‘Life comes at you fast’: How losing streak has impacted Cubs’ position ahead of trade deadline
When Jed Hoyer met with the media in Cincinnati last week, he was clear that the Cubs could still go either way at the trade deadline — as buyers or sellers.
In his media session six days later, his entire tone and tenor was different.
Thursday afternoon at Wrigley Field, the Cubs president of baseball operations was more somber as he spoke about the franchise’s potential direction three weeks before the July 30 deadline.
It’s easy to understand why.
When Hoyer spoke last Friday, the Cubs were on a 6-game losing streak and coming off a particularly grueling part of the schedule to end June. He cautioned against riding the waves of vacillating back and forth between buying and selling with each game.
The Cubs lost their next 5 games before finally getting the monkey off their back Wednesday night.
“Going through a losing streak like that with this much talent was certainly not something that we anticipated,” Hoyer said before the Cubs’ 8-0 loss to the Phillies.
Hoyer left the door open for the potential that his team gets back into the playoff race, but he also spoke pragmatically about how the 11-game losing streak changed the calculus for the Cubs’ front office.
“I’ve always said — you try not to look at the standings too much,” Hoyer said Thursday. “You have to look at what kind of baseball you’re playing. We came off an 11-game losing streak.
“We’ve believed in these guys since 2015. They’ve had a ton of success and I would never count these guys out. But 11 days ago, we were certainly fully on the ‘buy’ side of this transaction and everyone was calling about that. People are now calling to see which players are available, so it’s a very different scenario than we expected.
“Life comes at you fast. Eleven days ago, this is not where we were mentally. Eleven games certainly changes a lot of things.”
The Cubs woke up Thursday morning 8.5 games out of first place with a 6.6% chance of making the playoffs, per FanGraphs.
Before the 11-game losing streak began, the Cubs were tied with the Brewers for first place and had a 35.7% chance of making the postseason by FanGraphs’ same metric.
As surprised as he was that the Cubs rattled off an 11-game losing streak, Hoyer also understands this team is capable of compiling a winning streak just as long. Especially when the schedule starts to work in their favor with a lot of home games this month and 6 of the first 10 games out of the All-Star Break coming against the worst team in the league (Diamondbacks).
The Cubs still have a long way to go to climb out of the hole and as it stands right now, Hoyer feels like his path is pretty clear.
“We still have games to play,” he said. “There’s nothing that says we can’t roll off a bunch of wins here. We’ve done it. We were one of the best teams in baseball for a pretty long stretch.
“But certainly when you’re in this moment and your playoff odds are single digits at this time of the year, you have to keep one eye on the future and think about what moves you could potentially make that maybe help build the next great Cubs team. You have to think through those things. It would be irresponsible not to take those phone calls and think through them.”
The drastic change over the last two weeks has added another hurdle for Hoyer’s front office. In addition to focusing on the MLB Draft (which begins Sunday evening), the Cubs also pivoted from clear buyers at the trade deadline to now scouting other teams’ farm systems and digging into prospects.
“Yeah, that is a challenge,” Hoyer said. “We’ve had to reorganize some things and make sure we were scouting the right things and thinking about the right things.”
If the Cubs do wind up taking the “selling” path later this month, it would signify the end of an era.
Hoyer isn’t ready to make any “declarative comments” but he acknowledged the 11-game losing streak could have franchise-altering implications.
“This group has had incredibly high highs together. Our troughs have been lower than one would expect – sometimes for different reasons,” Hoyer said. “The end of 2019, at times in 2020, at the beginning of this year, this stretch — when we’ve struggled, we’ve struggled probably more than we should given our talent level.
“That’s been a source of frustration and certainly confusion at times. To lose 11 straight games in all sorts of different ways, it was really painful. Especially when you look out and know what you’ve been through with these players and know how much they’ve accomplished and know how helpless each individual player feels and the frustration they feel. I know how much they care and how much they don’t want to watch this team struggle.
“Certainly I don’t remember a 10-11 day period as professionally frustrating as that.”