With one of the most significant trade deadlines in franchise history behind them, the Cubs now begin to focus on the final two months of 2021 that is all about determining what comes next for 2022 and beyond.
That includes the focus of their manager.
“There was a moment there [Friday] where I switched gears to, ‘OK, let's see what we've got. Let's see who can impact us,’” David Ross said.
“’Let’s see who's going to make their reputation and start to impact this uniform, this organization in a positive way, to get back to where we want to be and play championship-caliber baseball.”
The Cubs traded nine players between the All-Star break and Friday’s deadline. Gone are Javy Báez, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, and high-leverage relievers Ryan Tepera, Andrew Chafin and Craig Kimbrel, among others.
By the end of their first game after the deadline, two pitchers made their big-league debuts. Another young pitcher, Codi Heuer — acquired for Kimbrel — joined the bullpen Saturday.
The flurry of moves has created opportunities for players to prove themselves.
“There may be moments where there may be a pinch hitter or a guy that probably could come in to save a reliever,” Ross said, “but you may want a guy to work through some trouble, work out of some trouble. There will be moments of that.
“We're still going to try to win the baseball game. Guys will have a little more leash and we'll probably err on the side of less pinch hitting in certain moments and try to find those pockets of when we pull that trigger.”
Ross called on relievers Michael Rucker and Manny Rodríguez in a close game Friday for their debuts. Rucker pitched two innings, allowing a run and two hits.
After the Cubs cut the deficit to one in the eighth, Rodríguez came on and tossed a scoreless frame with two strikeouts.
"It’s exciting to see young guys come up and have success," Ross said.
Heuer, who came over from the White Sox in the Kimbrel trade, has struggled this season but had a strong 2020 debut.
“I think it’s a real arm that can get real outs for us,” Ross said of Heuer. “This is a big-time arm, somebody that has had some success in the big leagues that we feel can be sustainable.”
The next two months will offer plenty of growing moments for the Cubs as they position themselves for 2022.
“Grabbing those moments and making sure they're really moments to learn from and teach as a group,” Ross said. “That's my goal is to continue to grow and get better.
"I'm hoping we're a better team at the end of the year than the group that we are today.”
Contributing from Washington, D.C.: Gordon Wittenmyer