Disastrous streak in Anaheim leaves Cubs with tough decisions to make

A little over a month ago, it looked like the wind was finally turning to the north side.

After a slump in 2021 before the trade deadline led to a fire sale that saw the Cubs’ front office trade the majority of the team’s World Series-winning core five years prior, a new era seemed to be dawning. on the horizon.

This new era finally seemed to materialize in April. The Cubs’ offseason acquisitions of Dansby Swanson and Cody Bellinger had revitalized the offense, and by signing Nico Hoerner and Ian Happ to three-year contract extensions, Jed Hoyer and company seemed to communicate that it was a core around which the Cubs could build.

Just over a month later, Cubs fans are once again left in doubt about the team’s future.

After concluding the game on May 1 with a 15-13 record led by All-Star-level play of the Cubs’ most significant contributors, the team took a nose dive, winning only a third of its games since. .

While the bullpen weaknesses that appeared in flashes in April can certainly be blamed for the Cubs’ struggles in one-point games, where they hold a dismal 5-11 record, it’s the significant drop of offensive production that hampered the team’s chances of winning the most.

The Bats cooled off this week in what was a necessary series for the Cubs to catch up, being outscored 16-7 in a three-game sweep at the hands of the Los Angeles Angels after holding a lead in all three matches.

Despite a point differential of just minus-8, the Cubs find themselves 10 games below .500 and 7.5 games out of first place in a division where a 34-29 record is good for the lead.

In a season of crushing losses, strong star performances and an urgency to take the next step toward competing for the playoff spot, the Cubs quickly faltered and are now almost certain to sell assets again at the deadline. Exchanges.

Marcus Stroman, who has expressed his desire to stay with the Cubs long-term, has a career year with potential free agency looming as Stroman holds a player option for 2024.

Cody Bellinger, who, although still injured, appears to have revitalized his career in the 37 games he has played this season, and will likely be a popular trade target if he returns healthy before the deadline.

Perhaps the toughest potential trade from an emotional standpoint, Kyle Hendricks could land on the trade market’s radar with a few more successful starts as the only remaining member of the 2016 Cubs is in the final year of a four-year contract, with an option to vest in 2024.

Selling at the trade deadline doesn’t mean the Cubs are back to square one, as multi-year deals with Happ, Hoerner and Seiya Suzuki alongside a seven-year commitment to Dansby Swanson show the team will retain a significant stake in players currently on the roster. compete.

Pete Crow-Armstrong, acquired in the 2021 trade that sent Javier Baez to the New York Mets, has also become one of the game’s top outfield prospects, while the team’s second prospect, the right-hander Cade Horton, was recently promoted to High-A South Bend.

Still, by trading Bellinger and possibly Stroman, the Cubs would be betting on proven big league performers for a slew of prospects to add to a farming system that’s promising at best and highly questionable at worst.

Brennen Davis, ranked the organization’s second-best prospect last year, hit under .200 at AAA Iowa with an abysmal .615 OPS in 45 games.

Despite still being the organization’s third-best prospect, Kevin Alcántara has shown mixed results in South Bend this year, tallying 15 extra hits and 11 stolen bases while struggling for a .289 OBP.

While the Cubs have considerable talent in their farming system, it’s not at the levels seen the past decade when the team prepared to graduate multiple prospects who went on to form the majority of a championship-winning core.

With a seasoned playoff ace expressing a desire to stay with the team long-term, even in the event the Cubs sell assets, pursuing an extension with Marcus Stroman potentially offers the team a longer-term advantage than to exchange it for prospects at the deadline.

As the strength experienced at the top of the rotation is regularly among the most difficult to draft and among the most in demand during free agency, holding Stroman gives the Cubs both security at the top of the rotation for the foreseeable future and maintains the team as a free agent destination with tools to compete.

Jed Hoyer, Carter Hawkins and company will have tough decisions to make about the franchise’s long-term future, just over a month after locking down two showpieces for several years.

In an uncertain season and future, hanging on to the most enticing trade chip while selling other contributors could leave the Cubs in a favorable position to compete next year.

The Cubs start a three-game set against the Giants in San Francisco tonight at 9:15 p.m. local time.

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