The Rundown: Cubs Start Crucial Series With Giants, Teams Jockeying for Contreras and Happ, Yankees Acquire Benintendi

“When the lights go down in the city, and the sun shines on the bay…” – Journey, Lights

The Cubs were off yesterday but they’ll open a crucial four-game set against the Giants in San Francisco this evening. Why am I calling it crucial? The Giants lost 5-3 to the Diamondbacks last night and have lost seven straight games. The Cubs, on the other hand, pulled into the City by the Bay riding a six-game winning streak. San Francisco is 17.5 games behind the Dodgers but they’re only 3.5 behind the Padres for the final Wild Card spot. That means Chicago will determine if the Giants are buyers or sellers come August 2.

The ramifications are more significant than you think. If San Francisco decides to make a push for the playoffs, they would potentially be in the market for Willson Contreras. I’d add David Robertson, Mychal Givens, Drew Smyly, and Ian Happ to the mix, too.

If president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi decides to punt on 2022, he’d most likely trade starter Carlos Rodón. That would remove the qualifying offer from Rodón’s status this winter, and one would think Jed Hoyer would surely be interested in signing the fireballing lefty.

Of course, the Cardinals also have a lot to say about the direction Zaidi may take. St. Louis is reportedly one of the favorites to acquire stud outfielder Juan Soto from the Nationals. That’s a bitter bill to swallow, but helping to get Rodón shipped out of San Francisco might take some of the sting out of it. The Cardinals getting better might actually force Hoyer to pursue an unencumbered Rodón and possibly other players this winter. I know the team’s stance is not to counter the moves of their divisional opponents, but if the opportunity is there, it has to be a layup.

If Soto ends up on the Padres, it may force Zaidi to start his retool for next year. If the all-everything right fielder stays put in Washington, things get dicier. The Giants and a host of other National League teams, including the Phillies and Marlins, might make a push for this year’s extra Wild Card spot.

Putting all that aside, the Cubs will determine the fate of the Giants’ 2022 season. A sweep would give Chicago a 10-game winning streak steaming into the August 2 deadline. They’d still sell, but that would be a phenomenal chain of events. Chicago would be helping the Cardinals’ playoff chances while pulling the plug on San Francisco’s season, creating a showdown between the Mets and the Astros for two months of Contreras. As I said, this is a critical series.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

This year’s Jon Lester Award winner goes to Dylan Coleman.

How About That!

Mike Trout has a rare back condition that will probably affect the rest of his career. Do we think this increases the chances that the Angels will trade Shohei Ohtani this week or in the offseason? I say it does.

You’ll need a subscription to ESPN+ to access the content,  but history indicates the Nationals could lose big if they trade Soto. Ken Griffey Jr. being traded by the Mariners to the Reds is one of the few instances where the selling team won the deal. The Rays did pretty well when they traded David Price to the Tigers.

The Giants are looking to improve their defense at the deadline and old friend Tommy La Stella could be the bait.

Most baseball executives believe the pace of trades will pick up once the first trade is consummated. Does the Benintendi deal count?

Benintendi will give the Yankees a boost of energy and a guy who gets on base, but not much else.

The Astros are willing to listen to offers for cost-controlled pitchers. That type of return seems to be the target for many teams.

The Padres lost to the Tigers on a walk-off dribbler.

Wednesday’s Three Stars

  1. Rowdy Tellez – The Brewers are looking for a power hitter, and Tellez told the organization to hold his beer. The slugger blasted two home runs and plated six runners in a 10-4 win over the Twins.
  2. Max Scherzer – The veteran starter shoved last night, though he didn’t get the win. He did pitch seven shutout innings against the Yankees with six strikeouts in the Mets’ 3-2 win. The Yankees still grabbed the headlines in Gotham thanks to their trade for Benintendi.
  3. Janson Junk – The Angels rookie earned his first major league win thanks to an effective fastball and power slider. Junk, who was recalled last month, struck out eight Kansas City batters while allowing four inconsequential singles. He’s definitely not a junk baller.

Extra Innings

We have a Jake Arrieta sighting!

Thursday Morning Six-Pack

  1. Bears DE Robert Quinn addressed the media and said about a dozen times that he does not want to be traded. Can we put that rumor to rest now?
  2. I wasn’t enamored with the acquisition of wide receiver N’Keal Harry, but I’ve done a one-eighty. Get the scoop on why and much, much more in this morning’s edition of Camp Notes.
  3. More fraud in the blockchain space? You don’t say.
  4. Ken Jennings and Mayim Bialik have signed deals to split the hosting duties of Jeopardy!, finally answering the question of who would replace GOAT Alex Trebek.
  5. Bruce Springsteen is charging nearly $5,000 for preferred seating on his U.S. tour, and despite considerable backlash from the Boss’s fans, Springsteen’s manager Jon Landau is defending the exorbitant pricing. I’ll forever have a tough time believing Ol’ Bruce fights for the common man.
  6. The space jacket Buzz Aldrin wore during his trip to the moon on Apollo 11 sold for $2.8 million at auction.

They Said It

  • “I have a lot of things in my head right now about the fans, but nothing but love. I would like to thank all the fans because the love and support they showed me from Day 1 [are] priceless. And they’re always gonna keep living in my heart.” – Contreras
  • “I don’t want to stop putting the uniform on and coming here every day.” – Happ
  • “We don’t know. I don’t know. They don’t know what’s going to happen. The thing that I’ve seen, Willson stands out to me this year, in particular, in just how he’s come in and really stayed in the moment, stayed committed to his teammates. I think he probably learned a lot from last year, as we all did.”David Ross

Thursday Walk-Up Song

It’s equally dastardly and delicious that the Cubs hold the fate of the Giants’ season in their hands.

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