Cubs star Kris Bryant singled in the first inning Saturday and then drew his fourth walk in seven plate appearances since returning from that “hamstring fatigue” thing. And then he tripled, stretching that right hamstring so effortlessly rounding second that he was able to stride into third standing up.
It was exactly the kind of ham-eye coordination the scouts from the Yankees, Mets and other teams at Wrigley Field needed to see during this showcase-showdown series between Cubs and Diamondbacks to keep Bryant at or near the top of this week’s trade market for hitters.
On the other hand, Cubs setup man extraordinaire Andrew Chafin picked a tough time from the Cubs’ perspective to have his worst outing of the season — allowing a run for the first time since May 7 (after 26 consecutive scoreless appearances).
But then on the third hand, the Cubs’ other setup man extraordinaire, Ryan Tepera, stranded the Chafin run he inherited by getting a grounder and two strikeouts against the top of the Arizona order.
On other Cubs’ trade-candidate news, closer Craig Kimbrel wasn’t needed in the 7-3 loss, Javy Báez was hitless, Anthony Rizzo got a hit for the second game in a row, and reliever Dan Winkler kept his deadline sleeper status alive with a 1-2-3 sixth inning.
Ninety-nine games down and five to go before the trade deadline that might define the franchise for years.
“We’re not concerned about that, and we can’t control those things,” said manager David Ross, who has managed through a pandemic shutdown, managed a division title and now a seller’s July — all before his 162nd game as a big-league manager, which comes Sunday.
Just how surreal his historically bizarre start to a managing career becomes will have as much to do with the scouts scribbling about Chafin’s command and Bryant’s health as anything that happens in September or October this year.
Will Bryant — the former MVP and Cubs’ best homegrown player since Greg Maddux — make it through the weekend, or Thursday night’s charter flight to Washington? And what about core All-Stars Báez and Rizzo — who could otherwise be in line for extensions before the end of the season (or maybe even after they hit free agency in October)?
Ross’ message to the fans, who are going through some of the same roller-coaster emotions that Rizzo has described and that several Cubs, including the manager, seem to be enduring this week: “I would say come to the field and enjoy an amazing atmosphere and the guys that have been part of a lot of winning around here.”
For as long as it lasts. Until whatever comes next.
The Mets and Yankees in particular have almost every available Cub with value and a New York roster fit on their radar, if not in their crosshairs, according to sources.
That includes, notably, Kimbrel and Bryant in both cases. Zach Davies and even Báez could be fits for an aggressive Mets team — depending on just how aggressive they want to get on moves that could go down to the final hours. Rizzo is on the radar, if not a priority, for a Yankees team that once caught lightning in a bottle by trading with the Cubs for Alfonso Soriano in 2013.
Meanwhile, Phillies baseball boss Dave Dombrowski told Philadelphia media his team will “be aggressive” this week and is “kind of open to anything” — which would make Kimbrel, nearly the entire Cubs bullpen and Bryant of particular interest and value to the Phils.
And might even pit the top two teams in the NL East in rival stances for some of the Cubs’ top trade pieces.
Both teams in wild-card position in the west, the Dodgers and Padres, have bullpen needs — especially the Dodgers. And Bryant might be the ideal, best fit for the best-in-baseball Giants — whose general manager, Scott Harris, was a young, rising exec in the Cubs’ front office when Bryant was drafted in 2013.
And that doesn’t even count the Blue Jays, A’s or anyone else in the American League looking to pick what’s left on the bones of a team that spend five of the past six Octobers in the postseason.
“I think there’s a lot of wait-and-see,” Ross said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen at the trade deadline; neither do [media], neither do the fans.
“So I would [tell fans] come out and support the team that they’ve loved probably most of their lives.”