The Cubs are probably at least a month away from any significant additions during the summer trading season, but events in three games against the Dodgers this week offer a glimpse into the early planning.
When starter Jason Hammel left Monday’s game after just two innings because of a hamstring cramp that initially looked worse than it was, it underscored the fragile balance of any starting pitching rotation – even the top-ranked rotation in the majors.
“It’s always a wakeup call,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “You realize you’re always that injury or that text from your trainer away from a bad evening and potentially having to change your roster around.”
Then came another tough outing Tuesday for left-handed reliever Clayton Richard, who took over a scoreless game in the eighth and allowed hits to all three batters he faced to eventually lose the game.
And on Wednesday, closer Hector Rondon was a late scratch from the day’s bullpen roster because of back stiffness he said worsened after his pregame workout. He’s to be evaluated again Thursday morning.
The Cubs’ bullpen focus already was apparent in last month’s acquisition of rehabbing former All-Star Joe Nathan, and they’ll certainly be an aggressive buyer for any impact lefty that becomes available (keep an eye on the Yankees’ Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman if GM Brian Cashman starts selling).
The Cubs have just two lefties in the bullpen, and one of them, Travis Wood, is one of their top two options if a starter goes down.
“Our pitching staff has been excellent so far, but you always need a lot of pitching to get through the entire season,” Hoyer said, “and we expect that’ll be something that we’ll have to continue to address throughout the year.”
The bullpen market already is moving with Toronto acquiring Jason Grilli from the Braves this week, and the Rangers rumored to be circling Miller as the Yankees sink in the AL East. The Giants figure to be a player with Sergio Romo shelved with a flexor tendon problem.
“We’re in the process of looking at who might be traded and scouting those guys,” said Hoyer, who stressed the early date on the calendar.