The Rundown: Cubs Give One Away, Montgomery Traded for Maldonado, Happ Mashing at Iowa

If I told you that Brad Brach pitched last night, would you think the Cubs won or lost? Joe Maddon turned a 3-2 lead over to his bullpen and they didn’t come through as the Cubs dropped the first game of the series to the Reds 6-3.

Steve Cishek looked awful, immediately giving up a game-tying homer to Yasiel Puig, and Randy Rosario wasn’t much better. I am confounded by Brach. He throws hard and 18 of his 24 pitches were strikes last night, but he’s not scaring opposing hitters. That said, the loss was a team effort and by no means was relief pitching the only culprit.

  • The Cubs had the bases loaded with one out in the bottom of the 6th with a chance to pad a 3-2 lead and break the game open. David Bote struck out, then Robel García, pinch-hitting for starter Kyle Hendricks, did the same.
  • Javy Báez and Bote each committed errors in the 7th inning after Puig tied the game with his 22nd homer of the year. Bote’s error allowed Eugenio Suárez to score the go-ahead run.
  • Anthony Rizzo dropped a catchable foul ball that allowed the Reds to score two insurance runs in the top of the 8th.
  • The Cubs were 1-for-11 with RISP. That type of systemic failure will be openly discussed all winter long if the Cubs fail to win the division.
  • Cubs batters also failed to control the strike zone as they did in sweeping the Pirates. Reds starter Luis Castillo punched out 10 Cubs hitters against just three walks.

The big news of the night is that the Cubs made a trade with the Royals, although Whit Merrifield was not the centerpiece. Chicago acquired catcher Martín Maldonado in exchange for swingman Mike Montgomery. The lefty has wanted a chance to be a full-time starter for the longest time, and he’ll get that in Kansas City.

Merrifield is oft-mentioned by Cubs fans whose standards would make you think the Cubs have the prospect capital to compete with other teams hoping to acquire him. The Royals reportedly want three major league-ready players with long-term club control just to get to the table. I’m sure Merrifield was discussed, as Theo Epstein is said to have been working on the Maldonado trade for quite some time. I’m also sure it would take nothing short of a miracle to acquire the super utility player.

For the Cubs, they’ll probably carry three catchers when Willson Contreras returns from the IL. Or maybe they’ll sell high on Victor Caratini, who is having a strong season. Maldonado looks to be the designated catcher for Yu Darvish if the Cubs carry all three on the 25-man roster.

Could Caratini be part of a deal for Merrifield? Possibly, though not likely. There could be more layers to this trade ahead of this month’s deadline, however.

Cubs News & Notes

  • Theo Epstein said he remains in touch with Ben Zobrist, who went on the restricted list May 8 to deal with family issues. Epstein has said previously that Zobrist might rejoin the team at some point. “We’re due to talk soon and maybe get a little more specific about plans and timetables and things like that, but I don’t have anything for you guys at this time on it,” Epstein said. In a best-case scenario, Zobrist probably wouldn’t return to Chicago until mid-to-late August and is probably more likely on course for roster expansion on September 1.
  • The Cubs’ new catcher played for the Brewers, Angels, and Astros before signing with Kansas City this year. He won a Gold Glove for the Angels in 2017 and he’s slashed .227/.291/.366 with 6 homers and 17 RBI this year.
  • If you’re worried about the Cubs and any luxury tax implications, the difference between Montgomery’s and Maldonado’s salaries is negligible. Montgomery is arb-eligible and has two more years of team control, while Maldonado will be a free agent following the 2019 campaign.
  • Kyle Schwarber hit his 20th home run of the season last night.
  • Would the Cubs actually consider trading Kris Bryant? You’ll need a subscription to the The Athletic to read the full article, but Ken Rosenthal raises the possibility. Before you work yourself up too much, I wouldn’t count on that happening. If Merrifield is worth three players, what is Bryant worth?
  • If you need a warmer story regarding the Cubs’ all-star third baseman to calm your anxiety, Bryant does lead all of baseball in going first-to-third on singles.
  • Meet the new and improved Ian Happ!

How About That!

Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford went off yesterday. In the first game of a double-header in which San Francisco destroyed the Rockies 19-2, he was 5-for-6 with two taters and eight RBI. He was 1-for-3 with a home run in the nightcap, which the Giants also won.

The Giants, meanwhile, are now three games back in the wild-card race after entering June in last place in the NL West with a 22-34 record.

The Giants and Brewers are reportedly discussing a possible trade where Milwaukee would acquire lefty reliever Will Smith.

Padres’ star rookie Fernando Tatis Jr. does something amazing things on the baseball field.

Diamondbacks lefty Robbie Ray is becoming a popular target for contenders ahead of the MLB trade deadline

Mondays Three Stars

  1. Brandon Crawford – See above. His eight RBI in game one tied a team record held by Willie Mays and Orlando Cepeda. He became the first shortstop in MLB history to record five hits and eight RBI in one game.
  2. Travis d’Anaurd – The Rays backstop was 3-for-3 with five RBI in leading the Rays to a 5-4 win over the Yankees. All three of his hits left the yard. His third home run was a three-run shot off of Aroldis Chapman that won the game.
  3. Cody Bellinger – The all-star right fielder was 4-for-6 with two dingers in helping the Dodgers paste the Phillies 16-2.

On Deck

Advertising patches are coming to major league uniforms, with strategically placed sponsorship insignia likely to be standard uniform accessories within three years. The patches would need MLBPA approval and the current collective bargaining agreement does not expire until December 2021.

Extra Innings

A day after a foul ball struck a child at Kauffman Stadium, the Royals said they’ll extend safety netting. Kansas City is the seventh team to announce such plans since a chilling nationally televised episode in Houston on May 29, when an Albert Almora Jr. foul liner injured a toddler just beyond third base.

They Said It

  • “[The trade] was something we wanted to quickly finalize once it became clear Willson was going to miss some time. [Maldonado] is an established catcher in this league who does a lot of great things behind the plate. He can really receive. He can really throw. He’s handled some of the best pitchers in the game.” – Theo Epstein
  • “[Montgomery] clearly wants to start. He’s kind of been used in a very versatile role over there. He’s pitched in the middle, he’s pitched situational — it’s just a good opportunity to get him back and put him in the rotation.“We’re going to have to stretch him out, but the plan is for him to start on Friday in Cleveland. Once we get him here and talk to him and analyze it a little more, we’ll figure out how many pitches he goes.”  – Dayton Moore

Tuesday Walk Up Song

The Longest Time by Billy Joel. Montgomery wanted to be a starter and he got his wish. I don’t know if I’d want anything so bad that I’d leave a consistently winning club for a team that will continue to tear it down. Don’t be surprised if KC flips the lefty for a prospect or two.

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