Cubs keep status quo in the field and rotation as trade deadline passes

CHICAGO -- It turns out that the Chicago White Sox, Milwaukee Brewers and Cincinnati Reds don’t want to send to the Chicago Cubs players who will help the Cubs win a World Series, according to general manager Jed Hoyer.

The non-waiver trade deadline passed Monday afternoon with the Cubs unable to add a left-handed bat or a cost-controlled starter. You can thank the division alignments and the two-team city for that, at least in part.

“There’s a lot of conversations that don’t come to fruition,” Hoyer said Monday afternoon. “A lot of phone calls that don’t work out. We were involved in a lot of things.

“One fact that was not ideal for us [was] we had two active sellers in our division, one active seller in our city. It’s hard to do deals with those teams.”

Hoyer reiterated the notion that there is a “tax” when teams within the same division -- or city -- talk trades. In other words, the asking price for former Reds left-handed hitting outfielder Jay Bruce was conceivably higher for the Cubs than it was for the team he went to, the New York Mets. The same goes for catcher Jonathan Lucroy (a righty), formerly of the Brewers and now with the Texas Rangers.

“That was an area we did look into,” Hoyer said regarding left-handed hitting.

At least the emergence of Javier Baez gives manager Joe Maddon the option to keep the switch-hitting Ben Zobrist in the lineup by playing him in left field. However, Baez is hitting only .254 off righties this season, and his .277 on-base percentage against them is woefully low. He’s at .363/.433 versus lefties, so that isn't an issue. But when the Cubs face the best right-handers in the National League, such as Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer and Noah Syndergaard, do they have enough fire power from the left side of the batter’s box?

“I think we’re OK,” Hoyer said. “We have some ways to move people around the diamond. In particular, Javier has played really well.”

There were other players available who played outside the division, such as former Oakland Athletics outfielder Josh Reddick. He went in a package deal with pitcher Rich Hill to the Los Angeles Dodgers, who were more desperate and paid a hefty price in prospects. Both are pending free agents, so the Cubs would have needed to dip into their prospect base for a rental, like they did with Aroldis Chapman a week ago. They obviously weren’t willing to do that.

The question is still out there: Do the Cubs have enough to replace the left-handed bat they lost in Game 3 of the season? The answer should be yes because the Cubs lead the NL in on-base percentage against right-handed pitching and hitting right-handed. Statistics never tell the whole story, but if Zobrist, Dexter Fowler, Anthony Rizzo, Jason Heyward and perhaps Chris Coghlan or Tommy La Stella can’t produce from the left side, then the Cubs have bigger troubles. Adding an obvious upgrade would have been nice, but the Cubs have achieved the best record in baseball without Kyle Schwarber for all but 2.5 games. They should be able to win with what they have.

Young pitching

Once again, the Cubs used the trade deadline as an opportunity to find a cheap, young pitcher as they prepare for the potential losses of Jason Hammel, John Lackey and Jake Arrieta after next season.

“That was a significant area we tried to focus on,” Hoyer said.

Factors such as a weak free-agent pitching class this winter and teams more desperate to add starters for the homestretch this season got in the Cubs' way. The best example comes from the deal that sent Matt Moore from Tampa Bay to San Francisco. The Giants sent the Rays the runner-up to Kris Bryant in rookie of the year voting last season, Matt Duffy, though Duffy wasn’t producing as well in his sophomore season. Still, the Giants rolled the dice in giving up a piece from their major league team.

“The prices were exceptionally high on those guys,” Hoyer said. “We know that controllable starting pitching is important for us. We weren’t able to get any deals done to that end.”

Hoyer noted that the upcoming weak free-agent class held the starting pitching market back, considering offseason deals might be even more important for teams unable to find starters elsewhere.

“It’s an ongoing search,” Hoyer said. “We’ve been doing it for a while, and we’ll continue to. ... It’s easier to do when you’re a seller. It’s how we acquired Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks.”

In other words, teams are more willing to part with young starters if their return gives them a chance at the World Series right away. Rebuilding teams are more likely to hold on to young arms for their own needs or for a later trade.

Maybe the August waiver period will keep the Cubs active.

“Things don’t stop,” Hoyer said. “Things ramp back up again.”

In the end, the Cubs addressed their one weakness by using assets to get Chapman but didn’t overextend themselves in areas in which it wasn’t completely clear they needed an upgrade (a bat) or there was no immediate need (starting pitching).

Chapman makes the Cubs' trade season a successful one. If Mike Montgomery and Joe Smith become factors in the bullpen, then all the better, but if it becomes obvious come October that the Cubs are one left-handed bat short, they might regret not getting more done on Monday.