Report: Cubs "will be among the teams interested" if Arizona Diamondbacks make OF David Peralta available

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USA Today

Report: Cubs "will be among the teams interested" if Arizona Diamondbacks make OF David Peralta available

The MLB trade deadline is quickly approaching, and it's looking more and more like the Cubs will be active up until then. 

On Saturday, Fox Sports reporter Ken Rosenthal talked about what teams can be expected to buy and sell leading up to the July 31 deadline. One of the teams he mentioned? The Cubs:

"The timing is significant. The Cubs will be among the teams that are interested if the DBacks sell and make Peralta available. Peralta is the type of professional hitter that the Cubs need. He would increase their outfield depth, bolster their lineup against right-handed pitching, and he has one year of control remaining after this one."

Peralta would be an intriguing fit in the Cubs' outfield. Despite being placed on the IL twice this season with shoulder issues, he's still managed to hit .289/.352/.476  with a .828 OPS and a 112 wRC+ in 73 games. That's marginally better production than what the Cubs are currently getting from their outfield, who are slashing .256/.343/.447 with a .789 OPS and a 105 wRC+ (15th in MLB) as a unit. Peralta's wRC+ would rank 3rd among Cubs' outfielders, only behind Kris Bryant and Jason Heyward, both of who are enjoying career years at the plate. 

Peralta's numbers against right-handed pitching alone look even better, as he's currently hitting .319/.379/.546 off righties; since breaking into the majors six years ago, he has a 132 wRC+ against them.  

For what it's worth, the Cubs haven't been terrible against right handers this year. As a team, they ended the first half slashing .258/.339/.458 with a .797 OPS and a 105 wRC+ (8th in MLB) off righties. In fact, among OF's who've had at least 200 AB's against right-handed hitters this season, Jason Heyward has the 9th-best wRC+ (131). Peralta has the 11th-best (129). 

His contact peripherals are also impressive. As it stands today, Peralta has an average exit velocity in the 70th percentile (90 mph) and a Hard Hit % in the 59th percentile (40.4). Statcast is, however, less bullish on Peralta's defense, as the outfielder comes in with below-average percentiles for Outs Above Average (40th) and Outfield Jump (29th). With that said, FanGraphs credits Peralta with 1.9 Defensive Runs Above Average, the first time in his career he's been rated as a plus defender on their site. 

He's currently on a one-year, $7 million deal, and is elligble for his 3rd year of arbitration when the season ends. 

The Cubs bullpen has turned things around in a big way

The Cubs bullpen has turned things around in a big way

Don't look now, but the bullpen has actually morphed into a strength of this Cubs team.

Even though things got hairy in the 15th inning as Sunday afternoon turned into Sunday night, the Cubs relief corps still hung on by the skin of their teeth.

That wild 15th inning casts a bit of a darker shadow over the bullpen as a whole, but remember, this is a group that held the Diamondbacks scoreless for almost an entire game's worth of innings — from Brad Brach replacing Jose Quintana with two outs in the sixth inning to two outs in the 15th when Kyle Ryan gave up a 2-run single to Caleb Joseph.

The bullpen has become a popular punching bag for the 2019 Cubs, but they entered play Sunday leading baseball with a 2.01 ERA since April 7, the final day of the Cubs' season-opening nine-game road trip. That number actually improved slightly even with the 2 15th-inning runs and the Cubs have a sizable lead over the next-closest team — the Diamondbacks, coincidentally, who boast a 2.36 ERA.

It helps that the Cubs bullpen also had a huge assist from the starting rotation in that the relievers faced the fewest batters in the league over the last three weeks before Sunday's marathon affair. Tyler Chatwood has been a surprise contributor to both areas, helping to beat Arizona with 6 shutout innings at Wrigley last Sunday and then beating Arizona again with 1.1 shutout innings pitched plus a double and the game-winning run scored this Sunday.

On that nine-game season-opening road trip, only the Washington Nationals had a worse bullpen ERA than the Cubs (8.37) and only the Kansas City Royals walked a higher percentage of hitters than the Cubs (16.4 percent). 

Cubs relievers still have a problem with the free pass, but they're certainly moving in the right direction and a lot of success has followed.

It's no coincidence, then, that the Cubs have not lost a series since that opening road trip and are 12-5 in that stretch.

"As tough as our start was, it could be good for us in the long run," Theo Epstein said last week. "We got tested early. You find out a lot about individuals and a team when there's adversity. Even though it's early, even though we've all been through it before, when you get off to a really rough first week of the season in a big market, there are a lot of doubters. It can push guys; it can test guys.

"I think they've certainly responded the right way by recommitting to the routines and the foundation and each other and pulling out of it. It's a real positive sign. Let's be honest — it was really our pitching the first week or 10 days of the season that was putting us in that destabilized mode and then the pitching's been outstanding since then."

Epstein gave credit to the Cubs' entire run prevention department, from pitching coach Tommy Hottovy on down to associate pitching, catching and strategy coach Mike Borzello, bullpen coach Lester Strode and run prevention coordinator Brad Mills plus catcher Willson Contreras, who has caught nearly every inning since Victor Caratini went down with a hand injury more than two weeks ago.

"No victory laps or anything like that, but it doesn't just stabilize overnight," Epstein said. "Those guys put a lot of hard work in to get us on the right track."

It's even more impressive the Cubs have righted the ship in the bullpen without some of their projected top performers. Carl Edwards Jr. was sent down to the minor leagues to readjust his physical and mental mechanics before the Cubs even played a game at Wrigley Field and Mike Montgomery is still working his way back from a lat injury that put him on the injured list on that season-opening road trip.

The Cubs also began the season thinking right now (the end of April) would be about the time they'd be getting closer Brandon Morrow back. He was expected to miss roughly the first month of the season while rehabbing from minor offseason elbow surgery, but he suffered a setback and is currently shut down and won't pick up a baseball for another couple of weeks.

Epstein said the Cubs are still "in a diagnostic state" with Morrow, trying to ascertain why he's struggled to bounce back from throwing sessions despite nine months away from the field and the November debridement procedure on his elbow.

With all that time off and a surgical procedure added to Morrow's already-lengthy injury history, it's fair to question if he will ever throw a single pitch this season. But Epstein said the Cubs expect him to throw at some point in "a number of weeks" once they figure out what course of treatment to go through.

However, this Morrow setback didn't suddenly send a shudder through the Cubs' business operations department and convince them to throw the budget out the window and create room for the likes of free-agent closer Craig Kimbrel.

The Cubs will still look to add reinforcements to the bullpen whenever necessary, but don't expect that to be Kimbrel. They haven't been afraid to be aggressive within their own system, like plucking Dillon Maples from the Triple-A bullpen in exchange for Randy Rosario on Friday (or adding Ryan and Webster after Edwards and Montgomery went down after the season's first week).

"Nothing's changed on the bullpen front," Epstein said. "We recognize this is a year where we're gonna have to make a lot of important calls in-season and pick the right guys and put them in the right position to succeed and I think things have really started to stabilize in the bullpen. 

"There are a lot of really encouraging signs. [Brandon] Kintzler as an example — the transformation that he's made with a lot of hard work this winter and spring training to become really reliable with what he brings to the table at this point. That's someone who's been here, who's made positive changes. And then Kyle Ryan is somebody who we talked about as important depth in Triple-A. He's come up and provided an important boost and he's done it in a way that gives us reason to believe it's sustainable.

"So that's important. We'll continue to try to help guys be their best selves, make important calls when we feel change is needed and of course look outside the organization as well as inside to try to find the right combination."

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Add another chapter to David Bote's incredible story

Add another chapter to David Bote's incredible story

David Bote had to be feeling like the luckiest guy on Earth.

The Cubs were humming along in their quickest game of the season and two outs away from a 1-0 victory on a picture-perfect Easter Sunday at Wrigley Field. That was good news for him, because he had a flight to catch — doctors were inducing his wife, Rachel, and she was going to be giving birth to their third child that night.

Then Bote watched as Arizona's light-hitting outfielder Jarrod Dyson — he of 16 homers in 744 career games coming into the afternoon — sent a Pedro Strop pitch into the right-field bleachers in the top of the ninth inning to extend the game.

So Bote took things into his own hands.

Javy Baez led off the Cubs' half of the ninth with a double down the right field line, advanced to third on an error and then Willson Contreras was plunked by Diamondbacks reliever Archie Bradley.

Up stepped Bote, who watched a curve for Ball 1 and then narrowly got out of the way of a 95 mph fastball ticketed for his left temple. Bradley came back with a curve for a strike and Bote knew what to look for, waiting on another curveball and hammering it through the drawn-in infield for the Cubs' 10th win of the season. 

Minutes later, Bote had bolted out of Wrigley Field, heading back home to Colorado for the birth of Baby No. 3.

Speaking of which, Bote's walk-off hit Sunday came exactly 36 weeks (a little over eight months) after his ultimate grand slam to beat the Washington Nationals...

"It's a grand slam baby and now it's another walk-off for him," teammate Anthony Rizzo joked.

This is just the latest chapter in the incredible story of Bote, an 18th-round draft pick who endured seven seasons in the minor leagues before being called up to the majors. He doesn't even have a full year of service time in "The Show" yet, but he's already proven he belongs and carved out a permanent spot on the roster before signing a 5-year, $15 million extension earlier this month.

"From the homer last year, there was a lot of pressure and he slowed everything down," Baez said. "He just keeps getting better and he knows he's got talent and he can do it. He's got a lot of confidence coming off the bench and he's been huge for this team."

This was Bote's 42nd career RBI and it was already his 4th walk-off RBI. That means nearly 10 percent of his career RBI have come via walk-off situation.

"It's nice. He's had experience early [in those situations]," Rizzo said. "You can't teach that. He's had a lot of situations like that and he's come through. It's fun to watch."

This was only the 10th start of the season for Bote in the Cubs' 20th game, but he's found a way to stay sharp. 

After his 2-hit game Sunday, he's now slashing .295/.380/.455 on the season and showing off the adjustments he's made after hitting just .176 with a .559 OPS after that ultimate grand slam last year.

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