How the Cubs are viewing final stretch of July ahead of trade deadline
Kyle Hendricks and the Cubs know how important the rest of July is for the Cubs’ future.
A solid run — or a tough stretch — before the trade deadline at the end of the month can define the 2023 Cubs. But that doesn’t mean Hendricks and the rest of the Cubs can ride the roller coaster of a season with so many wins and losses involved.
“That’s all our focus can be. It’s just one pitch at a time, one play at a time,” he said after the Cubs’ 8-3 loss to the Red Sox in the first game after the All-Star break. “That’s what’s gonna get us there in the end.
“So, yeah, there’s the sense of urgency like we’ve talked about is there. But you can’t catastrophize and look too far in the future.”
Like Hendricks, president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer used the time off to sit with his front office and plan for the rest of the month. The Cubs opened their post-All-Star-Break slate with a three-game series against the Red Sox, who sit 6 games above .500, tied for 4th in the loaded AL East and are 9-1 in their last 10 games. The Cubs, meanwhile, are 6 games under .500 and 7 games back in the NL Central. But they have the only positive run differential in the division and after Sunday, don’t play a team above .500 until the Reds on the last day of the month.
“I will say we’ve had a lot of talk during the break,” Hoyer said. “You try to have conversations in moments like that, when there’s no games, we’re clear-headed, we’ve probably slept, all those different things.”
It’s a prime opportunity to make a run at the division. Hoyer and his front office have an idea of where the team needs to be after this stretch to determine their path at the deadline — but he wouldn’t disclose that publicly. The Cubs have the easiest schedule by winning percentage in the second half, so if they’re within striking distance it’s possible to see the Cubs in the buyers’ market.
But one game — good or bad — won’t dictate that. Instead, the overall stretch, culminating at the end of the month, will do that.
“Obviously, we’re trying to make decisions in the most educated fashion possible, and not using emotion and not using one day’s loss or one day’s win and that’s I think the most important thing,” Hoyer said. “The simplest way to say it is we do need to make up ground on first, we do need to make up ground on .500.”
That’s done by going on a good roll. Too often this season, Hoyer noted, the Cubs have followed up a good series or two series with a bad sweep. After taking two of three from the Padres in April, the Cubs were swept in Miami. In May, the Cubs took two of three from the Mets and followed that up by being swept by the Reds. In just those two instances, it’s a 2-2 series record, but a 5-8 overall record. Those types of swings set them back in the standings.
“I think that we’ve shown we can be good for long stretches, but we need to not have those kinds of dips,” Hoyer said. “We need to still grind out those two out of threes, but not have that dip that gives up those games to 500.”
So, while the numbers and data suggest the Cubs should be better, at the end of the day, Hoyer and his staff can only go on the concrete win-loss record and their position in the standings.
“They don’t put a banner up based on your underlying numbers and we have to translate that into wins and losses,” Hoyer said in Milwaukee last week. “We haven’t done that well enough.”
Soon, the Cubs will know where they stand — and the hope is the schedule can help them be on the buy side, where Hoyer and the Cubs want to be.
“It’s a complicated time of year, and there [are] a number of teams that are in similar positions,” Hoyer said. “I think a lot will play out around baseball over the two weeks here and elsewhere in terms of teams figuring out exactly where they are and making their best estimate of that at the right time and making decisions.”