Cubs’ Theo Epstein calls rumors of trade talks ‘false’; Kyle Hendricks dominates
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All one had to do at Wrigley Field on Friday was stop and listen. In the stands, on the concourse or in line for the bathroom, two words were in the air.
No, not “is this stall taken?” That’s four words.
Two words: “Manny” and “Machado.”
Unless one was listening to Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, that is. He wasn’t of a mind to discuss trade rumors involving the Orioles shortstop, one of the top free-agents-to-be in the game.
“I’m not addressing any specific rumor or any player with another team,” Epstein said before a 6-2 victory over the Giants. “I would never talk about that in a million years.”
The Cubs spoke with the Orioles in the offseason about Machado, who will turn 26 in July, and the teams can be expected to talk again as the July 31 trade deadline draws nearer. Other National League teams — the Dodgers, the Diamondbacks, the Cardinals — are in the Machado-rumor mix, though, giving the O’s some apparent leverage.
Epstein said there’ve been “essentially zero trade talks involving the Cubs,” then doubled down by calling any reports of talks “completely false.”
He also claimed the Cubs already have all the pieces they need to win at the highest level.
“We have more than enough ability to win the division, win the World Series,” he said. “We really need to focus on our roster and getting the most out of our ability and finding some consistency.”
He’s just too much
At 4-3 after a dominant seven-inning performance against the Giants, Kyle Hendricks might not have a standout win-loss record. Yet he has been operating at close to the top of his game all season, with a team-high four starts of at least seven innings and a team-high seven quality starts.
Before watching Hendricks allow only two hits, strike out seven and rip through seven innings in only 88 pitches, manager Joe Maddon said the right-hander is pitching as well as ever. After the game, Hendricks concurred.
“Yeah, I feel really good,” he said. “It’s just that constant focus of coming in every day [and] getting better. There are a few things that aren’t necessarily where I want them to be right now, but overall it’s been really good.”
Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant had the more productive day, lacing a pair of singles to left-center and driving in two runs, but Giants first baseman Brandon Belt maintained a lead over Bryant for the highest OPS in the NL.
A ninth-inning doink single to left Belk with an OPS of .998. Bryant is at .983. The Braves’ Freddie Freeman, the Diamondbacks’ A.J. Polloclk and the Rockies Nolan Arenado rounded out the top five entering Friday’s action.