The Cubs made the biggest in-season acquisition in the National League Central when they signed closer Craig Kimbrel to a $43 million deal after he lingered on the free agent market until after the draft (when draft-pick compensation was no longer attached to a signing).
But four trades made during the final days leading up to Wednesday’s trade deadline might give the Kimbrel signing a run for potential impact on a division race in which the top three teams were separated by two games entering the weekend.
Ranking those four trades for NL Central impact:
1. Trevor Bauer from Cleveland to the Reds in a three-team deal that included Yasiel Puig going from the Reds to the Indians.
The fourth-place Reds have the most ground to make up in the division and wild-card races. And Bauer’s bigger picture value for the Reds involves a competitive rotation in 2020.
But many in the game believe the Reds already had the most untapped upside on their roster among NL Central teams. And a hot streak of even three or four weeks might be all it takes for the Reds to start jockeying among the leaders.
To that end, they have now replaced back-of-the-rotation starter Tanner Roark with a frontline, 2018 All-Star who leads the majors in innings.
2. Nick Castellanos from the Tigers to the Cubs for prospects.
One of the top two or three hitters moved at the deadline, Castellanos helps address one of the Cubs’ strangest of many deficiencies this season: awful team production against left-handed pitching (.235 average).
The corner outfielder, who made his Cubs debut Thursday in St. Louis, hit .347 with a 1.026 OPS against lefties in Detroit this year.
3. Jordan Lyles from the Pirates to the Brewers for a prospect.
He’s not Zack Greinke, but Lyles fills a desperate need for a playoff contender that already was thin in starting pitching before putting two more on the IL in a five-day span less than two weeks ago. Could also add a little spice to Cubs-Brewers games down the stretch after Lyles’ head-hunting role in the Cubs-Pirates bench-clearing incident last month.
4. Drew Pomeranz from the Giants to the Brewers for a prospect.
The former starter struck out eight in his first 5 1/3 innings in the bullpen for the Giants before the trade – six in 3 1/3 of those innings against the Cubs (see: struggles vs. LHPs, above). The Cubs and Brewers had 10 more meetings at the time of the trade.
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DID YOU KNOW
- When Kyle Schwarber drove in a career-high seven runs Sunday in Milwaukee, he became the second Cub to do it this season (David Bote, June 5, vs. Rockies). It’s the first time the Cubs have had two 7-RBI performances in one season since Derrek Lee had two in 2009 – and only the second time since the RBI became official in 1921 that two different Cubs did it in the same season (Andre Dawson and Keith Moreland, on consecutive days in June 1987). Shout-out to Jason Carr of the Cubs for the research assist.
- When the Cubs beat the Brewers on Sunday, Joe Maddon moved past Hall of Fame manager Joe McCarthy into fifth place on the franchise list for managing victories (444 through Tuesday). McCarthy was the first manager to reach the World Series with teams from each league (eight times with Yankees and 1929 Cubs); Maddon was the most recent to do it (2008 Rays, 2016 Cubs).
3 — Pitchers left in the organization from the 2016 World Series roster after Mike Montgomery and Carl Edwards Jr. were traded away in July (Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Pedro Strop).
6 — Uniform number new Cub Nick Castellanos’ chose, in part because he’s a fan of Hall of Famer Al Kaline (whose number is retired in Detroit) and larger part, he said, because he joined the Cubs on his son Liam’s sixth birthday.
5-6 — Height of new Cubs second baseman Tony Kemp – making him the shortest Cubs player since 5-foot-5 Al Montreuil in 1972 (thanks to info guru Christopher Kamka for this).
0.39 — Kyle Hendricks’ ERA in three starts against the Cardinals this season (23 innings). He’s 3-0 against them, 4-7 against everybody else.
THAT’S WHAT HE SAID
“We’re just not finishing the game with more runs than the other team.” — Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel when asked why the Cubs struggle so more on the road than at home.
“It’s just funny how everything seems to come full circle. I get traded to a new team and, God willing, I throw my first pitch [in St. Louis] for the club that I grew up cheering against. It’s just very poetic.” — Right-hander David Phelps, a St. Louis native, who joined the Cubs on Wednesday in St. Louis after a trade from Toronto.
“The 11th hour is the most powerful hour there is.” — Cubs manager Joe Maddon on the Cubs’ and other teams’ frenzied trade activity in the final minutes before Wednesday’s trade deadline.