The Rundown: Cubs Regain Share of First Place, Wild & Frenzied Deadline Deals, Castellanos Trout-Like Against Lefties, Epstein Set up Offseason Retool

The Cubs won a road game yesterday, though the Astros and Braves won the trade deadline. What a wild and frenzied 45 minutes that followed three weeks of transactional boredom since baseball’s schedule officially turned to its second half.

After the Cubs announced that they had traded Martín Maldonado to the Astros for Tony Kemp and acquired Nicholas Castellanos from the Tigers for two minor league pitchers, the team celebrated by shutting down  the Cardinals 2-0.

I know some of the North Side prospect hounds liked Alex Lange and believed he had a legitimate future as a major league pitcher, but that may have been just wishful thinking. I wish him the best in Detroit, where the young starter will serve as minor league depth, at least for now.

So as fans, we get two months of Castellanos and hopefully get to watch the Cubs win a couple playoff series before running into the Houston buzzsaw in the World Series. In case you were sleeping for the past 20 hours or so, the Astros now feature Justin Verlander, Geritt Cole, and Zack Greinke at the top of their rotation. Good luck with that.

After the season ends, playoffs or otherwise, we will go through a tireless hot stove debate of whether Castellanos is worth re-signing as a free agent. Let me answer that for you. He is not.

The Cubs have a lot of money coming off the books this winter and what their new right fielder (and I use the term loosely) will demand as a professional hitter will be better used elsewhere. For instance, the Cubs still do not have a legitimate leadoff hitter. It certainly won’t be Robel García, because he and his .254 OBP are heading back to Iowa to give Castellanos a roster spot.

Look, the Cubs achieved almost everything the front office wanted at the deadline, strengthening the bullpen with the acquisition of David Phelps and getting some desperately needed professional at-bats from Kemp and Castellanos. And though anything can happen once you get to the playoffs — and the Cubs should do that — it still seems like beating teams like the Braves or Dodgers, or the Yankees, Twins, Indians, or [gasp], the Astros will take a minor miracle. The Cubs already played that card in winning the ’16 World Series after being down three games to one.

But this winter should bring about the retool the Cubs need to get to that upper echelon. Players coming off the books include Brandon Morrow [oof], Ben Zobrist, Cole Hamels, Brandon Kintzler, Castellanos, Brad Brach, Brian Duensing, Pedro Strop, Steve Cishek, and Tony Barnette. There are a lot of mistakes in that motley crew of players. For what it’s worth, Morrow and Brach have club options next year that most certainly won’t be picked up.

I doubt the Cubs will elect to enter arbitration with Addison Russell, either. They’ve done their part, commendably or not, and should move on. Interestingly, Yu Darvish has a $22 million player option. I’d expect him to exercise that and stay, but who knows? He gets a some unfair flak from local reporters at times.

How will the Cubs get better this winter? For starters, they should be all in on Cole and Didi Gregorius. And they will have a managerial contract to address. We can breathe a small sigh of relief for now because they are a better team today than they were at this time yesterday. That’s at least a decent start. Oh yeah, they’ve also regained a share of the NL Central lead.

Cubs News & Notes

How About That!

Rather than list each deadline trade in this section, here’s a list of every deal ranked by greatest impact to the buying team.

The Braves were also in on Greinke, per ESPN’s Buster Olney.

New York fans are railing on Brian Cashman because he didn’t acquire any impact talent yesterday. The Yankees weren’t even close on any deals and could have used a starting pitcher.

Trevor Bauer hung out in the stands with Cleveland fans and watched the Indians-Astros game yesterday. Bauer was traded to the Reds on Tuesday evening.

The Dodgers spent the day trying to acquire a high-end reliever to pair with Kenley Jansen. Andrew Friedman pursued the likes of Felipe Vázquez, Brad Hand, Will Smith and Edwin Díaz, but came away with none of them.

The Cardinals only move was to trade infielder Jedd Gyorko to the Dodgers, and unhappy St. Louis fans are calling for the head of John Mozeliak.

Wednesday’s Three Stars

  1. José Berríos – The Twins’ young ace was filthy last night, notching 11 punchouts with no walks in seven innings of shutout baseball against the Marlins.
  2. Kyle Hendricks – The Professor owns the Cardinals and last night was no exception. Hendricks scattered seven hits across seven strong innings with seven strikeouts. Jackpot.
  3. Roberto Pérez – The Indians backstop was 2-for-3 and went yard twice with four RBI as Cleveland derailed the Astros 10-4.

Extra Innings

A roster of former Marlins players reveals that Miami has traded away a complete 25-man team that is playoff worthy by WAR. The hypothetical team doesn’t even include two of the most notable traded-away players: future Hall of Fame third baseman Miguel Cabrera, who is at -0.4 WAR for the season, and two-time All-Star relief pitcher Andrew Miller, sitting at -0.1 wins against replacement.

They Said It

  • “What [Hendricks] does plays well against them. They weren’t getting good swings on him. He was strong the whole way.” – Joe Maddon
  • “When you watched us play over the last few months, it felt, at times, we were a bat short in the lineup.[Castellanos] kills lefties. That’s something we’ve really struggled with. We think he’s going to give a professional at-bat versus righties and lefties.” – Jed Hoyer
  • “The best play was we did nothing. And we did nothing for a very good reason, because we felt everything that was in front of me was really not obtainable because of the associated costs,. And that’s with understanding that as a buyer, you have to step up and pay…these were prices that were making things way out of reach; way out of reach and way out of line.” – Brian Cashman

Thursday Walk Up Song

After The Lovin’ by Englebert Humperdink. I thought #hugwatch was the most emotional thing in baseball until yesterday. The accolade-infused, “we’re going to miss him” interviews I’ve watched over the last two days are total cheeseball-o-rama. Not a dry eye in the ouse.

PS – This is a mic-dropping moment for this section. Boom!

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