Giants built a good team around World Series heroes, why can't Cubs?
When the Cubs took the field Friday to face Arizona, it felt like a final stand. A last homestand, to be specific.
The Cubs will play three against the Diamondbacks and four games with the Reds leading into next Friday's MLB trade deadline. Cubs fans need no reminder of the implications.
Simply put, this could be the final time at Wrigley Field in a Cubs uniform for the World Series nucleus of Kris Bryant Javy Baez and Anthony Rizzo. And there are plenty of other Cubs players who could be traded.
Baez hit a 3-run homer in the first inning and the Cubs got the homestand off to a good start with an 8-3 victory Friday. Backup catcher Robinson Chirinos blasted a pair of home runs.
"We get really, really hot and things could go in the other direction," said Zach Davies, Friday's winning pitcher. "So you never know. It can change on a dime, and I think everybody in the clubhouse is prepared to go out there and win tomorrow, win the next day and just play positive and successful baseball."
So while a potential day of reckoning approaches for the Cubs, it's worth pointing out there is an example of a successful rebuild with a veteran core. With two comeback victories in Los Angeles the past two days, the San Francisco Giants have posted the best record in baseball, led by three players left over from their last World Series team in 2014.
It's certainly food for thought as team president Jed Hoyer plots the next moves. The Cubs trimmed their payroll over the past year and laid off dozens of front office employees, but Hoyer did say recently the plan is to stay competitive, not tear it all down.
Here's how the Giants got it done. The three World Series veterans -- catcher Buster Posey, first baseman Brandon Belt and shortstop Brandon Crawford -- have been the team's better hitters. Those guys are generating success, not simply enjoying the ride.
One factor is the salaries. All three signed long-term deals years ago at 2015 prices. This season, Posey is making $22.2 million, Belt $17.2 million and Crawford $15.2 million.
Pending free-agency is an obvious problem area for the Cubs. If Bryant, Baez, Rizzo and 2022 free-agent Willson Contreras want to max out their earnings potential, some of them will likely have to go elsewhere. The Cubs probably aren't willing to go $30 million per year for Bryant or dole out a $200 million total payout for Baez.
Will another team make that offer? Well, that's the quandary. The Cubs can either trade guys now and hope to get something in return, or risk that they leave in free-agency and the Cubs get only a compensatory draft pick.
Back to the Giants, there's been a successful mix of good luck and solid decisions by the Bay. The Giants added their three most effective pitchers -- Kevin Gausman, Anthony DeSclafini and Alex Wood -- as value free agents in the last year or two.
Four straight losing seasons didn't deliver much homegrown talent. One of their best additions, outfielder Mike Yastrzemski, was acquired in a trade with Baltimore. The Giants have done a nice job of adding effective role players between the draft, trades and free agents. That list includes Fremd graduate Mike Tauchman, who was traded from the Yankees to Giants in late April.
The final piece is San Francisco ranks third in the majors in bullpen ERA. The Cubs used to lead MLB in that category. Now they're fifth. If the Cubs are serious about being competitive next year, maybe they should hold on to some of their better relievers.
The Giants are a team with solid depth, quality pitchers on both sides and has been able to get the big hit or great defensive play when needed. They play a lot like the Cubs did when they went 26-11 from early May to mid-June.
There's not much question the Cubs could do the same thing. But deciding which players to keep, which players to trade and which players to pay will be a delicate process over the next several months.
Cubs players continue to insist the trade deadline is not a distraction, even though the team already moved popular outfielder Joc Pederson to Atlanta.
"The game itself is hard," catcher Robinson Chirinos said. "When you keep adding stuff you don't have control (over), it's just too hard. I know my teammates, myself, we're just having fun, trying to put good at-bats together, win every pitch and just do what we can control and let them do whatever they're going to go and do."