The Cubs plugged one hole with a trade Sunday only to spring another with just a day left to make trades before Monday’s lone deadline in a short season.
“I don’t have any expectations now,” manager David Ross said when asked after Tyler Chatwood’s elbow injury Sunday what his roster might look like after the 3 p.m. deadline.
“But it is a nice boost, especially to get an offensive piece you feel could really impact our lineup and make it even deeper than it already is when everybody’s healthy,” he added of the early Sunday acquisition of former Cardinals outfielder Jose Martínez from the Rays for a combination of cash considerations and player(s) to be named later. “It’s always a little shot in the arm when you feel like you get a good player at the trade deadline.”
Whether they’re able to add another shot in the arm for the pitching staff could have a big say in whether the National League Central leaders have a better shot to win a series or two in October.
The Cubs front office has pursued left-handed bullpen help (or righties with good track records against lefties) — a search that gained significance after Chatwood left the mound Sunday with a elbow pain, likely forcing left-hander Jose Quintana into the rotation indefinitely.
“I’ve got a lot of confidence in Q in whatever role we put him in,” Ross said before the game. “But definitely I think the left-handed spot down in the pen is somewhere we could upgrade. On top of Kyle [Ryan] down there maybe having another left-handed arm seems like it might be important down the road.”
Meanwhile, the Cubs signed right-hander AJ Ramos, a former All-Star closer for the Marlins who hasn’t pitched since 2018 while recovering and rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.
Ramos was released by the Dodgers Friday after pitching at their alternate site, and Ross said he’ll report to the Cubs’ alternate site in South Bend with an eye toward helping at some point over the final month.
“I talked to some Dodgers guys, and they liked what they saw,” Ross said. “The changeup is as good as it gets. It’s kind of like a left-handed curveball; it’s got good, true depth. He’s a guy that’s been in the back of the pen, so the moment’s not going to be too big for him.
“We’ll see what happens.”
If the Martínez trade becomes the Cubs’ top acquisition at the deadline, it almost certainly will be for Martínez's ability during his career to hit left-handed pitching well — something the Cubs are close to the worst in baseball at doing this season.
“It’s awesome to add depth,” right-fielder Jason Heyward said. “This is a strange season. It’s tough to stay healthy; it’s just the nature of the beast right now. It’s huge to add a right-handed bat, and it’s huge to add a bat that’s been a part of our division and has some experience there.
“I also feel his approach is a tough one to pitch to. Regardless of the result, I feel like he puts up a good at-bat. He’s comfortable going to the middle of the field, to right-center, has some pop there.”
Ross said he hasn’t decided on a role for Martínez, whose playing time has declined in recent weeks, when he was used primarily as a designated hitter.
He gives the Cubs more flexibility against lefties, especially with Kris Bryant (wrist, finger) due back from the injured list after getting some simulated-game at-bats in South Bend this week, as well as Steven Souza Jr. (hamstring) perhaps not too far behind.
“He’s hit his entire career, and we do have a DH spot that makes some sense,” Ross said of Martínez. “He has hit lefties, and I think that’ll be a big help for us. But I like his numbers against righties as well.
“He’s a guy that you just remember, especially when he was in St. Louis the last couple of years, you see him come to the plate and you feel like he’s going to have a good at-bat, that he’s going to make things happen. He always seems like a tough out.”
How tough an out the Cubs are in October is more likely to come down to their pitching. Which could make Monday the most interesting day on the short season calendar.