The Cubs, buoyed by a weekend sweep of the Pirates and a dramatic walk-off victory Tuesday, are likely to approach the trade deadline as a buyer. However, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein tells Patrick Mooney of The Athletic (subscription required) that “it would take a special deal to sacrifice the very top of the farm system.” Epstein plainly states that while his goal is to win in 2019, the team is simultaneously trying to build its farm back up after years of aggressive, win-now deals. Epstein himself doesn’t list specific untouchables, though one can presume that players like Miguel Amaya, Nico Hoerner, Adbert Alzolay and Aramis Ademan will be tough to pry away. The Cubs have recently been linked to left-handed bullpen upgrades, and manager Joe Maddon spoke recently about his desire to add a more consistent veteran bat to the lineup.
More Cubs rumblings…
- Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times dispels some speculative theories following the Cubs’ surprise acquisition of Martin Maldonado. Adding a third catcher to the mix doesn’t indicate that Willson Contreras’ foot injury is worse than has been suggested. To the contrary, Contreras said he expects to be cleared for full baseball activity by the end of the week, calling his injury a “bruise” after a visit with a specialist. The Maldonado trade was not made with the intent of either shopping Victor Caratini or optioning him back to Triple-A, Wittenmyer further reports. The Cubs have a history of acquiring a third catcher in recent August waiver periods — Bobby Wilson in 2018, Rene Rivera in 2017 — but there’s no opportunity to do so now that August trade waivers have been eliminated. “You can never have enough good catching, especially catching that is playoff-experienced and respected by veteran pitchers and coaches alike,” GM Jed Hoyer said following the Maldonado deal.
- An early August return could be in the cards for lefty Cole Hamels, Wittenmyer writes in a second piece. Hamels will have a mound session today after a previous pair of throwing sessions from flat ground. The southpaw conceded that while he “hates it,” he’ll need to make at least one minor league rehab start because it’s the “smart thing to do.” If today’s session goes well, that could put him in line to reclaim his rotation spot on Aug. 3, tentatively putting his total absence at a period of about five weeks. Hamels, 35, had pitched to a terrific 2.98 ERA with 8.8 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 0.81 HR/9 and a 51.1 percent ground-ball rate in 99 2/3 innings when he landed on the IL late last month. He’d been doing his best work of the season prior to being shelved, making his absence all the more costly for the Cubs. In six June starts (37 innings), Hamels allowed five earned runs with a 37-to-9 K/BB ratio.