“Of course, this is where I want to be,” Andrew McCutchen tells MLB.com’s Bill Ladson amidst trade rumors that have swirled around the Pirates star for the better part of a year. “I’ve never thought about anything else. This is the only uniform that I’ve ever worn. This is somewhere I want to be. I can’t control the business side — where I am or whatnot. I don’t focus on that.” After a rough 2016 season and a slow start to 2017, McCutchen has been hot over the last couple of weeks as he tries to help keep the Bucs afloat in a crowded NL Central race. While the Pirates are 26-32 and in last place, they’re still only 4.5 games out of first place.
Here’s more from around the division…
- The Brewers announced that right-hander Matt Garza has been placed on the 10-day DL (retroactive to June 4) with a chest contusion. Garza had an abbreviated four-inning start on Saturday after colliding with teammate Jesus Aguilar at first base when both were trying to make a fielding play. After a couple of rough seasons, Garza is posting some solid results this year, with a 3.83 ERA, 2.75 K/BB rate and 6.6 K/9 over 44 2/3 IP for Milwaukee.
- As part of a Cardinals-related chat with readers, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch figures the Cards would prefer to make a trade relatively soon if one could be found, rather than wait until closer to the July 31 trade deadline to add reinforcements. A big trade that costs the Cardinals multiple top prospects (say, to acquire a player like the Marlins’ Marcell Ozuna) might be necessary to really shake up the struggling offense, Goold opines. The Cards may have a tougher time finding a bat this summer than their rivals in Chicago may have in finding a starter, however, as Goold hears that pitching is expected to be more available than hitting at the deadline.
- Goold’s mailbag piece offers several items about the Cardinals’ minor league core players, trade speculation and this intriguing tidbit: “watch for where he [Randal Grichuk] is assigned next. That will tell us if the Cardinals are trying to find out” Grichuk’s trade value. St. Louis recently optioned Grichuk all the way down to the Class-A Advanced level to work with team offensive strategist George Greer in an effort to overhaul Grichuk’s approach at the plate. The Cards would certainly be selling low if they did decide to move Grichuk, given his struggles this season and his troubles in getting on base (a .289 OBP) last year. Still, Grichuk turns 26 in August and is a former first-rounder who put up an .877 OPS over 350 for the Cardinals in 2015, so he could be an intriguing trade chip.
- Speaking of the Cubs’ search for pitching, Eddie Butler and Mike Montgomery are trying to retain their jobs as the team’s fifth starter and potential spot starter, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. Butler, a former top Rockies prospect, has a 3.75 ERA over 24 innings this season while Montgomery has a 2.21 ERA over 36 2/3 relief frames. Neither pitcher has terribly impressive peripheral stats, however, so it still seems likely that Chicago will try to acquire a higher-level arm and keep Butler, Montgomery and the injured Brett Anderson as rotation depth.
- While it would some major financial and roster wrangling to see Bryce Harper join the Cubs when he hits free agency in the 2018-19 offseason, Kris Bryant told CSNChicago.com’s Patrick Mooney and other reporters that he and Harper have had some casual conversations about being teammates. “I think we might have talked about it, just like messing around. Like it would be cool to play with you again,” Bryant said, referring to he and Harper playing together as youngsters in the Las Vegas area. “(It’s not) like Kevin Durant: ’I want to play there.’ But I would say if that were able to happen and work out like that, gosh, it would be exciting.” This sounds like the type of general banter that probably happens quite a bit between friends who play on different teams, though everything involving Harper’s heavily-anticipated foray into the free agent market is likely to draw attention between now and the end of the 2018 season (unless, of course, he signs an extension with the Nationals).