Cubs manager David Ross got word early Monday to stay away from his top setup man Andrew Chafin.
And just like that, the Cubs’ deadline-week fire sale had begun — come-from-behind, walk-off win over the Reds and all — with Chafin beating the rest of the trade-chip pitchers out the door when he was traded to the Oakland A’s for an outfield prospect and a pitching prospect Monday.
Ross stopped Chafin on his way off the field, but Chafin already had gotten the word.
“He told me, ‘One bad outing and I get traded?’ He made me laugh pretty good at that one,” Ross said of the left-hander who became a fan-favorite almost as quickly as he became a clubhouse favorite from the time the Cubs acquired him in a trade from Arizona last summer.
Chafin’s season ERA jumped to 2.06 after that rough outing Saturday, when he had his MLB-leading streak of 24 1/3 scoreless innings snapped by his former Diamondbacks team.
“This guy’s a culture changer,” Ross said of the eclectic boat, car and farm enthusiast with the league-leading mustache. “This guy’s been a leader in the bullpen. The way he takes the ball, right or left, it doesn’t matter what situation I bring him in. It’s the same stuff. It’s the same heartbeat.
“Oakland’s getting a really nice pitcher and a really nice human being. We’re going to miss him.”
If the Cubs (and fans on Twitter) are reacting with this level of wistfulness over a pitcher who has been with the team for less than a year, what happens when former MVP Kris Bryant or another star from the championship core is traded before Friday’s trade deadline?
“If it were to happen, it’s definitely going to be somewhat of a shock, and it’s going to take a little time to adjust to someone being gone, whoever it may be,” said Kyle Hendricks, the Cubs’ starter Monday — and in Game 7 five years ago.
“There’s guys who have been here for a long time and have had a huge impact on this organization. So we have to wait and see.”
Chafin, who was considered a darkhorse All-Star candidate a few weeks ago, was not available to media after Monday’s game — which was won 6-5 on Javy Báez’s bases-loaded, first-pitch, pinch single in the ninth off nemesis Amir Garrett after the Cubs navigated the final innings without Chafin.
One of the prospects the Cubs got in the trade is Triple-A outfielder Greg Deichmann, 26, a former second-round draft pick hitting .300 with an .881 OPS in 59 games for Las Vegas this season.
They also got Class A right-hander Daniel Palencia, 21, who was 0-2 with a 6.91 ERA in six starts for low-A Stockton.
And so it begins. The trade deadline week that promises to redefine the direction of a franchise, if not close the door on an era.
“We’ve all had it in the back of our heads, obviously,” Hendricks said. “But we’re still not trying to look at all that. … It’s still day to day, trying to win ballgames. But when stuff like this happens, it’s the nature of baseball, and you’re going to miss a lot of guys.”