General

Trade winds still could blow for Cubs in 2017

June 29, 2012; Bronx, NY, USA; Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Jose Quintana (62) throws a pitch during the first inning of a game against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-US PRESSWIRE
June 29, 2012; Bronx, NY, USA; Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Jose Quintana (62) throws a pitch during the first inning of a game against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-US PRESSWIRE

From the Saturday, July 15 editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

The WISCH LIST

So, what do you do about a problem like the Chicago Cubs?

Well, on Thursday we got an answer: You deal for Jose Quintana.

But while acquiring the 28-year-old southpaw from the White Sox does help the Cubs both now and in the future, it alone doesn’t solve all of the ills impacting the 2016 World Champions, both now or in the future.

The good news is that I don’t think Theo Epstein & Co. believes that it does, either. Rather, the Cubs brass knows that there’s still work to be done for the organization. And if getting Quintana enables the Cubs to accomplish some of that work now while still being able to compete this season, that’s great. But if the team can’t get its act together before the July 31 trade deadline and cut into Milwaukee’s division lead, I’m all for doing more deals now to reload for 2018.

Because, when it comes down to it, I’m much more interested in maximizing the Cubs’ championship window than trying to merely maximize a mediocre season. And to this point, that’s exactly what 2017 has looked like on the North Side.

If we’ve learned nothing else, it’s that Major League Baseball championship hangovers are real. There’s a reason why no team has repeated since the Yankees in 2000. It’s really, really hard to do. And after being pushed to the limit before finally ending the most infamous title drought in sports history followed by a short and hectic offseason, the Cubs have looked spent all season. They’re not as healthy, not as hungry, and not as sharp as they were last year.

Now, could they still turn it around? Sure. But the goal isn’t to simply be better than the Brewers in the NL Central, it’s to be better than the Dodgers or Nationals in the NLCS. And if by month’s end the Cubs can’t show that they still have that potential, the smart organizational move would be to be to trade the impending free agents Wade Davis and Jake Arrieta for valuable assets that can either help the team in 2018 or be flipped as trading chips to get more pitching.

What makes the Quintana deal smart for the Cubs – in spite of its high price tag – is that with a contract through 2020 he fills one of the spots likely to be vacated by Arrieta and John Lackey next season. But even with him, the Cubs remain at least one starter – and probably two – from being a top-flight contender in 2018 and beyond. They’ll need to add more pitching one way or another.

And as much as I’d love to see the Cubs win two championships in a row, the rational side of me says that they’re much more likely two win two in three years. Or three in six years like the San Francisco Giants, who experienced their own championship hangovers only to bounce back with titles every other year.

So, if the Cubs do keep treading water or fall even further behind Milwaukee over the next two weeks and the Washington Nationals then come calling with a package of top talent for Wade Davis, I’d make that move.

It’s going to be interesting.

Sox are getting stacked

This week’s Cubs-White Sox blockbuster could be one that works out well for both teams, but there’s no doubt that it was a coup for general manager Rick Hahn who traded a starter having a decidedly so-so season for the Cubs’ top two prospects in Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease.

Last year I wrote that I wasn’t ready to see a Cubs-Sox World Series until the Cubs won one first. But with the minor-league talent that the Sox are stockpiling and the big-league talent the Cubs already have, we just may see one before too long.