Already out of playoff contention, the Cubs’ late-season downward spiral continued with a loss to the lowly Pirates on Thursday. The Cubs have now dropped nine straight, including a three-game sweep at Pittsburgh’s hands. Thanks in part to their September unraveling, there’s sure to be notable changes to the Cubs’ roster (and perhaps the coaching staff) over the next several months. Here’s the latest on a few members of the organization who will head into the offseason with uncertain futures…
- Left-hander Cole Hamels has been one of the Cubs’ top starters overall this year, but he – like many of his teammates – hasn’t performed at his usual levels this month. Hamels is scheduled to start Chicago’s game Saturday in St. Louis, which could go down as his last with the Cubs. The soon-to-be 36-year-old is on his way to free agency, though he does seem open to staying where he is. “It was a dream come true,” Hamels told Jordan Bastian of MLB.com of his time with the Cubs. “I love pitching at Wrigley. And to be able to put a Cubs uniform on, this is a tremendous organization and one of the best fan bases you can ever play in front of.” Hamels, whom the Cubs acquired from the Rangers before the 2018 trade deadline, has earned $20MM this year after the club exercised his option last offseason. Although he won’t do that well again on his next deal (not on an annual basis, at least), Hamels has produced enough in 2019 to reel in another solid payday. An oblique injury has helped limit the longtime workhorse to 137 2/3 innings, but he has still turned in a respectable 3.92 ERA/4.22 FIP with 8.83 K/9, 3.66 BB/9 and a 47.5 percent groundball rate.
- Hamels’ fate won’t be officially determined until at least November, whereas an answer on manager Joe Maddon’s future should arrive within a few days. Maddon, also without a contract for next season, said Thursday (via Bastian) he’s “certain” he’ll know by the start of next week whether he’ll remain in the Cubs’ plans. “I’ve got to know by Monday, yeah,” said Maddon, who will be traveling back to his hometown of Hazelton, Pa., by then. Chicago’s fifth-year manager expressed optimism earlier this week that the team will bring him back, but president of baseball operations Theo Epstein hasn’t tipped his hand.
- Unlike Hamels and Maddon, middle infielder Addison Russell is under the Cubs’ control for next season. That doesn’t mean he’ll stay with the franchise, though. To the chagrin of many observers, the Cubs stuck with Russell this year after a domestic violence suspension, bringing him back for $3.4MM in his third-last season of arbitration eligibility. However, the weak .226/.300/.385 line Russell has posted in 234 plate appearances in 2019 could help make him an offseason non-tender candidate. Asked if he’d welcome a change of scenery, Russell offered (via Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times): “You could look at this a lot of different ways. The grass isn’t necessarily greener on the other side.”