The last three weeks have felt like a swan song for the Cubs as the team prepares for a major shake-up. With the trade deadline two days away, the team being a seller is not a position the Cubs have taken in quite some time.
It’s been a long time since the Cubs, who lost 8-2 to the Reds on Wednesday night, have had a season like this. Even when they missed the postseason in 2019, they went for it and were a buyer, acquiring outfielder Nick Castellanos at the deadline.
Not only has winning been the model on the North Side over the last six years, it has become the expectation. The Cubs have done a lot of winning since the last time they were a seller in 2014 and of their current roster, only first baseman Anthony Rizzo and starter Kyle Hendricks were on the team the last time it happened.
But with the team clearly picking a direction for the 2021 season after the trades of Joc Pederson, Andrew Chafin and more to come by the weekend, that shift in direction not only has been felt by fans, but also within the organization.
“It’s been a little different for us [this year],” Hendricks said. “The last few years, we’ve been the team that was inviting guys into this group. We’ve lost a lot of friends over those years. But to have such major pieces being talked about [in trade rumors] and things that could happen, it’s definitely just a different time for us than we’ve experienced.”
The Cubs’ 11-game losing streak quickly changed the course of their season. While the Cubs’ new course has put them in the category of one of baseball’s true sellers at the deadline, it has allowed them plenty of time for reflection in what may be the team’s core group of players’ final days together.
“I don’t think that the winning mentality is leaving here. That’s gonna remain the same,” manager David Ross said. “The personnel is changing a little bit. Like some guys that have been brought in here to help this group win. We’ve traded two of those guys already [and] that part does stink and probably a new reality for these guys that have been here for such a long time and created this atmosphere.”
“Deep down in my heart, I know I’ve had some of the best memories here and some of the best times of my life,” third baseman Kris Bryant said.
Cubs president Jed Hoyer has plenty to think about over the next 48 hours as he not only decides the team’s future for this season, but the next four or five seasons.
Even if the team doesn’t expect its “reload” or “retool” to be a multiyear process as it was when Theo Epstein and Hoyer arrived in 2011, having buy-in from players who are here after the deadline will be a major part of making that quick turnaround happen.
“Absolutely,” Hendricks said. “You have to rely on the track record of these guys [in the front office]. They’re the best at what they do in putting teams together and getting the right guys in the group. . . .
“I think one of the biggest positives that we’ve seen around here this year is the young guys we do have that are going to be around. Between Adbert [Alzolay] and what he’s been able to do this year, and then between Keegan Thompson and Justin Steele — they’re going to be guys that are a huge part of this group. And seeing those kinds of flashes throughout the season gives you a lot of hope that it can turn around real quick.”