Why Cubs swung and missed on a starting pitcher at trade deadline

Why Cubs swung and missed on a starting pitcher at trade deadline

To get the kind of young starter the Cubs covet, the San Francisco Giants gave up the third baseman who finished second to Kris Bryant in last season’s National League Rookie of the Year race (Matt Duffy), a $6 million international prospect (Lucius Fox) and a pitching project (Class-A right-hander Michael Santos). 

The Tampa Bay Rays had so much leverage leading up to Monday afternoon’s non-waiver trade deadline and sold high on Matt Moore, a 27-year-old lefty who has never come close to throwing 200 innings in a single season, underwent Tommy John surgery in 2014 and put up a 5.43 ERA in 12 starts last year.

Still, Moore would have looked pretty good in a Cubs uniform on Opening Day 2018, when Jake Arrieta could be enjoying his free-agent payday, John Lackey might have retired to Austin, Texas, and Jon Lester will be 34 years old and have more than 2,000 innings on his pitching odometer.

“That was a really significant area that we tried to focus on over the whole deadline period,” general manager Jed Hoyer said before Kyle Hendricks painted a complete-game masterpiece during a 5-0 win over the Miami Marlins at Wrigley Field. “We know that controllable starting pitching is something that is really important to us now – and important to us going forward.

“There’s no question, the prices were exceptionally high on those guys.”

Here’s why the Cubs swung and missed and will have to keep thinking big:

• Ex-Cubs Rich Hill and Andrew Cashner might be the best options for teams looking to throw money at their rotation after this season. The late-blooming Hill – who got packaged with outfielder Josh Reddick on Monday and shipped from the Oakland A’s to the Los Angeles Dodgers – will be 37 years old next season. Cashner has never quite lived up to all that potential and will try to rebrand himself with the Marlins after being a headliner in last week’s trade with the San Diego Padres.

“That was a huge impact on this trade deadline,” Hoyer said. “You didn’t see a lot of starting pitching get moved at this deadline, (in part because) people that had starting pitching to sell know they can also sell that starting pitching this winter, (when) it’s a really weak free-agent market.” 

• Forget about Chris Sale or Jose Quintana and the White Sox stomaching the idea of one of their pitchers wearing a Cubs uniform and performing in front of 40,000 fans in Wrigleyville. Hoyer talked about the degree of difficulty when the Cubs “had two active sellers in our division (and) one active seller in our city.”

“There’s probably a tax you have to pay,” Hoyer said, summing up The Chicago Way. “There’s going to be a lot more focus or scrutiny on a deal that’s made between those two teams. 

“At some level, I think both teams are aware of that. I know that when we were sellers, we had some awareness. And I’m sure that on the other side of town, there’s some awareness of that as well. 

“I wouldn’t say: ‘Never.’ There might be a deal that just makes sense someday. But it’s certainly not a team we look at as a likely trade partner.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

• The Cubs have such a strong belief in pitching coach Chris Bosio and the staff’s scouting edges and game-planning infrastructure that they won’t overreact to the shortage of legitimate pitching prospects in their organization or easily rationalize the sticker shock.

“It’s an ongoing search,” Hoyer said. “Finding those controllable, young starting pitchers is an easier thing to do when you’re a seller. That’s how we acquired a guy like Jake Arrieta. That’s how we acquired Kyle Hendricks. When you’re a seller, it’s easier to acquire those kind of young arms. But it’s a focus of ours – and something that we’re going to really try to do over the next 18-24 months.”

• The Cubs didn’t want to deal someone like Duffy off their major-league roster, or overpay for a left-handed hitting outfielder, holding onto their trade chips for the winter meetings. Maybe Jorge Soler will be healthy by then and coming off another good playoff performance and the Cubs can try to bundle some combination of Jeimer Candelario (22-year-old, Triple-A switch-hitter blocked by All-Star corner infielders), Ian Happ (last year’s first-round pick) and Victor Caratini (an advanced defensive Double-A catcher). 

“How you deploy your assets is always something that you’re thinking about,” Hoyer said. “You have a finite amount of money. You have a finite amount of prospects. (So) you have to think about how much you can afford to sort of trade

Cubs fight back after Javy Baez ejection: 'We're not animals'

Cubs fight back after Javy Baez ejection: 'We're not animals'

If baseball wants stars that transcend the game, they need guys like Javy Baez on the field MORE, not less.

That whole debate and baseball's marketing campaign isn't the issue the Cubs took exception with, but it's still a fair point on a nationally-televised Saturday night game between the Cubs and Cardinals at Wrigley Field.

Baez was ejected from the game in the bottom of the fifth inning when he threw his bat and helmet in frustration at home plate umpire Will Little's call that the Cubs second baseman did NOT check his swing and, in fact, went around. 

Baez was initially upset that Little made the call himself instead of deferring to first base umpire Ted Barrett for a better view. But as things escalated, Baez threw his bat and helmet and was promptly thrown out of the game by Little.

"I don't think I said anything to disrespect anything or anyone," Baez said after the Cubs' 6-3 loss. "It was a pretty close call. I only asked for him to check the umpire at first and he didn't say anything.

"I threw my helmet and he just threw me out from there. I mean, no reason. I guess for my helmet, but that doesn't have anything to do with him."

Baez and the Cubs would've rather Little check with the umpire who had a better view down the line, but that wasn't even the main point of contention. It was how quickly Little escalated to ejection.

"We're all human," Baez said. "One way or the other, it was gonna be the wrong [call] for one of the teams.

"My message? We're not animals. Sometimes we ask where was a pitch or if it was a strike and it's not always offending them. I think we can talk things out. But I don't think there was anything there to be ejected."

Upon seeing his second baseman and cleanup hitter ejected in the middle of a 1-0 game against a division rival, Joe Maddon immediately got fired up and in Little's face in a hurry.

Maddon was later ejected, as well, and admitted after the game he was never going to leave the field unless he was tossed for protecting his guy.

"He had no reason to kick him out," Maddon said. "He didn't say anything to him. I mean, I watched the video. If you throw stuff, that's a fine. That's fineable. Fine him. That's what I said — fine him — but you cannot kick him out right there.

"He did nothing to be kicked out of that game. He did throw his stuff, whatever, but he did not say anything derogatory towards the umpire.

"...You don't kick Javy out. If he gets in your face and is obnoxious or belligerent or whatever, but he did not. He turned his back to him. That needs to be addressed, on both ends."

Maddon and the Cubs really want Major League Baseball to get involved in this situation. 

There are many other layers to the issue, including veteran Ben Zobrist having to come into the game as Baez's replacement. Maddon was not keen on using the 37-year-old Zobrist for 1.5 games during Saturday's doubleheader and now feels like he has to rest the veteran Sunday to lessen the wear and tear of a difficult stretch for the team.

There's also the matter of the groundball basehit in the eighth inning that tied the game — a seeing-eye single that just got past Zobrist as he dove to his left. It tied the game at 3 and the Cardinals took the lead for good the following inning.

Does Baez make that same play if he were out there instead of Zobrist? It's certainly possible.

"The dynamic of our defense was lessened by [the ejection]," Maddon said. "Again, listen, if it's deserved, I'm good. It was not. They don't need me out there, we need Javy out there.

"And it surprised me. I stand by what I'm saying. It was inappropriate. MLB needs to say something to us that it was inappropriate because it was and it could've led to the loss of that game."

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 37th homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 37th homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa's 37th homer of the 1998 season was a big one, an opposite field blast off the front row of fans in right field and into the basket at Wrigley Field.

The eighth-inning 3-run shot gave the Cubs some insurance in a game they ultimately won 9-5 and the Wrigley faithful responded by throwing a bunch of trash on the field.

Earlier in the contest, Sosa tied the game with an RBI single in the fifth inning. He finished with 4 RBI, giving him 93 on the season with more than 2 months left to play.

Fun fact: Vladimir Guerrero was the Expos' No. 3 hitter for this game an dhe also hit a homer (his 20th). Now, Guerrero's son is nearing his MLB debut as a top prospect in the Toronto Blue Jays system.

Fun fact No. 2: Mark Grudzielanek - who later played for the Cubs in 2003-04 - was Montreal's No. 5 hitter for the game at Wrigley. He was traded 10 days later from the Expos to the Los Angeles Dodgers for another fellow Cub - Ted Lilly.