Behind 7 1/3 innings of two-hit, shutout ball from right-hander Kyle Hendricks, the Cubs defeated the Dodgers, 5-0, on Saturday to take the NLCS in six games and advance to the World Series. To knock out the Dodgers and win their first pennant since 1945, the Cubs had to overcome baseball’s best pitcher, left-hander Clayton Kershaw, who yielded five runs (four earned) on seven hits in five frames. Among those hits were solo home runs from catcher Willson Contreras and first baseman Anthony Rizzo. Chicago will now take on Cleveland in a battle of the majors’ longest championship droughts. The Cubs haven’t won a World Series since 1908, while the Indians’ latest title came 40 years later in 1948. The long-suffering franchises will meet Tuesday in Cleveland for Game 1.
More on the NL champs and the rest of the majors:
- Brilliant trades by the Cubs’ Theo Epstein-led front office have been integral to the team’s success, as Tyler Kepner of the New York Times details. Since Epstein took the reins in 2011, the Cubs have swung deals to land the likes of Hendricks, Rizzo, Jake Arrieta, Addison Russell and Dexter Fowler without surrendering any crucial pieces. The Cubs picked up Rizzo from San Diego, where two Chicago executives – general manager Jed Hoyer and senior vice president of scouting and player development Jason McLeod – were before Epstein hired them. Their familiarity with Rizzo helped spur the 2012 trade that sent him to the Cubs for righty Andrew Cashner. “Having intimate knowledge of who he is as a person, on top of what we felt he was going to be as a player, played a huge role,” McLeod told Kepner. Epstein offered some insight to Kepner on the trade process, saying, “It’s best not to think about winning or losing trades anyway, because the best ones work out for both teams. But, as a rule, if you’re the team that’s selling — if you’re out of it and you’re trading with a team that’s in it — you usually have the pick of just about their whole farm system, with a few exclusions. You should hit on the guys that you get back.”
- In his latest column, Joel Sherman of the New York Post outlines why league executives expect an active trade market during the offseason. One reason is a lack of quality free agent starting pitchers, leading Sherman to wonder if any of Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke, Jeff Samardzija or Ian Kennedy could end up on the block. Sherman opines that the Astros are in dire need of an ace and have a big-time trade chip in young infielder Alex Bregman, who would perhaps be able to land a front-end starter in return. On the position player front, Sherman observes that new Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen might consider trading first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. Meanwhile, recently minted Twins executive vice president and chief baseball officer Derek Falvey has a potentially interesting trade candidate on his hands in slugging second baseman Brian Dozier.
- If Orioles GM Dan Duquette decides to shop any veterans, right-handed reliever Brad Brach might carry the most appeal, writes Rich Dubroff of CSNMidAtlantic. Dubroff contends that the Orioles should deal Brach if they’re able to acquire help in the leadoff spot or behind the plate. That could be a tall ask in either case, though the soon-to-be 31-year-old Brach is under team control at affordable rates over the next two seasons and has been particularly effective since 2015. Over the past two seasons, Brach has combined for a 2.58 ERA, 10.29 K/9 and 3.58 BB/9 in 158 1/3 innings. Brach underwent knee surgery earlier this month, but it was a minor procedure that shouldn’t affect his 2017 availability.
- In separate pieces for FanGraphs, Dave Cameron and Jeff Sullivan argue for and against a rebuild for the Blue Jays. Re-signing just one of Edwin Encarnacion or Jose Bautista – both of whom are set for free agency – would push the Jays up against their budget, limit their ability to address other needs, and further age a roster that already includes several 30-somethings, writes Cameron, who suggests shopping shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, catcher Russell Martin and right-hander Marco Estrada. Moreover, in Cameron’s view, not committing to a short-term rebuild could hinder the team’s ability to keep third baseman Josh Donaldson for the long haul (the reigning AL MVP is under club control for two more seasons). Conversely, Sullivan still expects Toronto to contend even if Encarnacion, Bautista, Michael Saunders and Brett Cecil leave as free agents, citing the rest of the club’s talent.