The Cubs could drop to No. 3 in the NL Central Division standings this weekend.
With a 2-1 loss at Cincinnati on Friday, they took one step closer to making that possibility a reality.
“From now until the trade deadline,” Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said on a Zoom media conference after the game, “you guys are going to ask questions every single day, rightfully so, because there are going to be rumors flying and stories written. But I think it's on all of us in the clubhouse to just stay connected, stay together, take it day by day, every cliché in baseball, for these next 30 days.”
The Cubs’ dramatic skid over the past week makes trade rumors only natural.
After the first game of the Cubs’ current 10-game road trip, they were tied for No. 1 in the division and celebrating a combined no-hitter against the Dodgers. Then, they lost seven games in a row. The losing streak included a three-game sweep at Milwaukee, giving the Brewers a comfortable lead in the division.
Friday’s loss dropped the Cubs (42-40) to 7 ½ games back of the Brewers (50-33) and just ½ game ahead of the Reds (41-40). If the Cubs lose Saturday, in Game 2 of the three-game series at Cincinnati, they’ll swap places with the Reds.
“We're obviously not playing great baseball right now,” Cubs right-hander Alec Mills said, echoing outfielder Joc Pederson’s comments earlier in the week. “But, obviously, we know it's in us. We had a really good month before that.”
The problem is, they had a bad April before that good May. And now, there’s less than a month before the trade deadline.
There’s no use in being “buyers” at the deadline – adding pieces to improve playoff chances – if the Cubs don’t look like they could compete for the division title. As of now, the National League Wild Card spots seem most likely to go to a stacked NL West.
A game past their season’s halfway point, the Cubs are six games out of the Wild Card, too.
“Just got to continue to work,” Rizzo said, “and put your head down, and look up, and the next thing you know it's going to be September. And hopefully we're right there in the fight.”
The team just needs to stay intact through the trade deadline first.