Jason Heyward

A huge portion of Cubs fans surprisingly don't want Bryce Harper in Chicago

A huge portion of Cubs fans surprisingly don't want Bryce Harper in Chicago

Bryce Harper, Chicago Cub. It has a nice ring to it, but apparently not to most Cubs fans. An NBC Sports Chicago poll showed out of roughly 4,000 voters, 78% of people would prefer to see Harper sign with another team. 

The 2018 free agent is having a down year at the plate, only mustering a slashing line of .235/.379/.500 with 28 home runs, but he's also a 6-time All-Star and former MVP who turns 26 next season. Harper is entering his prime and despite the assumed asking price to be somewhere north of $200 million, every team in baseball would be crazy not to at least consider adding the former MVP. 

It would be difficult to fit Harper on the Cubs roster as it's currently constructed, players like Albert Almora, Ian Happ, Kyle Schwarber, and resurgent Jason Heyward all see regular playing time in the outfield. Adding Harper likely means at least one of those players is moved this off-season, which shouldn't keep the Cubs from being potential suitors for Harper's talents. 

David Kaplan wrote about the Cubs needing to sign Harper this off-season, point out the marketing advantages the Cubs would gain - imagine a Bryzzo commercial featuring Bryce Harper! 

Adding Harper to the Cubs is, as Kaplan put it, a no-brainer from multiple angles. And if Cubs fans are against it now, they won't be when Harper is introduced at the next Cubs Convention, or when he, childhood BFF Kris Bryant, and Anthony Rizzo hit back-to-back-to-back home runs. Of course, there will be multiple teams vying for Harper, but to think the Cubs wouldn't be a better ball club with Bryce Harper in tow is nonsense. 

Ranking Cubs players after the trade deadline

Ranking Cubs players after the trade deadline

Every month throughout the 2018 season, we'll rank our top Cubs players based off trends and overall impact to the team's pursuit of another World Series.

As a refresher, here's what the power rankings looked like after June:

10. Addison Russell
9. Brandon Morrow
8. Mike Montgomery
7. Jason Heyward
6. Kris Bryant
5. Willson Contreras
4. Albert Almora Jr.
3. Anthony Rizzo
2. Jon Lester
1. Javy Baez

Russell, Montgomery and Heyward all found themselves off the power rankings as they each endured their own levels of struggle over July. Morrow is booted from the list with a second stint on the disabled list that limited him to just 7.1 innings over the month.

In their place include a newcomer and a couple of guys from the old guard making their presence known:

10. Cole Hamels 
9. Kris Bryant
8. Ben Zobrist
7. Albert Almora Jr.
6. Ian Happ
5. Jon Lester
4. Kyle Hendricks
3. Willson Contreras
2. Anthony Rizzo
1. Javy Baez

10. Hamels didn't make an appearance in a Cubs uniform in July, but he represents some badly needed depth on the pitching staff and carries with him excellent postseason experience.

9. Bryant only played 10 games in July with a .787 OPS while experiencing a setback with his bothersome left shoulder. But still, he's the Cubs' best player. Kind of hard to knock him off the list entirely.

8. Zobrist, the Cubs' oldest player had a pair of 4-hit games in July and continues to have some of the most consistently productive at-bats on the team.

7. Almora had a tough month at the plate, but we see the kind of value he provides with his glove on a daily basis in center field.

6. With Bryant injured, Happ has suddenly become one of the Cubs' most important players, spending a lot of time at third base. He also had a great month, leading the Cubs in walks and posting an on-base percentage near .400.

5. Lester got lit up in his first start of the second half, but beyond that, he's still been humming along in July, giving the Cubs an opportunity to win every single time he takes the mound. They've lost just once in a game Lester has started since May 23. 

4. Much has been made of Hendricks' struggles this season, but he was far and away the Cubs' best starting pitcher in June. He tossed the most innings (35) while posting a 3.34 ERA and 1.20 WHIP with a sparkling 33:5 K:BB ratio. Not saying he's back yet, but...he may be back.

3. Contreras has quietly been a consistent offensive threat for the Cubs, posting an OPS near .900 for July with a batting average over .300 and on-base percentage over .400. But there's still room for growth with his power.

2. Rizzo went nearly a month in between home runs, but that doesn't mean he's been slumping at the plate. Even with a low power month, Rizzo still had an OPS hovering around .900 for July while providing stability atop the Cubs order for the first time since Dexter Fowler left town. 

1. What more is there to say about Javy this season? In addition to starting the All-Star Game and participating in the Home Run Derby in July, Baez also led the Cubs in just about every offensive category in July and only Rizzo had more plate appearances.

Anthony Rizzo could be the Cubs' long-term answer at leadoff

Anthony Rizzo could be the Cubs' long-term answer at leadoff

The Cubs have been searching for a consistent answer at the leadoff spot since Dexter Fowler left town after the 2016 World Series.

Anthony Rizzo may be the surprising and unconventional answer for the 2018 squad.

The Cubs have used 8 different leadoff hitters this season, with Albert Almora Jr. (39 starts), Ben Zobrist (26 starts) and Ian Happ (12 starts) leading the way.

Rizzo has made 11 starts in a row at the position and what was formerly a temporary solution may be morphing into a long-term fix.

So much so that Joe Maddon is actually altering the rest of the lineup to give Rizzo more RBI opportunities atop the lineup, inserting the pitcher into the No. 8 spot in the order Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon, inserting Victor Caratini and Tommy La Stella into the 9-hole.

"I've been wanting to do it; I've been thinking about doing it," Maddon said. "We came off the break and the St. Louis series, I was thinkin', thinkin', thinkin', but I said [Tuesday], let's give it a go. 

"If we're gonna look at this as a long-term situation, I think it'd be wise to try to get somebody in front of him."

Maddon liked the idea of Caratini hitting 9th Tuesday because of the backup catcher's strong on-base skills, but the Cubs manager floated the idea of Addison Russell or others hitting in that spot, as well. The lineup is stacked with high on-base guys, so there really are plenty of options.

"Honestly, let's just see how this plays out," Maddon said. "I'm gonna look at it, see what it feels like and maybe make it something more consistent or maybe you want to eventually move Rizz out of there. 

"This is a short-term experiment right now. It may be a long-term experiment, but for right now, it's short-term."

The Cubs have scored just 2 runs in 18 innings against Arizona Diamondbacks pitching to begin this week's 4-game series at Wrigley Field, but before that, Rizzo in the leadoff spot had led to a 6-2 record dating back to the last series in San Diego before the break.

Rizzo is hitting .447 with a .560 on-base percentage and 1.271 OPS out of the leadoff spot entering play Wednesday.

Maddon called it a backwards lineup, with the Cubs' best two run producers — Rizzo and Kris Bryant — hitting atop the order, setting the table instead of in the middle of the lineup.

The Cubs' success with Rizzo in the leadoff spot and not hitting 3 or 4 speaks more to the depth of this lineup up and down the order as well as the development of guys like Javy Baez and Jason Heyward's turnaround offensive season.

With Rizzo leading off, Baez has most often hit cleanup while Heyward has settled into the 3-hole.

Even with Baez out of the lineup Wednesday with a knee issue and Bryant out Tuesday/Wednesday with lingering shoulder soreness, Rizzo was still there in the leadoff spot.

"Among all the group, Javy makes it possible," Maddon said. "I think that's A. Then B, Jason makes it possible. Of course, Schwarber. But I think Javy is the linchpin of even being able to think like that.

"The whole group's been more productive in the sense that the strikeouts have come down, the ball's been in play more, the at-bats have been better in crucial situations, we've been scoring some runs.

"What I've done in the past with Rizzo [leading off] is very temporary — get him going, get us going, then get him out of there. Because he needed to be out of there. Right now, he doesn't have to be out of there and I'm kind of liking how the beginning part of the game is shaping up, so let's just see and read the tea leaves as we go along. I have not committed to it totally yet, but I kinda like what I'm seeing."