1. Haren joins the rotation
The back of the rotation has become a glaring weak spot for the Cubs, so before yesterday’s non-waiver trade deadline passed, the Cubs made a trade with the Marlins for Dan Haren, in an attempt to solidify that last part of the rotation. The move came as a bit of a surprise, as the Cubs had been heavily linked to Tyson Ross and even Carlos Carrasco, but neither of those deals materialized. The Cubs had been rumored to be likely trade partners with San Diego for several days leading up to the deadline, but a trade never happened. It sounds as though the asking price from San Diego was just too high.
Haren, who is in his 13th major league season, should provide a nice veteran presence to the roster and he has been pitching well for Miami this season since being traded from the Dodgers during the offseason. In 21 starts this year, Haren has a 3.42 ERA, a WHIP of 1.093, and 88 strikeouts to 25 walks. He does not throw hard, but is effective in missing bats and getting outs.
Initially, I was not terribly excited about this trade, but the Cubs were able to get him for cheap, and he should solve what has been the Cubs biggest problem. In exchange for Haren, the Cubs sent minor leaguers Ivan Pineyro and Elliot Soto to the minors. Pineyro is a potential fill in starting pitcher one day, and maybe even back of the rotation pitcher, and Soto seems likely to be just organizational depth. He is excellent defensively, but has never hit well.
2. Hunter added to the ‘pen
The other move that the Cubs made at yesterday’s deadline was to bring Tommy Hunter over from the Orioles to help bolster the bullpen. Hunter is also an experienced veteran and should help keep runs off the board in the late innings. Hunter has spent his whole career with the Rangers and Orioles, and after dabbling as a starter for several seasons, he seems to have found his niche in the bullpen for the last 3 years. This year, he has 44.2 innings in 39 appearances. In those innings, he has 32 strikeouts to 11 walks, but has also given up 41 hits. His WHIP is a little high at 1.164, but his ERA is relatively low (3.63), so the hope is that he can contribute a solid inning in relief as needed.
The Cubs were also able to get Hunter for relatively little, as they sent OF Junior Lake to the Orioles for him. Lake is a familiar player to most Cubs fans, I would think, but while he is someone I have rooted for in the past few seasons, I have the suspicion that he may be a “AAAA” type of player. Fine for brief call ups as needed, but not likely to be a hitter to regularly contribute in the majors. I wish him well and hope that I am wrong, but I think the Orioles just added some depth to the 40 man here, and that’s about it.
3. Trades not necessarily over
The non-waiver deadline of July 31 always gets the most attention, but it is important to remember that it is not the end of trading for the season. This deadline is simpler, in that teams can work one-on-one with each other to make a deal, but plenty of swaps can still happen between now and August 31, which is the waiver trade deadline, and the final end to trades for the 2015 season. From now until the end of the month, teams can place players on waivers, and wait to see if another team puts a claim on them. If that happens, the two teams can discuss a deal for that player. If no one claims the player, or the two teams do not agree on a deal when a player is claimed, then no trade happens. Often, a team will use this deadline to gauge interest in a player in advance of the offseason, and it is very common for teams to put several of their players on waivers. So don’t be surprised (and don’t read too much into it), when you hear that the Cubs have put quite a few of their players on waivers. You may even here that other teams have put a claim on one or two of these players. It is still very possible that no trades whatsoever result from this. This is not to say that significant moves aren’t made at this deadline, but they are less common than the July 31 deadline. After the 31st, the rosters expand from 25-40 as September starts, and those are the players they work with as the season comes to a close.
4. Trade deadline thoughts and reaction
I think it is tempting to let the trade deadline get to you, and when you see other teams making big trades like acquiring Troy Tulowitzki, David Price, or Yoenis Cespedes it is can make it looks as though your team hasn’t done anything. The big trades like those make all the news, but often a team can do the best for itself when it sticks to its primary needs and doesn’t get caught up in making a big splash. The best thing the Cubs did at this trade deadline is not get swept up in pursuit of players like Ross or Craig Kimbrel and lose important pieces of their future in the process. So if you’re feeling as though the Cubs “lost” this trade deadline, the consensus does not really agree, and keep in mind that the Cubs front office has made clear from the beginning that if they were adding rental players (as Haren could very well be), then they were nto going to let the cost get too high. I respect the fact that the stuck to that plan and didn’t let a team like the Padres or Indians steal away valuable pieces of our farm system or young talents who have yet to establish themselves in the majors.
Many, and possibly myself among them, were probably hoping to see Starlin Castro get moved yesterday, but it just didn’t happen. He was in discussions with the Padres, but I think they asked about Javier Baez instead (or in addition?) and that could be part of where things fell through. I had hoped that the Cubs could add an offensive presence coming off of the bench like Wil Venable, but it didn’t work out. This means we are likely to be trusting our very young offense to carry us to that last wild card spot. Realistically, this is a team that is building for much greater success than just the wild card in 2016 and beyond, so I think the approach to this deadline was smart.
5. Game Notes (Cubs win, 4-1)
Ordinarily I put this first, but the trade deadline was the biggest news of the day, so this gets the last spot for this morning. Jason Hammel got his 6th win last night against the Brewers, going 5.2 innings and giving up just the one run in the first inning on a Ryan Braun homerun. From the end of the 6th inning, the bullpen came in and locked things down, and Hector Rondon took the save in the 9th for his 15th of the year.
At the plate, the biggest contribution came from Anthony Rizzo, who hit his 19th of the season off of Neal Cotts in the 7th inning, and also added another hit and scored a run last night. Addison Russell went 2 for 4 and drove in a run, and Jorge Soler was also 2 for 4 and has been showing a lot of signs of more life at the plate lately. Castro added a 2 RBI single as well. The Cubs will send Kyle Hendricks to the mound tonight against former Cub Matt Garza at 6:10, which means that the spot in the rotation that Haren could take comes up in the last game of this series on Sunday afternoon, but after just pitching Thursday, this is unlikely, so we may not see him until later next week.
THIS DAY IN CUBS HISTORY
1924: Dazzy Vance strikes out seven consecutive batters to establish a major league record when the Brooklyn Robins defeat the Cubs at Ebbets Field, 4-0. The future Hall of Famer, who will compile a 28-6 record for the Brooks this season, will lead the National League in strikeouts with 262.
1933: Carl Hubbell‘s 45.1 consecutive scoreless innings streak ends when Randy Moore strokes a two-run single in the sixth inning of Giants’ 3-1 loss to Boston at the Polo Grounds. By blanking Boston for the first five frames, the future Hall of Fame southpaw surpasses Ed Ruelbach’s National League mark of 44 innings established in 1908 with the Cubs.
1957: In a 12-3 win over the Cubs, Gil Hodges hits his 13th and last career grand slam in Brooklyn Dodger history. The first baseman’s bases-loaded shot off Dick Littlefield establishes a new National League record previously shared by Rogers Hornsby and Ralph Kiner.
2011: After popping out in a pinch-hitting appearance, Craig Counsell remains without a hit in his last 45 at-bats, tying the longest single-season hitless streak by a position player in history, established by Brooklyn backstop Bill Bergen in 1909. The major league record is 0-for-70 established in 1970 by Bob Buhl, a pitcher who toiled with the Braves and Cubs that season.