Cubs stock up on depth ahead of trade deadline
As they gear up for the stretch run in this shortened season, the Cubs added a trio of veteran players ahead of Monday’s trade deadline.
They first bolstered the bullpen by acquiring a pair of left-handed relievers — Andrew Chafin from the Diamondbacks and Josh Osich from the Red Sox. The Cubs then traded for another right-handed bat in Tigers outfielder Cameron Maybin.
These moves were in addition to the weekend acquisitions that included slugger José Martínez (trade with Rays) and pitcher A.J. Ramos (minor-league signing).
In return for the pool of veterans, the Cubs have agreed to send Zack Short to Detroit and a host of players to be named later or cash considerations to their other trade partners. To make room for Monday’s additions on the 40-man roster, the Cubs designated outfielder Ian Miller and utility man Hernan Perez for assignment.
Cubs GM Jed Hoyer also announced the team was going to option outfielder Albert Almora Jr. to the alternate site in South Bend, with Maybin taking on the role of an extra outfielder on the bench (along with Steven Souza Jr. when he returns from a hamstring injury).
“I think sometimes a veteran player like a Cam Maybin at this point in his career is used to come off the bench and pinch-hitting and playing a little bit less,” Hoyer said. “Oftentimes those players in those kinds of roles fit better and we get a chance to send Albert to the alt site and he can get a bunch of at-bats and hopefully get clicking.”
The Cubs’ overall haul lines up exactly with what Theo Epstein teased a couple weeks before the deadline, with incremental moves instead of major additions.
The Cubs went into the deadline with specific thoughts on how they could improve the 2020 roster:
“Left-handed relief and right-handed hitters that could hit left-handed pitching — those were 2 of the main goals we had for the deadline,” Hoyer said. “Certainly years of control are valuable, but I think really we tried to be as targeted as we could trying to address things that we haven’t done particularly well. I think we did that.”
Under normal circumstances, teams have two months of the regular season to see what their trade acquisitions could do. But the 2020 season is more than half over and the Cubs understand the unpredictable nature the fall has in store.
“We just felt like this group has earned our right for us to go out and make additions,” Hoyer said. “…Our goal here is to win as many games as possible and hopefully be able to get a good seed in this tournament and then to keep playing for a while in October. And we felt like we needed to make these additions to make that possible.”
Martínez is the biggest addition as a right-handed hitter who can mash against left-handed pitching. Hoyer said the initial plan is for Martínez to DH against left-handed pitchers, but will leave the actual schematics of the lineup to manager David Ross.
Maybin, 33, had a big series against the Cubs in Detroit last week, going 4-for-7 with 3 doubles. He has been slowed by a quad injury this season and is hitting .244 with a .726 OPS in 14 games.
Osich — who turns 32 on Thursday — carries a 5.74 ERA and 1.34 WHIP on the season with 20 strikeouts in 15.2 innings. He spent last year with the White Sox after four seasons with the San Francisco Giants.
He has been far more successful against lefties (.211 average against, .665 OPS) than righties (.292 AVG, .892 OPS) in his career.
Chafin, 30, is currently on the 10-day injured list with a sprained finger in his pitching hand. Prior to going on the IL on Aug. 19, he had posted an 8.10 ERA and 1.95 WHIP in 11 appearances while striking out 10 batters in 6.2 innings.
The Cubs will take a look at Chafin themselves and get an exact timetable on his return from injury, but he has been cleared to throw and they hope to have him join the bullpen in a couple weeks.
From 2017-19, Chafin has been one of the best left-handed relievers in the game with the Diamondbacks, sporting a 3.46 ERA and 10.7 K/9 rate in 225 appearances.
The Cubs have spent most of the season with Kyle Ryan as the lone lefty in the bullpen and Osich will provide immediate depth in that regard with Chafin another option once he gets healthy.
Short, 25, has spent the last four seasons in the Cubs minor-league system playing all over the infield. He was on the team’s 40-man roster, but was not at the alternate site in South Bend.
He also represents a big loss from the organization in the podcast world, as he was a regular part of Ian Happ’s “The Compound”:
With four weeks remaining in the 2020 regular season, the Cubs currently sit in first place in the NL Central with a 3.5-game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Cubs begin a stretch of 14 straight games against NL Central rivals Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.