July 27th Ivy Drip On Us
I’m feeling charitable, so you can have this week’s drip for free by hitting the link below:
If you like what you see, you can sign up for the rest of the season for just $15! As a teaser, here is this week’s guest column from friend of the program Craig Antosh:
Don’t do it, Theo. Jed… stand down. Pack up shop, fill a suitcase with some dad-shorts, and spend the next week in Barbados. Or Costa Rica. Or any other tropical locale with enough sand to bury your phone and enough locals to make the odds of running into a Cubs fan slim. This is the time to step away from business. This is not the time to deal. One. More. Year. Wait ‘til next year. It’s what we Cubs fans do, we’ll be fine.
This is the week when baseball sorts its league into buyers and sellers. With the trade deadline looming at the end of the week, we’ve already seen Kansas City make their move, adding Johnny Cueto on Sunday. We’ve also found our favorite websites inundated with rumors surrounding Cole Hamels, a frenzy that has reached orgiastic levels since his no-hitter on Saturday. Like Hamels, the Cubs’ presence in the thick of the rumor flood has only intensified this week. As a playoff contender with both budget space and a stacked farm system, they check every box on the “buyers” membership form.
The buzz around Wrigley has only added to the furor. The Cubs are legitimately good for the first time in years, and the pressure to continue building momentum must have some in the front office dreaming of making a push this year. The thought of adding an ace and making Hammel your fourth pitcher and Hendricks your fifth has even the most pessimistic of Cubs fans salivating.
2015, however, is not the year. The difference between this Cubs regime and their well-meaning but ultimately ineffective predecessors has been the patience and foresight shown in developing the team from the inside out, by stockpiling assets and developing talent. Swapping those assets for help is a positive move, but only if it’s likely to win you a ring, and the Cubs just aren’t there yet.
At 51-46 following a disheartening sweep by the NL’s worst team, the Cubs trail the Giants by 2.5 games for the final Wild Card spot. Sadly, the Giants are much better than they’ve performed through 97 games, as they’ve only recently added starters Jake Peavy and Matt Cain to their rotation, both having missed half the season due to injury. The Cubs, meanwhile have been comparatively healthy and “lucky” this season. Their expected W-L record for the season is 49-48, which is to be expected from a team with a season run differential of only one run. The Giants’ expected W-L? 54-43. The Pirates, the other current Wild Card team, are 57-41 (expected W-L: 56-42) and sit an actual 5.5 games ahead of the Cubs. All of this suggests that the two teams the Cubs are chasing have both significantly outperformed the boys in blue this season.
In addition to being better through nearly 100 games, the Pirates and Giants are both strengthening their squads. Peavy and Cain have returned from the DL for the Giants and are pitching well. San Francisco is also rumored to be sniffing around Rajai Davis and the same starters the Cubs are attached to (David Price, Hamels, and Mike Leake). The Pirates, meanwhile, added Aramis Ramirez on Thursday and are looking for relief help. Even the Mets, a game behind the Cubs in the Wild Card chase, are spending, having added Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson on Sunday while continuing to look for offense. It should be noted, however, that the Mets are also just two games behind the Nationals for the lead in the East, so their spending is driven by more than just wild card aspirations.
Could the Cubs add a piece or two and make the playoffs? Possibly, but the performance of the Cubs and their rivals suggests that it is an unlikely outcome this year, and that’s to say nothing of the challenge of actually pushing through the playoffs to a result that justifies sacrificing the assets the Cubs have worked to accumulate and develop. I would love to see David Price in a Cubs uniform, but I want to see it happen next year, when it costs money alone, and not Javier Baez, Billy McKinney, or some other combination of prospects. Even Hamels, who is contractually under control until 2018 (with a 2019 team option), presents a similar conundrum—aces can be bought in the offseason with no prospect cost; at what price is a marginal improvement this year worth sacrificing future flexibility?
Tempting as it is to go for broke, this season was viewed from the start as a growth season, a chance to blood the youngsters and prepare for a serious push in 2016. There will be pitching available on the free agent market this winter. Soler, Russell, Bryant, Schwarber, and perhaps even Baez will have significantly more big league experience under their belts. Next season is the season that the Cubs will target for a real push, and they’ll want to have the assets necessary to acquire the pieces to complete the lineup. The free agent market will play host to a relatively weak crop of hitters, and the Cubs will still want some left-handed pop. Most importantly, the Cubs have a legitimate shot to spend July of 2016 shopping for the pieces necessary for a push through the playoffs, rather than a scramble for the Wild Card.
Settle in Theo. Get Cozy Jed. You’re doing fine work. Getting swept by the Phillies is no fun, but it underscores the simple reality that the Cubs aren’t quite there yet. Any moves made should be with an eye toward next year. Ship out a utility player or reliever if the offer is right. See if there are any steals to be had from sellers looking to clear payroll. Whatever you do, though, don’t forget that this process tends to punish the overzealous. Stay focused on the real, 107 year-old goal. You can do this. Just say it together: Next year.