The Brewers look like they're ready to go all-in this trade deadline

The Brewers look like they're ready to go all-in this trade deadline

The Cubs woke up Wednesday morning 1.5 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Central.

Sure, there's plenty of reason to be optimistic that the Cubs can overtake the Brew Crew in the division for the second straight summer, but it's not a guarantee Milwaukee fades in the second half again.

Especially if they go all-in before the July trade deadline.

A rumor from Jim Bowden popped up Wednsday morning indicating the Brewers could give up a huge group of guys to Baltimore for Manny Machado:

That is a RIDICULOUS package if true. Burnes is Milwaukee's top pitching prospect (No. 2 prospect overall, according to, Broxton is a 28-year-old outfielder with extensive MLB experience and a 20-20 season under his belt (2017) before getting caught up in the numbers game in the outfield and Arcia is a stellar defensive shortstop who won't turn 24 until next month and was the organization's top prospect a couple years ago.

All for less than half a season of Machado? 

Adding Machado to a lineup that already features Lorenzo Cain, Christian Yelich, Travis Shaw, Jesus Aguilar and Ryan Braun is enticing from the Brewers' end, sure, but is all that really worth it?

Cubs fans balked at trying to give up Addison Russell in any deal for Machado. Arcia may not be as established as Russell, but he's younger, under team control for longer (won't become a free agent until after the 2022 season) and just put up a .731 OPS with 15 homers and 14 steals last season. He's taken a step back offensively this year, but it seems unwise to give up on a guy with only 274 big-league games under his belt.

Still, that's exactly the kind of package Cubs fans would hope the Brewers would give up — hurting the long-term hopes of the franchise while trying to go all-in for this season.

But Jon Heyman threw some cold water on that rumored three-player package Wednesday afternoon:

Still, the existence of the rumor is just another nod to the Brewers going all-in.

In a matter of hours over the winter, they signed Cain to a 5-year, $80 million deal and traded for Yelich, greatly improving the top of the lineup, the outfield defense and the clubhouse in the process.

And if the Brewers can't get Machado, there are plenty of other candidates out there who could be nice additions to Milwaukee's playoff run:

Both Escobar and Dozier are set to become free agents in November and the Twins certainly don't look like they're going to make a run at the AL Wild Card anytime soon. 

Escobar leads the league with 35 doubles and is posting a career-high .853 OPS as a switch-hitter who can play all over the infield. Dozier is in the midst of the worst season of his career, but started slow last year, too, before going on a blistering pace after the All-Star Break (.304 AVG, .985 OPS, 21 HR, 52 RBI, 67 R in 71 G).

Both players should be available at a much, much cheaper price than Machado and would still help boost Milwaukee's squad.

Keep in mind this latest round of Brewers trade rumors are all about position players and doesn't even address the team's biggest weakness: Starting pitching.

The Brewers have the clout in the farm system to acquire a guy like Jacob deGrom or Noah Syndergaard if the Mets put either of their aces on the block. 

No matter what way you look at it, the Brewers aren't going to back down anytime soon as the Cubs continue to try to find their stride in 2018.

Double the fun: Cole Hamels, Cubs defense make history

Double the fun: Cole Hamels, Cubs defense make history

Cole Hamels' dominant start to his Cubs career continued on Friday in stellar fashion, and with some considerable help from his infield.

The 34-year-old veteran not only pitched seven innings of five-hit ball without allowing a run, but induced five ground ball double plays. The Cubs finished with a staggering seven double plays in a 1-0 win at the Pirates on Friday.

The last time the Cubs turned five double plays was in 1985. 

All five hits Hamels gave up were groundball singles. The 16 groundballs induced is the most for a Cubs pitcher this year.

After Hamels exited after seven innings, the Cubs got double plays in the eighth, on a line drive double play with Jorge De La Rosa on the mound, and ninth, on a groundball induced by Jesse Chavez to end the game.

Hamels was initially brought in to provide depth to a struggling rotation and ease the pain of Yu Darvish being unavailable. But Hamels has now started an honest debate over who should be the Cubs' starter in Game 1 of the postseason. He has been otherworldly since joining the Cubs, with an 0.72 ERA, three wins and one no-decision (the Cubs won and he had nine strikeouts). 

The 1-0 win over the Pirates gives the Cubs more breathing room in the NL Central. The St. Louis Cardinals beat the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday, pushing the Cubs lead to 4.5 games in the division.

And the Hamels hot-streak comes at an excellent time for the North Siders, who took in Jon Lester's gem of an outing on Thursday, where he went six innings with no earned runs and eight strikeouts in a win against the Pirates. The Cubs starting pitching seems to be turning the corner, and with three straight series against sub-.500 teams following their series in Pittsburgh, this could be the beginning of a great run of outings that carries the Cubs confidently into the postseason.

A stellar Jon Lester outing gives the Cubs more than just a win

A stellar Jon Lester outing gives the Cubs more than just a win

It's been a tale of two halves for the Cubs veteran Jon Lester, who after a sparkling first half of baseball that saw him win 12 games with a 2.58 ERA, has looked nothing like a 2018 All-Star. Prior to Thursday's start, Lester had posted a 10.32 ERA, allowed 4 or more runs in 4 of his 5 most recent starts, and had yet to win a game in the second of the season. 

The 34-year-old veteran flipped the script Thursday night, throwing 6-shutout innings while striking out 8 Pirate batters in the Cubs 1-0 win in Pittsburgh. Lester surrendered only 5 hits and baffled the Pirates all-night, finally busting out of his slump and giving the Cubs his 2nd quality start since the All-Star break. 

Lester attacked the bottom portion of the strike zone all night with his fastball, which topped out at 93 mph, generating 4 whiffs with his heater. Over the last month, Lester has said he's felt he can't quite execute his "out" pitches, explaining that when he has a hitter set up for a strikeout he hasn't been able to throw the ball effectively in those moments. 

And while Lester walked off the mound after the 6th inning amassing 8 punch outs, the veteran starter never looked like he was trying to strike out batters. He just continued to dot the corners, occasionally raise the eye-level of the batter with an elevated heater, and threw his secondary pitches just enough to keep the Pittsburgh batters uncomfortable at the plate. 

The Cubs offense once again struggled, facing Ivan Nova who has won four his last five starts against the Cubs, but Ian Happ's solo shot in the 4th inning was enough run support for Lester to push the Cubs to 20 games over .500. But the biggest takeaway from Thursday night's win isn't that the Cubs came out on top, it's that Jon Lester returning to form gives this Chicago rotation something they've lacked seemingly this entire season. 

Stability at the front of the rotation. 

With Cole Hamels impressive three starts in a Cub uniform and Kyle Hendricks finally figuring out his issues on the mound, if Jon Lester can replicate Thursday's performance throughout the rest of the season, the Cubs rotation may finally turn into the strength many thought it could be before the season started. At the very least, Lester showed that whatever he's been working through over the last month of baseball is fixable. 

It's only one start in a string of poor outings for Lester, and while The Athletic's Sahadev Sharma did find some positives in his starts prior to Thursday's big win, Lester will have to show he can maintain this level of pitching through the remainder of this season. But I think our own Tony Andracki put it best tonight on Twitter. 

With the Cubs pitchers finally starting to perform to their expected level, and the return of Yu Darvish looking closer each day, it could be the Cubs starting pitching that carries through the rest of the season.