The defending World Champions were languishing with a record of 43-45, two games under the .500 mark at the All-Star break.
The Cubs were installed as odds-on favorites during the preseason to repeat as World Champs. While there had been some underperformance in the first half, the club’s core remains intact from a season ago. The one thing that most prognosticators thought was absolutely necessary as the trade deadline approached, was another upper-echelon starting pitcher.
They certainly paid a hefty price to make that move. On Thursday, the Cubs’ sent their top prospect, outfielder Eloy Jimenez to the White Sox in a five-player deal that netted Jose Quintana.
Earlier in the week, the Cubs’ brass had made it clear that under no circumstances were they going to be dealing Jimenez. The 20-year-old outfielder is hitting .272/.355/.481 with eight homers and 34 RBI over 44 games at High-A Myrtle Beach.
Including him in the deal meant that the Cubs are going for it again, which they obviously should.
It wasn’t just Jimenez that was sent to the White Sox in this deal though. The Cubs also included their top pitching prospect Dylan Cease. The 21-year-old hurler owned a 2.79 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 74/26 K/BB ratio across 51 2/3 innings at Class-A South Bend prior to the deal.
If that wasn’t enough, a pair of fringe prospects were also included in the deal in Matt Rose and Bryant Flete.
On Sunday, Quintana took the hill for the first time in a Cubs uniform with the intent to reward the organization for their strong faith in him. He didn’t disappoint.
Quintana racked up a season-high 12 strikeouts while scattering three hits over seven shutout innings. He didn’t walk a batter. It’s the 10th time in his career that he has whiffed 10 or more batters in a start, and the third time he has done so this season.
The veteran southpaw was upbeat and generally excited about the move to the other side of Chicago. "I'm really happy to be here and see these teammates and how they play baseball," he quipped after the game "I want to be part of that -- I'm excited."
While his overall numbers on the season don’t jump off the page, most of his troubles were in the early part of the season and could partially be attributed to a hangover from the World Baseball Classic. Over his last eight starts, including Sunday, he has been outstanding with a 2.30 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 57/16 K/BB ratio across 47 innings.
The Cubs would love to see much more of that as they attempt to run down the Milwaukee Brewers over the second half of the season.
Sunday’s victory led the Cubs to a three-game sweep over the Orioles and has them off and running in the second half. The Cubs will enter play next week trailing the Brewers by 4 ½ games in the National League Central and the Colorado Rockies by 5 ½ games for the Wild Card.
Bolstering the Bullpen
To say that the Washington Nationals have had their share of difficulties in the bullpen, specifically in the ninth inning this season, would be a massive understatement.
For the season, the Nationals’ relievers have combined for a horrifying 5.31 ERA. That’s far and away the worst mark in all of baseball. Their 1.47 WHIP is the second worst mark, ahead of only the New York Mets.
As a unit, the Nationals have tallied 22 saves this season. That mark ranks them right in the middle of the pack in all of baseball, but how they have accumulated those saves is the issue. Eight different Nats’ relievers have recorded at least one save, with none of them netting more than eight (Koda Glover – 8, Shawn Kelley – 4, Blake Treinen – 3, Enny Romero – 2, Matt Albers – 2, Matt Grace – 2, Oliver Perez – 1).
They have also blown 14 saves. For a team that sits at 55-36 and owns a 9 ½ game lead over the Atlanta Braves in the National League East, the Nats’ can probably afford to give a game or two away due to their leaky bullpen.
That won’t be the case in the postseason though. If the Nationals have their sights set on a World Championship, which they should, the bullpen needed to be addressed.
The deal immediately adds quality depth to the back-end of the Nationals’ bullpen in a pair of hurlers that both have experience in the ninth inning.
They’re also both having outstanding seasons. Doolittle owns a jaw-dropping 0.66 WHIP, 3.38 ERA and 31/2 K/BB ratio across 21 1/3 innings this season. Madson, 36, sports a 2.06 ERA, 0.79 WHIP and 39/6 K/BB mark in his 39 1/3 innings. These guys are both legit.
Nationals’ manager Dusty Baker said Sunday that he still didn’t know who his club’s closer is, but did say that both Doolittle and Madson could share the ninth inning role.
For those speculating on saves in fantasy leagues, both hurlers need to be owned if they aren’t already.
While this was a huge, and necessary, move for the Nationals, it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see them still look to add another arm to the bullpen prior to the trade deadline on July 31.
The Price is Right
David Price delivered his most dominant performance of the season under the bright lights of Sunday Night Baseball, striking out eight over eight scoreless innings in a victory over the Yankees.
The left-hander scattered just seven hits on the night and didn’t issue a walk. He has now logged quality starts in each of his last five outings, lowering his ERA from 5.14 to 3.39 in the process.
The victory salvaged a split in Sunday’s doubleheader and of the four-game weekend set against their division rival.
With Price performing as the Ace that he was signed to be, the Red Sox boast a deadly one-two punch atop their rotation with he and Chris Sale. That duo could seemingly create nightmares for opponents come October.
The first task for the Red Sox will be simply getting to the postseason. After Sunday night’s victory, the Red Sox sit at 52-41 and own a three-game lead over the Rays in the American League East.
You have to imagine that team President Dave Dombrowski is champing at the bit to add to his squad as they look to make a run to the World Series.
Numerous sources including Bob Nightengale of USA Today and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports believe it to be “inevitable” that they’ll acquire Todd Frazier to fill their gaping hole at third base prior to the trade deadline.
While the team speak is that the club is still pursuing multiple options at the position, Dombrowski has a history of getting his guy regardless of the cost. If he deems Frazier as the top option at the position, expect to see him at the hot corner in Boston come August.
American League Quick Hits: Collin McHugh (elbow) made it through his final rehab start without issue and is on track to rejoin the Astros’ rotation next week… Danny Salazar (shoulder) fanned nine over six shutout innings in a rehab start at Triple-A Columbus. He could rejoin the Indians’ rotation this weekend… Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Brewers are one of the teams to check in on Jays’ southpaw JA Happ, though the Blue Jays remain unlikely to trade him… According to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, the Rangers and Athletics are considering signing Chris Carter… Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Orioles are open to trading Brad Brach and Darren O’Day, in addition to Zach Britton… Mookie Betts had three hits including a home run as the Red Sox topped the Yankees in the nightcap of Sunday’s doubleheader… Francisco Lindor had himself a 4-for-4 afternoon in a losing effort against the Athletics… C.J. Cron belted a go-ahead two-run homer in the eighth inning on Sunday to beat the Rays… Logan Morrison swatted his 25th homer of the season in defeat there… Justin Smoak cranked his 24th long ball in a loss to the Tigers… Nelson Cruz launched a go-ahead solo homer in the 10th inning, propelling the Mariners to victory over the White Sox… Lorenzo Cain delivered a walk-off RBI single to beat the Rangers… Avisail Garcia homered twice and plated three in a loss to the Mariners… Mike Napoli clubbed his 20th home run in a losing effort against the Royals… Mike Fiers punched out a season-high 11 batters over seven innings of two-run ball in a victory over the Twins… C.C. Sabathia shut out the Red Sox over six innings to win the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader…
National League Quick Hits: Cesar Hernandez (oblique) is expected to return from the disabled list on Monday… Austin Hedges (head) continues to improve and could return to the Padres’ lineup as early as Monday… According to Chris Haft of MLB.com, the Rays have expressed interest in Giants’ right-hander Hunter Strickland as they look to upgrade their bullpen prior to the trade deadline… ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that the Braves are very open to the idea of trading Julio Teheran… Cory Spangenberg homered and tripled in a rout of the Giants… Brandon Belt was a late scratch from the Giants’ lineup on Sunday due to a left wrist sprain… Aaron Altherr (hamstring) is expected to be placed on the disabled list on Monday… Nick Williams blasted his first career grand slam to sink the Brewers… Adam Frazier came through with a walk-off RBI single to beat the Cardinals in the ninth inning… Magneuris Sierra went 4-for-4 with a stolen base in a loss to the Pirates… Jaime Garcia upped his potential trade value on Sunday, firing seven innings of one-run ball in a victory over the Diamondbacks… Daniel Murphy blasted a pair of home runs and drove home five as the Nationals walloped the Reds… Adam Lind, Anthony Rendon and Jose Lobaton also left the yard for the Nats in the lopsided victory… Kris Bryant went 3-for-4 with a homer, leading the Cubs past the Orioles… D.J. LeMahieu went 4-for-6 with three runs scored and a stolen base as the Rockies crushed Steven Matz and the Mets… Rich Hill whiffed nine over five innings of one-run ball in a victory over the Marlins… Justin Turner clubbed his 11th homer and plated two to lead the Dodgers’ offense… Edwin Jackson will be recalled from Triple-A Syracuse to start a major league game for the Nationals on Tuesday.