The Rundown: Ortega More Valuable Than You May Think, Thompson Strong in Loss to Reds, Cubs Select Lee in Latest ESPN Mock
“We’re beaten and blown by the wind, trampled in dust.” – U2, Where the Streets Have No Name
The Cubs lost 5-3 to the Reds on Tuesday but as I said yesterday, wins and losses no longer matter unless you’re tracking Chicago’s chances of securing the top pick in this year’s draft lottery. Here at Cubs Insider, we are navigating with eyes forward and blinders in place to focus on Jed Hoyer’s mission to build a championship team, whenever that may occur.
With that in mind, let’s talk about Hoyer’s most valuable trade deadline assets, best fits, and where each player might eventually land. According to most, the president of baseball operations has prime real estate available in the forms of David Robertson, Ian Happ, Willson Contreras, and Kyle Hendricks. Some of his lesser assets — the Marvin Gardens and Ventnor Avenue properties, if you will — include Mychal Givens, Rowan Wick, Wade Miley, Drew Smyly, Patrick Wisdom, and Rafael Ortega. Hold the phone on Ortega’s real value, however, and I’ll get to that shortly.
Robertson – He’s one of the top comeback stories of the year and he’s enjoying his best season since 2017. He will be the best relief pitcher available on the market, whether a team is looking for a closer or just some help with high-leverage innings. The White Sox are always looking for relievers and Robertson would probably prefer to remain in Chicago. Rick Hahn won’t have the same exuberance other GMs will, however, and closer Kenley Jansen is having health issues in Atlanta. Top three suitors: Braves, Phillies, Yankees.
Happ – Teams will love his versatility, power, and speed, plus he’s a switch-hitter who has worked hard to improve his defense. He comes with an additional year of control and is slashing .273/.370/.820 this year. Hoyer should be working to keep him, but there will easily be 10 teams or more interested in his services. Top three suitors: Rays, Padres, Red Sox.
Contreras – By all rights, he should be extended for leadership and intangibles alone. He’s one of the best offensive catchers in the game, and though his defense has slipped slightly this year, he can play the outfield if needed and he can DH. This one will hurt, and though his market is thinner than Happ’s, the return should be just as good. Top three suitors: Mets, Padres, Angels.
Hendricks – Just a half-game separates the Brewers and the Cardinals. The two teams have seven August and September games against each other and Hendricks could start two or three of those, which could be the difference between a division championship, a Wild Card, or going home. He has been dominant against both teams so one should expect a bidding war but it won’t happen. If I was David Stearns in Milwaukee, I’d be all over Hendricks. Top three suitors: Dodgers, Padres, Giants.
Givens – He’s averaging 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings but he’s also carrying an unsightly 1.412 WHIP. Top three suitors: Phillies, White Sox, Braves.
Wick – It seems very unlikely Hoyer would trade Wick but it can’t be ruled out due to the annual demand for relievers. That said, a 4.80 ERA and 1.767 WHIP probably means he’s staying put. Top three suitors: Phillies, White Sox, Astros.
Miley – His injury will severely limit his market and Hoyer may end up eating the contract. He’s 1-0 with a 2.84 ERA in four starts, but the lefty is dealing with a shoulder injury and he’ll need to make a few issue-free starts before August 2 to have any value. Top three suitors: Mets, White Sox, Angels
Smyly – See Miley. Top three suitors: Twins, Angels, Mets.
Wisdom – Power is always in demand and he can provide better production (115 OPS+) than Nelson Cruz (105) and Mitch Haniger (100) at a fraction of the cost. Top three suitors: Rays, Brewers, Giants.
Ortega – He’s been a lot better than you may have realized and over his last 162 games he’s slashing .286/.361/.806 with 15 home runs, 48 RBI, and 16 stolen bases. He’s also sporting a .159 ISO with a 120 wRC+ in that span. Like Happ, there could be as many as 10 teams interested if GMs are doing their homework, and he’s a far better value than Bryan Reynolds. Top three suitors: Mets, Padres, Brewers.
Cubs News & Notes
- Crane Kenney was gushing over the Cubs’ current financial situation and claims the team has money earmarked for next year and beyond that wasn’t used this year. That may be the result of some creative accounting, however.
- Keegan Thompson started strong yesterday and is looking more and more like a rotation stalwart.
- Thompson’s sweeping slider is becoming his nastiest pitch.
- Seiya Suzuki is on the verge of a rehab assignment.
- In fact, Smyly, Suzuki, Marcus Stroman, and Nick Madrigal are all on the verge of returning.
- Stroman said he was “gutted” after Roe v. Wade was overturned last week.
- Similar to the way the Cubs are handling Jason Heyward, intangibles and loyalty may keep Hoyer from trading Hendricks.
- Starting pitcher Anderson Espinoza set the tone, and relievers Samuel Reyes, Bryan King, and Nicholas Padilla combined to go the rest of the way as Double-A Tennessee no-hit visiting Rocket City in a 2-0 win, the team’s second no-no of the year.
- You’ll need a subscription to ESPN+ to access the content, but Kiley McDaniel has the Cubs selecting shortstop Brooks Lee from Cal-Poly in his latest mock. He lists the chances of that happening at 30%.
Odds & Sods
Some analysts have said that Yordan Alvarez could be as good as Mike Trout or Juan Soto. His numbers over the past 25 games lend credence to that theory.
It’s no secret Yordan Alvarez has been hot lately. In the 25 games since May 29 (104 PAs):
OPS: 1.406 🤯
wRC+: 294 👀
Only Richard Hidalgo (1.629), Lance Berkman (1.560), and Jeff Bagwell (1.522) have had a higher OPS over 25 games for the Astros.
— Tony Adams (@adams_at) June 29, 2022
Climbing the Ladder
“I’m waiting for ignition, I’m looking for a spark.” – Peter Gabriel, I Have the Touch
Christopher Morel had a hit last night but his average has dropped to .255. When Suzuki returns, Morel could end up back in Tennessee or Iowa. Nico Hoerner had three singles last night and continues to impress. He is really in a zone right now. Reds starter Luis Castillo was dominating and the Brewers were scouting him last night. Adding Castillo to Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, and Eric Lauer would make Milwaukee tough to beat in a playoff series.
- Games Played: 74
- Total Plate Appearances: 2,826
- Total Strikeouts: 645
- Strikeout Rate: 22.82%
- Team Batting Average: .245
- Runs Scored: 313
- Runs Allowed: 392
How About That!
Four members of the United States Senate Judiciary Committee have issued a letter to Harry Marino, the executive director of Advocates for Minor Leaguers, requesting insight on the impact Major League Baseball’s antitrust exemption has on facets of the game. The letter seeks information on work stoppages; minor-league contraction; and the shady dynamics of the international free-agent market.
At 6-foot-7, Pirates rookie Oneil Cruz is the tallest shortstop in the history of the game.
The White Sox have been one of baseball’s biggest disappointments this year, but they’re still in the thick of the AL Central race and have one of the easiest second-half schedules in baseball.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit a walk-off single on Tuesday and he called his shot, sort of.
Miguel Cabrera has passed Rickey Henderson on the all-time hits list with 3,056 knocks. Cabrera is now four hits shy of passing Craig Biggio for 25th place.
You probably didn’t know it because he is injured so often, but Twins outfielder Byron Buxton has hit 52 home runs in his last 162 games.
It’s always a goof time when The Onion pokes fun at baseball traditions.
Tuesday’s Three Stars
- Robbie Ray – The Mariners starter held the Orioles to one hit with eight punchouts in seven crisp innings of work.
- Woodruff – He held the Rays to two hits over five innings with 10 strikeouts and is quietly becoming as dominant as he was last season after a slow start. Woodruff has allowed just four earned runs over his last 20 innings with 26 Ks, though he did have a stint on the IL during that time.
- Patrick Corbin – Matched a career-high with 12 strikeouts in eight innings last night. He’s struggled this year and is now just 4-10 after beating the Pirates 3-1.
This is great stuff from Trout.
Mike Trout out in center field getting annoyed that Elvis Peguero is tipping pitches 😂
guy looks so fed up pic.twitter.com/e2UPQDMW5h
— Adam Stites (@AdamStites_) June 29, 2022
- The cool cats at Sheetz Convenience Stores are lowering gas prices to $4.00 per gallon or less to help Americans celebrate the 4th of July weekend. The gas is very low-grade, however.
- Millions of Californians will receive relief to fight inflation in the form of gas tax rebate checks of up to $1,050 dollars. Of course, pumping money into the economy only drives inflation upward unless those nice people out west save those windfalls.
- One of the country’s biggest accounting firms admitted its employees cheated on their ethics exams. How honorable of them.
- Tequila seltzers are apparently going to be the next rage. This particular brand is already very popular in Illinois.
- Speaking of Illinois, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot isn’t pulling any punches when it comes to SCOTUS Justice Clarence Thomas.
- Believe it or not, Boardwalk and Park Place are not the most valuable Monopoly properties to own based on probability and return on investment.
They Said It
- “To wear the Cubs jersey in the All-Star Game, I’m proud of that. This is my house. This has been my home for 14 years. I don’t think many players can say that. The first time that I got here was in 2009 and nobody was here. I’ve seen everybody come to this club. Wearing the jersey of the Cubs, it means a lot to me. It’s going to mean a lot to my family because they gave me the opportunity to become a professional baseball player. Hopefully, we get to share it with my brother. We would have a nice party, for sure.” – Contreras
Wednesday Walk-Up Song
Sometimes you just get in a mood for Eddie Money. I was lucky enough to befriend him on social media shortly before he died and we had some great conversations about doo-wop music, a genre he genuinely loved.