On Thursday, the Cubs dealt outfielder Joc Pederson to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for minor league first baseman Bryce Ball, making him the first move in what is likely to be an active trade deadline for the Cubs.
After a surprisingly good May, in which the Cubs went 19-8 and sat atop the National League Central, they looked like they might be buyers come the July 30 deadline, but an 11-game losing streak at the end of June and into early July changed those plans.
“We were certainly fully on the buy side of this transaction, and everyone was calling about that,” team president Jed Hoyer told reporters before the All-Star break. “And obviously people are now calling to see which players are available, so it’s a very different scenario than we expected. Life comes at you fast. Eleven days ago is not where we were mentally, and, obviously, 11 games certainly changes a lot of things.”
Pederson, who hit .230 with 11 doubles, two triples, 11 home runs and 39 RBI in 73 games for Chicago, signed with the team on a one-year, $7 million deal in February that included a mutual option for 2022. The Braves will pick up just under $2 million of his salary for the remainder of this year.
Ball, the minor leaguer who went to the Cubs in the trade, is a possible indicator of where the team might deal from next. As a power-hitting first baseman, he seems a logical fit to fill the void left by Anthony Rizzo if he gets dealt sometime in the next two weeks.
If Rizzo is not traded, he is an unrestricted free agent after this season, and Hoyer has been mum about in-season extension negotiations with all of his players.
Otherwise, names like Kris Bryant and Javy Baez will be floated often over the next couple of weeks. In fact, Bryant has most recently been linked with the Mets. On the pitching side, the Cubs have a lot to offer from their bullpen. The most obvious trade candidate is All-Star Craig Kimbrel, who has been back to his vintage self this season, posting a 0.57 ERA and 20 saves at the break. But after Kimbrel, setup man Andrew Chafin has also had a stellar season — he is riding a 23 inning scoreless streak as the second half of the season begins Friday — and he is with the Cubs on a one-year contract with a mutual option for next season.
Though it is likely that the Cubs roster will look a lot different come August 1, Hoyer has been careful to avoid the term “rebuild” to describe his plans for what lies ahead.
“We’re in a different situation now than we were in 2012,” Hoyer told reporters last week. “And so, the decisions we’re making, the process we’re going through are completely different. So I think that label is certainly something to be avoided.”
As the Cubs begin a weekend series against the Diamondbacks to start the second half of the season, they’ll be without Pederson, who in his short time in Chicago had a valuable impact on the clubhouse.
“He’s just got this swagger,” manager David Ross told reporters last month. “He carries himself, he’s fun. It makes me smile every time he does something on the field.”