Cubs’ bullpen expected to take trade-deadline hit, but relievers have been through this before
The Cubs are expected to move closer David Robertson at the trade deadline — and he’s not the only one.
SAN FRANCISCO – The Cubs are expected to lose at least two, likely three, of their back-end relievers to the Aug. 2 trade deadline.
Last year, the Cubs traded away Craig Kimbrel, Ryan Tepera and Andrew Chafin – the Big 3 of their bullpen – as part of their deadline purge.
This year, the Cubs have yet again found success with veteran relievers mostly on short-term deals. And now, David Robertson, Mychal Givens and Chris Martin could go the way of their predecessors.
“It gets talked about because it’s the elephant in the room and everyone understands it’s real,” Cubs bullpen coach Chris Young told the Sun-Times, “but you respect how professional they are, you respect that they still want to pitch, they still want to be a part of it.”
He pointed to Givens throwing in three out of four of the Cubs’ games before their off day Wednesday, recording a save, not allowing a run and giving up just one hit in those outings.
“He wanted to be out there, he wanted to play baseball, he wanted to pitch,” Young said.
Of course, manager David Ross using Givens instead of Robertson, the closer, in a save situation against the Pirates this week raised eyebrows. Ross said Robertson was unavailable, citing his back-to-back outings in Philadelphia.
On Thursday in San Francisco, before the first game of a four-game series against the Giants, Ross again brushed off the notion that the upcoming deadline might have influenced his use of Robertson.
“My main goal is to take care of everybody,” Ross said. “That’s important throughout the season. I don’t put more importance on David than I do Scott Effross, to be honest with you. Certain guys with injury history are higher on the radar, and guys that are older probably need a little bit more time to recover.”
He didn’t say, but it remains true that, an injury to one of the Cubs’ veteran relievers would affect trade negotiations.
As the Cubs trade their veteran relievers, their starters and younger bullpen members will have to shoulder more responsibility.
The Cubs have seen dividends from that process last year. Effross’ development is the best example. The side-armer debuted in late August and appeared in 14 games. This year, he’s posted a 2.27 ERA and entered play Friday tied for the second-most relief outings in MLB (45).
“He’s earning that, the right to come in, in leverage situations,” Ross said. “He’s had a phenomenal year. He’s taken real well to a full major-league season.”
The Cubs will likely have to monitor his workload down the stretch.
For the most part, the Cubs’ starters have been pitching deeper into games recently. But they’ll still get nights like Thursday, when Justin Steele didn’t have his sharpest stuff and poor defense behind him pushed up his pitch count.
Those are some of the baseball considerations the Cubs will have to balance post-deadline. But they aren’t the only factors at play.
“You try to really understand that it’s a baseball trade, but there’s a lot going on for the humans,” Young said of what he took from last year’s trade deadline. “There’s guys with families that they’re trying to figure out where they need to go. There’s guys that are trying to get out of houses, into new houses.
“The human element of the trade you try to pay a lot of attention to. Because the baseball stuff, these guys are so good, they’re going to go to another team, put another uniform on, and they’re gonna do what they do.”
For the veteran relievers who are expected to depart, the Cubs chapter in their careers will have been brief. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t memorable.
“I’ve had a great time,” Robertson said. “Wrigley’s an unbelievable place to play baseball, and it’s nice to be on the home side and not the visiting side.”