The Cubs are 6-11 over their past 17 games and have fallen to two and half games behind the Brewers for the lead in the National League Central, but it doesn’t sound like the slump is pushing the team into any sort of panic. The Cubs, after all, are still eight games over .500 and still have an excellent +83 run differential on the season. In an appearance on the Mully & Hanley show on 670 The Score, general manager Jed Hoyer spoke of his team’s recent play and his belief that most of the keys to righting the ship are already on the roster (full audio of Hoyer’s 15-minute interview is available).
“I don’t think it necessarily changes what we’re looking for,” Hoyer said of the Cubs’ recent swoon. “I think we still feel as though this team is really capable and has a chance to be really good, and we feel like the answers are internal. But we’ll obviously try to stay nimble. If something happens on our team or there’s some reason that we feel like we need to upgrade a certain position or add to a certain position, I feel like we certainly have the ability to do that. But this year feels different than some, in that I really do feel like this team, as constructed, is capable of doing a lot of good things. I think that most of the answers are probably in that clubhouse.”
Chicago has received lackluster production thus far from its top offseason signing, Yu Darvish, who remains on the disabled list due to a biceps issue. When healthy, Darvish has posted a 4.95 ERA in 40 innings of work. While his 11.0 K/9 mark ranks among the best in the National League, he’s also averaged nearly five walks per nine innings and been far more homer-prone than usual (1.58 HR/9).
Conversely, left-hander Mike Montgomery has stepped up nicely in Darvish’s absence, tossing 35 2/3 innings of 2.02 ERA ball across six starts in that time. Montgomery’s modest strikeout rate, 87.3 percent strand rate and .208 BABIP in that time all forecast some regression, as do his 3.63 FIP and 4.09 xFIP, but there’s little denying he’s looked like a capable rotation piece with Darvish on the mend. Hoyer once again suggested that Montgomery could continue to make some starts even once everyone is fully healthy.
“He’s been, really, a savior of our rotation in that spot,” Hoyer said of the left-hander. “…I think he’s proven that he can start in the Major Leagues. He’s been saying that for awhile, and we always believed him, but we always had the ability to have him in that sort of sixth starter/emergency role, and he understood that. … I thought Scott Boras said that really well when it comes to Albert Almora as well. This guy’s playing on a winning team, and that’s the team’s focus — not entirely on development. I think the same thing goes for Mike. He’s earned a spot in the rotation by the way he’s pitched, and I think we’ll move forward, and I think he’ll continue to do the same thing for us. I’m proud of the way he’s responded to getting an opportunity.”
Certainly, injuries could create a greater sense of urgency for the Cubs as the deadline approaches, but for the time being they look more like a club poised more to operate around the margins than to make a significant splash on the trade market. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein has already gone on record to state that all of the speculation tying the Cubs to Manny Machado from last month was “out there in fantasy land,” and while the Cubs surely figure to at least gauge the asking price on all of the market’s most intriguing trade pieces, reports since that time have downplayed the possibility of an earnest pursuit.