The Chicago Cubs and the Arizona Diamondbacks begin the second half with a weekend set at Chase Field. You have to wonder about the emotional well-being of both of these teams, as the Cubs began their fire sale on Thursday with a trade of Joc Pederson and the Diamondbacks have to return to work with a record of 26-66.
I do think that there are some angles and edges that we can play on for this Friday night matchup in the desert, even though I do have pessimistic outlooks for both of these teams in the near-term.
The Cubs are going to be a prominent seller at the Trade Deadline. Joc Pederson was traded to the Atlanta Braves on Thursday. Kris Bryant could very well be the next guy to go, or it could be Craig Kimbrel or Zach Davies or Anthony Rizzo or Javier Baez or somebody else.
Chicago is in a transitional phase with a billionaire owner crying poor and the core of their roster headed towards free agency. It is time for the next wave of players to come through the system and for the deck to be reshuffled. Usually we don’t see those sweeping changes with a cash-rich organization, but penny pinching reigns supreme in MLB now and the Cubs will be forced to deal with that.
It is entirely possible that the Cubs band together and try to win as many as they can and have as much fun as they can together before the trade hammer drops. That isn’t really the crux of my argument for today, but simply one of those intangible things that all handicappers must consider as the Trade Deadline looms.
The crux of my argument is Kyle Hendricks. The Cubs right-hander got off to a horrendous start to the season and still finds himself with a 3.77 ERA in his 105 innings of work. Hendricks still has a 4.83 FIP because he has allowed 20 home runs on the season, but he’s been a much different pitcher since mid-May.
Over his last 11 starts, Hendricks is 9-0 with a 2.56 ERA and a 3.92 FIP. The high FIP comes with the territory as a low-strikeout pitcher, but he has been a guy that has consistently and reliably outpitched his advanced metrics because of his control and command. While we haven’t fully seen the command this season, it is worth noting that he has only allowed one home run in his last five starts.
The Hendricksian numbers that Kyle puts up year in and year out are a constant and a saving grace for a Cubs team that has been hit or miss with starting pitching in the past. Over these last 11 starts, Hendricks has completed six innings in all of them, removing some of the burden from a bullpen that overperformed for most of the first half.
Hendricks draws a bad Arizona lineup here, one still missing Ketel Marte and Carson Kelly. Asdrubal Cabrera is back on the IL now as well. I guess there is a chance that Marte could be activated today, but even if he is, it’s not like he’s been playing in game conditions.
Speaking of playing in game conditions, the Diamondbacks are sending out Madison Bumgarner today. Bumgarner has not made an MLB start since June 2. He allowed 19 runs in 12 innings over his last three MLB starts before going on the IL. In two rehab starts in the Arizona Prospects League, he allowed 10 runs on 14 hits in 6.2 innings. Only six were earned, but he also only struck out six of 36 batters against unproven kids.
The Diamondbacks bullpen is atrocious and Bumgarner is unlikely to work super deep into this game. He faced 23 batters last time out, but I’d be surprised to see him work more than maybe four innings.
I’m not sure how happy or engaged either one of these teams will be to get back, but I think we can reasonably assume that the Cubs will be a little more invested at a minimum. Arizona is 32.5 games out of first place, had one of the worst first halves in MLB history, and Torey Lovullo is playing out the string as the manager with some of the most questionable managerial decisions we’ve ever seen.
I’ll lay the Cubs price today.
Pick: Chicago Cubs
Other game: Houston Astros at Chicago White Sox