Jesse Chavez ravine? Cubs to offset Dodgers’ Machado effect by adding pitching
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The Cubs’ response to the Dodgers landing shortstop Manny Machado from the Orioles in the trade of the year Wednesday?
‘‘I sent him a text and said, ‘Congrats, see you in the playoffs,’ ’’ said Cubs center fielder Albert Almora Jr., a close childhood friend who daydreamed this season about the Cubs acquiring Machado. ‘‘He said, ‘Thanks, man, wish me well.’ ’’
Then the Cubs went out and beat the Cardinals 9-6 and traded for Rangers right-handed swingman Jesse Chavez on Thursday.
OK, so the Dodgers still own the National League headlines with the biggest hitting acquisition in a July trade in years. But the Cubs aren’t done after acquiring Chavez for Class A left-hander Tyler Thomas.
‘‘I don’t think that’s going to be the end of it,’’ manager Joe Maddon said.
Whether the balance of power in the NL has shifted again toward the Dodgers, as many have suggested, is still to be determined. The Cubs yet might have the final say, depending on how they address their pitching deficit.
That deficit was underscored when the Cubs put closer Brandon Morrow (biceps) on the disabled list for the second time this season.
A few hours later, starter Kyle Hendricks failed to get out of the fifth inning, putting a damper on the mood he took into the All-Star break with strong performances in his previous two outings.
‘‘He’s well; he’s healthy,’’ Maddon said.
But Hendricks, the 2016 ERA champ and the starter of Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, still is searching for his typical command after battling mechanics issues for much of the first half.
The Cubs won for the 13th time in their last 16 games — despite falling behind for the 69th time in 94 games — on the strength of a five-run fifth and opened a three-game lead over the second-place Brewers in the NL Central. But they’ll be the first to say that success belies a starting-pitching issue.
They leaned hard on their bullpen for innings in the first half, and they’ve had sixth starter Mike Montgomery in the rotation since May.
‘‘The come-from-behind wins are definitely fun and enjoyable for fans,’’ said Ian Happ, who hit a two-run home run in the fifth. ‘‘But I think we’d enjoy a few games where we start up and finish up.’’
The Cubs again said they have no idea when $126 million starter Yu Darvish will be ready to return after the latest setback with his right elbow.
‘‘No matter what happens, we know we’re going to need more pitching to get through the season,’’ general manager Jed Hoyer said heading into the break.
One of the Cubs’ bullpen targets, Brad Hand, is off the board after the Padres traded him to the Indians. But the Orioles plan to move reliever Zach Britton, and the Cubs also are in on Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ.
‘‘Our numbers are among the best in the National League, both overall and as the bullpen and then even into the starters,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘But you’re always looking to make it better. That’s what GMs do.’’
Chavez, 34, might be a good first step. He made 21 starts for the Angels last season and had a 3.51 ERA pitching exclusively as a reliever for the Rangers.
‘‘Chavy’s good people,’’ said former Braves teammate Jason Heyward, who had three hits, including the tying single in the fifth. ‘‘He’s going to fit into this clubhouse really well and [is] a guy who always wants the ball.’’
‘‘He’s a great guy, low-key,’’ former Blue Jays teammate Morrow said. ‘‘He’s got a rubber arm out of the bullpen and [is] a swing guy that can do a lot of things well.’’
For now, the Cubs will take the extra arm and look for more.
‘‘Anytime there’s a deal, it’s always a positive, both morale-wise in the clubhouse and obviously on-the-field performance-wise,’’ ace Jon Lester said.