Cubs resume play with 5-1 win, but are wondering what might be next
Did the Cubs send Joc Pederson to Atlanta in order to put pressure on the Mets to increase their trade offer for Kris Bryant?
Yeah, probably not.
But as the Cubs resumed play Friday in Arizona, the focus was on the future. The near future, with several players potentially in play before the July 30 trade deadline, and a more distant future with the Cubs signing their first-round draft pick, left-handed pitcher Jordan Wicks from Kansas State.
Meanwhile, the Cubs snapped a nine-game road losing streak with a 5-1 victory over the lowly Diamondbacks. Anthony Rizzo, Patrick Wisdom and Jason Heyward homered. Kyle Hendricks went 6 innings and stayed tied with the Dodgers' Julio Urias for the major league lead in wins with 12. The Cubs hadn't won a road game since their combined no-hitter at Dodger Stadium on June 24.
Jon Heyman from mlb.com wrote in a tweet Friday the Cubs are likely to try again on contract extensions for Javy Baez and Rizzo. The third impending free agent from the World Series team is Bryant.
An informed observation would be Baez has no plans to leave and it's just a matter of agreeing to terms, while there's not much of a market for Rizzo, with his declining production and recurring back problems.
Bryant is a bigger question. Are the Cubs demanding a top prospect in return? Would they settle for a basket of Class A-level talent, similar to the return for Yu Darvish?
There's less certainty about the Cubs' ability to re-sign Bryant, though it's obviously possible, especially if he'd prefer to stay in Chicago. So it's a matter of the Cubs deciding to take a chance on re-signing their multi-position all-star or getting what they can for him now and head into the off-season with money to spend in free-agency.
The Pederson trade isn't necessarily a sign the exodus has begun. Atlanta was motivated to add an outfielder with Ronald Acuna Jr. going down with a torn ACL before the break, and the Cubs got a decent prospect in return in first baseman Bryce Ball.
Pederson, who hit .230 with 11 home runs and 39 RBI, was on a one-year deal. He was expendable because the Cubs want to keep Wisdom and Ian Happ on the field, with the hope they'll be long-term contributors. Bryant can stay in the outfield as long as it says Cubs across his chest, and both Matt Duffy (back) and David Bote (shoulder) should be back from injuries later this month.
Infielder Eric Sogard (thumb) was activated from the injured list before Friday's game, filling the roster spot vacated by Pederson.
"It stinks to lose Joc. He was definitely a fun teammate," manager David Ross told reporters before Friday's game. "I think he played really hard, he has great energy on a daily basis. When things like that happen in baseball, it gives an opportunity for a guy like Ian Happ to step up or a Raffy Ortega or Jake Marisnick -- another outfielder or two to be even better than Joc was.
"There's too many baseball games left to focus on one guy's absence. We've had a lot of guys out."
The Cubs opened Friday's game with Happ in left field, Marisnick in center and Bryant in right against Diamondbacks left-handed starter Madison Bumgarner.
Ball is a 6-foot-6, 240-pound Iowa native who showed a lot of power at North Iowa Area Community College and Dallas Baptist. A 24th-round draft pick, he did really well in 2019, hitting .329 with 17 home runs between rookie ball and Class A. The Braves kept him at their alternate site in 2020.
But with the Class A Rome Braves this season, Ball was hitting .207 with 6 home runs and a high strikeout rate (28 percent). While he's likely to start in South Bend, talk that this is a sign the Cubs are moving on from Rizzo is very premature.
Back in Chicago, the Cubs had most of their top-10 draft picks at Wrigley Field for a tour and Wicks officially signed his first contract. Wicks is headed to the Arizona rookie league first and scouting director Dan Kantrovitz has said he doesn't expect Wicks to throw many innings this summer, after completing the college season.
"Every time you go to a new level, you get excited," Wicks said on a Zoom call with reporters. "Competing against new guys, just the newness and the excitement of it. To get to have this as your job is a childhood dream and to be living that is just amazing."
Wicks said he got to chat with Bryant and Craig Kimbrel about the Cubs in Denver at the All-Star Game.