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Jed Hoyer’s blunt assessment of the Cubs before trade deadline

3 weeks agoAndy Martinez

MILWAUKEE — Jed Hoyer didn’t mince words on Friday.

With the trade deadline four weeks away, the Cubs president of baseball operations knows the team’s play over that stretch will dictate which direction they go in.

“I mean, we have to play well this month,” Hoyer said before the Cubs’ series opener against the division-leading Brewers at American Family Fields. “I think certainly you have to be a realist when you get to that point. But like I said, … that’s not where we are mentally. But yeah, I think you always, in this job, you have to be a realist.

“You have to make your best decisions for the organization based on the hand you’re dealt that year. And we’ll see where that is.”

The Cubs entered Friday 6 games under .500, 10.5 games back of Milwaukee and in last place in the NL Central and 4 back of St. Louis for the final NL Wild Card spot. For a team that scored the 6th-most runs in baseball last season, returned much of its core and had a farm system ready to offer help at the major-league level, it’s nowhere near where they thought they’d be.

A quick glance at where they were exactly two months ago gives more credibility to why Hoyer and the Cubs believed that, too. But a bad stretch turned into a bad week and then into a tough month and into a potentially crippling two months.

“I think that when I look at April and how we performed and then I look at the rest of it, yeah, I am very surprised,” Hoyer said. “It felt like two weeks turned into four turned into six, it’s turned into eight. And that’s the reality, right?”

The solutions must come from within — and it stems from an offense that has struggled after starting the season 17-9. Since then, the Cubs have scored the third fewest runs (199) and are fourth worst in OPS (.653).

The numbers are even worse in situational at-bats. The Cubs have the worst batting average with runners in scoring position in that time (.188), 23 points lower than the next closest team, the lowly White Sox.

The offense just has to improve if the Cubs are going to crawl back into playoff contention. They’ve played 33 1-run games this season, most in baseball. Those types of games create stress all around — the bullpen doesn’t have wiggle room night in and night out and the defense has to play clean.

“A lot of that is not being able to string things together and score a bunch of runs and spread games out,” Hoyer said. “If you win consecutive 1-run games, guess what? The third game you’re not using the same bullpen pieces. And the way you go on winning streaks is ultimately you’re gonna have to win some games without your best guys.”

Both the defense and reliever corps have been far from flawless, too.

The Cubs have blown the second-most saves in baseball (17) and are 20th in Outs Above Average (-4) and 21st in Defensive Runs Saved (-7), after being top-ten in both categories last year.

The Cubs series in San Francisco was a prime example of the offensive woes leading to all-around struggles.

Monday the Cubs dropped the opener to the Giants 4-3, in a game remembered for Drew Smyly and Colten Brewer’s inability to pick up the final three outs of the game. But the Cubs had 10 hits, 7 walks and loaded the bases twice with no outs.

The Cubs went 4-for-15 with runners in scoring position and stranded 15 runners.

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“We blew that game in the first 3 innings of the game,” Hoyer said. “That game, that should be 8-0, 9-0. We have to be able to spread some games out.”

The Cubs are running low on time to figure it out — they have 27 games between now and the trade deadline and they come against playoff hopefuls like Milwaukee, Baltimore, Kansas City, St. Louis and Cincinnati.

If they don’t the Cubs could be asking themselves very difficult questions at the end of July.

“I don’t think it’s time yet for that full conversation, but it’s just a reality that we have to play better in July,” Hoyer said. “We’ve backed ourselves into a little bit of a corner.”

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