Bryant, Baez, Kimbrel, Williams, Marisnick gone: Deadline Day = Demolition Day for Cubs
There are retooling projects, and then there's taking a sledgehammer to a team's most successful lineup in modern history.
Deadline Day became Demolition Day for the Cubs and team president Jed Hoyer. In a span of two days, he dealt World Series heroes Kris Bryant (Giants), Javy Baez (Mets) and Anthony Rizzo (Yankees), plus relievers Craig Kimbrel and Ryan Tepera (both to White Sox), pitcher Trevor Williams (Mets) and outfielder Jake Marisnick (Padres). The Cubs received nine prospects in return.
What the Cubs will look like next year is anyone's guess, but this was a mind-blowing series of moves. Everyone was expecting the Cubs to make significant changes at the trade deadline, but perhaps not this many.
"Difficult, no question. Emotional," Hoyer said on a Zoom call with reporters. "But to me, there was really no reason not to be as aggressive as possible to do that. There was no reason to go halfway. Those are superstar players, they're winners. They should be playing on TV in October.
"Was it emotionally difficult? Yes. Do I think it was absolutely right thing for the organization? I do."
Baez has said all along he didn't want to leave the Cubs. But if he did leave, he'd prefer to play with longtime friend Francisco Lindor. Well, Baez got his secondary wish with a trade to the Mets, along with Williams.
Lindor is currently on the injured list with an oblique strain, but when he comes back, it's probably safe to assume Baez will play second base, the spot he was at when the Cubs closed out the 2016 World Series.
"Just want to let you (fans) know that we love you," Baez said. "We know the dedication that you guys give to the sports in Chicago and what it means to the city. I never thought it was going to be this big and when we won the World Series in 2016."
Bryant did not speak to reporters, but there were cameras on him as he walked on the field in Washington, a phone to his ear. He appeared to wipe his eyes as he headed back to the clubhouse to pack up.
Bryant is heading to San Francisco, where he'll join the team with the best record in the National League and likely move between third base and the outfield.
"Emotional is the first word that comes to mind," manager David Ross said of departure day. "Sad, difficult, a lot of negative words I usually don't like to use on these Zooms. I'm happy for them. They get a chance to go chase a playoff berth. Outside of the manager side for me, I feel like I'm losing some friends for a minute. I think that's difficult."
Hoyer repeated some of the things he said a few weeks ago about the Cubs preparing and scouting to be buyers at the deadline. But then they lost 11 in a row, fell out of the playoff race and priorities changed. The Cubs front office decided the best plan of action was to collect as much young talent as possible before Bryant, Baez, Rizzo and others became free agents after the season.
"To me, the goal is, 'How do we build next great Cubs team,' not, 'How do we build the next OK Cubs team,'" Hoyer said. "I think we have raised the expectations in this city. Cubs fans don't expect to make the playoffs every 13 years like they did before.
"They expect to be in the playoff, they expect to win. I'm super proud that we created that, we caused that expectation and now we have to live up to that expectations."
One of the puzzling parts of this process is Hoyer has said he wanted those players back. The players all said they didn't want to leave and got emotional at the thought of being traded away from the Cubs. So why didn't it work out?
"I have to say we made (contract) offers to everyone, that I believe will stand up exceptionally well," Hoyer said. "We weren't able to reach deals. Does that frustrate me? It does. I have to be honest, I know we put our best foot forward. I'm proud of the offers we made. I believe they stand up very well. We offered extensions to everybody and we ultimately didn't reach deals."
Hoyer also promised to leave the door open for any of the former Cubs to return in free-agency.
"There's nothing that's stopping us at all from negotiating with any of those players this winter," Hoyer said. "The door has not been closed on any of those guys and I've told every one of those guys when we've talked."
The Cubs trotted out a makeshift lineup against the Nationals on Friday and lost 4-3. The Cubs used two players still remaining from the World Series team, Willson Contreras and Jason Heyward, while Jake Arrieta came off the injured list to take Williams' place as the starting pitcher.
Two Cubs pitchers made their major-league debut, including Manuel Rodriguez, who hit 100 miles per hour a few times while tossing a perfect eighth inning with 2 strikeouts. Michael Rucker, an 11th-round pick in 2016, pitched 2 innings, while Frank Schwindel made his Cubs debut as a pinch-hitter.
When it was all said and done, Hoyer wanted everyone to know he and the rest of Cubs management were just as sad about what happened Friday as the fans.
"They deserve every video tribute, every sad tweet., everything that is out there. I feel the same way," Hoyer said. "I don't want anyone to feel like there's a lack of emotion. If anything, these are friends, these are people that we've watched mature."