew in new ways as individuals and as a group and that is always a good thing. We strive to win championships, but more often the process is the goal. We will be stronger because of all that we went through this year. What will I do now? I will travel and watch my wife crush her book tour. I will be in and out of Chi-town. I just got back home to Franklin, TN. I will find joy in raising and watching my kids grow and continue becoming their own person. I will rest and begin preparing for next season. I will work hard in mind, body, and spirit. I will help other players with @patriotforward and @showandgo. I will focus on personal growth and charitable endeavors and become a better man, teammate, friend, and player. To Baseball and Fans: For the next 5 months until I play next year.... I will wait for you....

A post shared by Ben Zobrist (@benzobrist18) on

Zobrist also posted a lengthy caption on his perspective on the Cubs' disappointing end to the season:

It always takes me a few weeks to process the season and begin the offseason. Here are my thoughts.....along with a unique way of making light of the postseason that should have been......... (special thanks to @dimtillard for help with Video) 
Maybe you feel the way I do. It was a very quick and abrupt ending to a good season for us. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth. But let’s not forget all the good that happened. This game and this team gives us something to pass the time, to express our love and passion, to feel the joy of the wins and the pains of the losses, and it calls us to unity when we so easily can be divided about so many other things. Each game is a microcosm of life. The game itself is not
Life, but it helps us deal with life in a way. I’m thankful for even the painful losses at the end. The game can be a great teacher. 
I felt privileged to play with this team and play for our fans all year. We were stretched and we grew in new ways as individuals and as a group and that is always a good thing. We strive to win championships, but more often the process is the goal. We will be stronger because of all that we went through this year. 
What will I do now? I will travel and watch my wife crush her book tour. I will be in and out of Chi-town. I just got back home to Franklin, TN. I will find joy in raising and watching my kids grow and continue becoming their own person. I will rest and begin preparing for next season. I will work hard in mind, body, and spirit. I will help other players with @patriotforward and @showandgo. I will focus on personal growth and charitable endeavors and become a better man, teammate, friend, and player. 
To Baseball and Fans: For the next 5 months until I play next year....
I will wait for you....

Come for the Zobrist lip sync, but stay for the 37-year-old using a bat as a guitar while wearing a sleeveless shirt and rocking an old-timey top hat.

A year ago, Zobrist completely reshaped his offseason workout plan after three straight years of playing deep into October. It appears he's added another new trick to his winter workout — hopping over fences even though there is a clear opening just a foot away.

Hey, whatever works...