Everyone from Joe Buck to Big Papi seems to think this month will be the end of the Cubs as we know them.
Slow down, however, and let’s think about it.
Team president Jed Hoyer said there was no plan for basic reconstruction and that there was evidence to support his case. The Cubs have invested too much in the stadium, neighborhood and one-dimensional sports network to return to pre-2015 relevance.
It’s also not about moving people to make room for the next wave of stars. Along with outfielder Brennen Davis, Futures Game MVP, the Cubs’ top prospects are teenagers, from 2020 first-round pick Ed Howard to international signing Christian Hernandez to ex-Padres prospect Reginald Preciado.
The Cubs have found a home for Joc Pederson, sending him to Atlanta on Thursday for minor league first baseman Bryace Ball. But there are no replacements for Kris Bryant or Javy Baez. So what are the Cubs going to do, get a mixed return for Bryant in a trade, then try to sign another high-profile free agent this winter?
Well, maybe they will do that. But it always makes more sense to let things unfold, to try to re-sign Bryant, Baez, and maybe Anthony Rizzo, and build a better supporting cast around these guys.
To stay competitive, the Cubs will need a few Star Level Bats to build themselves up. So it’s either about keeping Bryant and Baez, or dropping money out the door from guys like Trevor Story and Nick Castellanos – or something similar.
Keep that in mind as we take a partial roster tour for the Cubs midseason report:
Bryant, Baez: Bryant has a decent OPS of .854, while Baez is in the National League’s top 10 for homers and the RBI. Both players have their faults, but they have been some of the Cubs’ most productive hitters.
Bryant has incredible versatility on the pitch, with at least 10 starts from five different positions. Some of Baez’s spreads resulted in 15 errors, a record for the team, and he leads the league in strikeouts, but there may not be a shortstop with more spectacular defensive play.
Based on the observations, Bryant is likely ready to leave as a free agent – he’s represented by Scott Boras, after all – but the Cubs can afford to make a competitive offer.
Baez always seemed determined to stick around, so the Cubs aren’t taking a huge gamble by letting the agencies play free.
Rizzo: The Cubs’ longest-serving player isn’t having a great year, turns 32 next month, and has had recurring back problems. Is there a vying team keen to add Rizzo’s veteran wisdom to the stretch race? It remains to be seen.
Patrick Wisdom: Besides the free agents, the biggest question for the Cubs in the second half is whether Wisdom can maintain its initial pace. He’s leading the team in OPS and slugging, and only Shohei Ohtani has a lower homers to homers ratio.
Looks like the Cubs might have hit the jackpot with Wisdom. If he could draw more walks, a good roster might be the Dodgers’ Max Muncy, another guy who endured a trip before he found a place where it all clicked.
Or, as often happens in baseball, the competition will find a weakness and Wisdom will struggle in the second half. There is a lot about how this is going, both for Wisdom’s career and the future of the Cubs. He can play first or third, and as a 29-year-old rookie, Wisdom will be ready to retire when he becomes eligible for free agent status.
Nico Hoerner: Similar to Wisdom, the Cubs are hoping Hoerner’s .333 batting average will last. For now, he looks like a guy who could play second base for the next 10 years.
Willson Contreras: Get him a healthy save and you should be fine.
Ian Happ: He went from being the team’s top hitter in 2020 to a miserable downfall this year. The Cubs have little choice but to wait and hope Happ can figure things out this winter.
Jason Heyward: He owes $ 44 million over the next two years. That won’t happen now, but the Cubs could eventually have to swallow some of the money left over on this deal.
Matt Duffy: His knack for contact gave the Cubs a much needed boost, Ben Zobrist. His injury history makes it difficult to count on him beyond this season. But at least he gave the Cubs a template for what they need.
Starting rotation: Kyle Hendricks, signed until 2024, is arguably the safest player on the roster. There’s probably an equal chance the Cubs will trade Zach Davies this month or re-sign him this winter.
Adbert Alzolay has to fight through a recent rough patch, Alec Mills has earned his spot in the rotation, while Jake Arrieta and Trevor Williams are likely to stall until Justin Steele is ready to make his big league debut. .
Succession Launch: As mentioned yesterday, the Cubs have guns in Iowa ready for promotion. Craig Kimbrel, Andrew Chafin and Ryan Tepera are therefore candidates to be moved this month.
The bullpen was once the catalyst for the Cubs’ 26-11 run in May and June, but that was a few lifetimes ago. The only thing that can save the Cubs now is six games against Arizona 26-66 coming out of the All-Star break.