A lot can change in 11 days. When the Cubs combined for a no-hitter on June 24 against the Dodgers in Los Angeles, they were in first place in their division, and their path through the July trade deadline looked like they could be bolstering the roster for a playoff run.
But less than two weeks later, the Cubs had strung together 11 consecutive losses and sunk to fourth place in the National League Central. As the losing streak went on and the trade deadline got closer, the types of phone calls team president Jed Hoyer was getting changed.
“We were certainly fully on the buy side of this transaction, and everyone was calling about that,” Hoyer said of where things stood a couple of weeks ago. “And obviously people are now calling to see which players are available, so it’s a very different scenario than we expected. Life comes at you fast. Eleven days ago is not where we were mentally, and, obviously, 11 games certainly changes a lot of things.”
Headed into the season, most of the signs pointed toward the Cubs being sellers at the trade deadline. They have players such as Craig Kimbrel, who has a vesting option for next year, but the way he has pitched has made him one of the most coveted arms on the market.
Three of the Cubs’ core group — Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Javy Baez — are set to be free agents this winter, and Hoyer won’t hint at where contract-extension talks stand with any of them. Yu Darvish, traded to the Padres last December, looked like the first domino to fall, and one of the aforementioned players could be the next one at some point in July.
But the Cubs rolled through May with a 19-8 record and shifted that narrative. As a first-place team, being sellers would’ve been a hard sell to fans. Now, even though Hoyer still believes his team is capable of another hot streak, he said it’s time to be pragmatic about the team’s long-term outlook.
“When you’re in this moment and your playoff odds get into single digits at this time of the year, you have to keep one eye on the future and think about what moves you could potentially make that could help build the next year, the next great Cubs team,” Hoyer said.
Hoyer doesn’t like the word rebuild to describe what’s coming for the Cubs, at least not one on the scale of what the team underwent in the early 2010s, when they fielded 100-loss teams and stocked up the farm system.
“We’re in a different situation now than we were in 2012,” Hoyer said. “And so, the decisions we’re making, the process we’re going through are completely different. So I think that label is certainly something to be avoided.”
If not a full-scale, tear-it-all-down rebuild, what should Cubs fans expect then? Look to the American League East.
Hoyer likes a model along the lines of what the Yankees did in 2016, when they shipped out players such as Aroldis Chapman at the trade deadline, then turned around and fielded a playoff team the next season. This kind of approach would leave the door open to some players the Cubs trade at this year’s deadline making a return in 2022.
Hoyer also praised the success of the Red Sox over the last decade. They’ve won two World Series since 2013, and they’ve also had down years in between those highs. Hoyer pointed specifically to the fact that the Red Sox have had multiple top-10 draft picks during the same stretch that they’ve won multiple World Series titles.
“Using them as an example, sometimes there’s a lot of stability,” Hoyer said. “We’ve had that period, and sometimes your team has a year they go down and they go right back up.”