ST. LOUIS — Time is winding down before the trade deadline, and dealing Joc Pederson last week showed that team president Jed Hoyer and the Cubs are open for business.
A lot could happen between now and July 30 as the franchise’s future will be decided in the coming days.
Here are three questions the Cubs have to answer ahead of the deadline:
What happens with Kris Bryant?
It’s the question that has been asked the most the last few years, and those questions won’t stop. Bryant’s bounce-back season has been one of the Cubs’ bright spots, and his versatility has been on display. It all makes him their most valuable trade asset.
But Bryant left the game Tuesday against the Cardinals with right hamstring fatigue. He made a diving catch in the third inning and appeared to land awkwardly but stayed in the game before being taken out in the fifth. Ian Happ took over.
The Cubs need a healthy Bryant to maximize their return. At 29, he’s in the last year of club control and would be a rental for any team that acquires him at the deadline. He could be a fit for several contending teams.
Who else could be moved?
Like Bryant, shortstop Javy Baez and first baseman Anthony Rizzo will become free agents at the end of the season. Any player with an expiring deal could be dealt.
Hoyer said weeks ago that he’d sit down with Bryant, Baez and Rizzo before the deadline to discuss each player’s status. With the chances of extensions remote at this point, the discussions likely would focus on where they stand ahead of the team’s moves.
Reliever Craig Kimbrel is another potential trade piece. He has carried over his success from the end of 2020 and put together one of his best seasons in years, taking his place again among a select group of elite closers.
Kimbrel, who was named an All-Star for the first time since 2018, is not only an attractive player for a contender looking for a closer as the final piece to a championship-caliber team, but his contractual flexibility also could boost his value.
His $16 million team option might not have looked attractive to teams after he signed and struggled, but with the return of the Kimbrel of old, it could be a reasonable price to pay for a contender who wants more than a rental.
What will the rotation look like?
Kyle Hendricks has been terrific since May, Adbert Alzolay has held his own and Zach Davies has shown flashes of his old self, but the Cubs’ rotation has lacked cohesiveness and length.
The back of the rotation is the biggest question mark for the second half.
Jake Arrieta struggled mightily before landing on the injured list with hamstring tightness and has not had the look or production of a pitcher who was close to finding his way.
The Cubs have contingency plans when the time comes to move Arrieta out of the rotation. Young left-hander Justin Steele made a great impression when he was part of the team’s bullpen and is getting stretched out as a starter in Triple A before he gets some looks in the second half.
With right-hander Alec Mills throwing the ball well in his return to the rotation and stabilizing things, it isn’t hard to imagine what the team’s rotation will look like without Arrieta. And the last two weeks have provided a preview.