While the players received their only day off of the month in Chicago, the front office is looking for ways both internally and externally to improve the big league team. The Cubs enter play Friday in second place in the division, 5 ½ back of the Cardinals, but just a half-game in front of the charging Pirates. The Cubs have to step it up this weekend against the Royals and start challenging stretch of games on the right foot.
According to the Tribune, two of the Phillies’ top evaluators recently watched the Cubs and nine teams “sent many of their top scouts to the Cubs-Diamondbacks series.” The front office recently met with player development staff and scouts in Chicago to discuss “player evaluations” to determine which of the players in the system should and should not be included in trades.
The Cubs have young infielders and outfielders in the system and the resources to “pull off a major trade” according to the Tribune.
Theo Epstein talked to the beat writers earlier in the week and said the front office is constantly looking for ways to improve the club. Some of the solutions will come from within the organization, some from outside the organization. And the Cubs will look at “converting some of the prospects into more mature, more advanced solutions.”
Theo Epstein said, “Certainly there are some players who are fundamental to your plan that are keepers. There are other players who are more movable because you may have some organization depth. You may have a redundancy at certain positions. You have to decide if players bring more back in trade than if they are providing immediate returns.”
According to the Tribune, “Three scouts who watched the Cubs over the last week believe that a starting pitching upgrade would help them but improvements in the bullpen and left field are more urgent.”
Mark Gonzales also reported the Cubs could make another run at Cole Hamels. It is believed the Cubs and Phillies have not stopped talking about a Hamels deal since last summer, the level of the discussions have varied over the last calendar year. And Bruce Levine reported the Cubs are looking for help in the starting rotation and bullpen.
The Cubs are not going to wait until July or the deadline to make deals the front office feels can help the team in the short- and long-term.
“You have to work hard and prepare and be ready to capitalize on opportunities when they present themselves,” Epstein said.
Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer realize the Cubs are in a position to push for the top spot in the division. And it will take a few additions to give the team a chance to reach its goal.
Arismendy Alcantara went 1-for-3 with a walk and a run scored in Iowa’s win on Thursday afternoon.
Alcantara struggled when he was first sent to Iowa this year. Alcantara is quietly getting his work in and his numbers look a lot better than two weeks ago.
Over his last 26 games, Alcantara is batting .270/.339/.480 with three doubles, three triples and four home runs for a .819 OPS. Alcantara has 27 strikeouts with 11 walks in 100 at bats.
For the season, Arismendy Alcantara is hitting .252/.322/.481 in 34 games with four doubles, four triples and six home runs for a .803 OPS. Alcantara has played second, third and shortstop as well as center and left field with Iowa.
Matt Szczur had a very good ninth inning Thursday afternoon at Principal Park. Szczur gave the I-Cubs a 3-2 win in walk-off fashion with his third homer of the season, a three-run shot in the ninth.
Szczur went 2-for-4 with a home run, three RBI and a strikeout. And his walk-off came 13 days after he provided the winning hit against the Pirates at Wrigley Field.
Matt Szczur continues hitting Triple-A pitching. In 20 games with the Iowa Cubs, Szczur is batting .314/.367/.529 with two doubles, two triples and three home runs for a .896 OPS.
News, Notes and Rumors
• OF Kevin Encarnacion was in South Bend’s starting lineup Thursday. Encarnacion batted seventh and played right field. Encarnacion was 2-for-3 with a hit by pitch in four plate appearances.
• According to a report from Hardball Talk citing the Tampa Bay Times as its source, RHP Grant Balfour is leaning toward retirement.
• The Sun-Times continued to question Thursday if the Cubs could make a change at shortstop. Joe Maddon and the front office have stated countless times publicly that Starlin Castro is the team’s shortstop. The Sun-Times isn’t so sure and pointed to changes in the infield could start with Kris Bryant moving to the outfield.
• Jason McLeod reiterated this week that Dan Vogelbach is a first baseman and only a first baseman. The Cubs do not have any plans of trying him in the outfield.
• With command comes success for Kyle Hendricks according to a report from Carrie Muskat. Miguel Montero can see a difference in Hendricks’ confidence and called his pitcher ‘sexy.’
And last, but not least, ESPN Chicago reported, there has been slow progress for the Cubs but progress nonetheless.
This Day In Cubstory
2013 – Dioner Navarro hit three home runs, two from the left side and one from the right in a 9-3 victory over the White Sox
2012 – Cubs released Nate Robertson
2012 – Cubs signed free agent Shane Lindsay
2009 – Cubs signed free agent John-Ford Griffin
2003 – Cubs traded Derrin Ebert to the Diamondbacks for Chris Donnels
1996 – Cubs signed free agent Felix Fermin
1976 – Jerry Hairston Jr., born
1970 – Cubs traded Ted Abernathy to the Cardinals for Phil Gagliano
1966 – Ron Santo homered in the 10th inning to beat the Braves 3-2 at Wrigley Field. Santo hit a three-run homer in the 12th inning the day before that gave the Cubs an 8-5 victory over the Braves.
1965 – Cubs acquire Harvey Kuenn, Bob Hendley and Ed Bailey from the Giants for Dick Bertell and Len Gabrielson
1962 – Buck O’Neil, previously a scout with the Cubs, becomes the first African American coach in Major League Baseball after accepting a job with the Cubs
1962 – Ernie Banks hit three home runs and a double in his first game back from being beaned on May 25 and Billy Williams, Bob Will and George Altman hit one each, but the Cubs lost to the Braves 11-9 in 10 innings at Wrigley Field
1939 – Cubs acquired Claude Passeau from the Phillies for Ray Harrell, Kirby Higbe, Joe Marty and $50,000
1931 – Cubs traded Earl Grace and cash to the Pirates for Rollie Hemsley
1930 – Game between the Cubs and Reds is postponed due to the sudden death of Cubs pitcher Hal Carlson
1911 – Riding the Pennsylvania Railroad, the Cubs completed their 191-mile journey from Columbus, Ohio to their game in Pittsburgh in three hours and thirty-five minutes. The trip, which set a land-speed record, lasted 75 minutes longer that the time it took for the Cubs to beat the Pirates 4-1 at Forbes Field.
1908 – Cubs purchased Doc Marshall from the Cardinals
This Day in Baseball History
2002 – In an article for Sports Illustrated, former NL MVP Ken Caminiti claimed about 50 percent of the current players in Major League Baseball were using some form of steroids.
1922 – The Supreme Court ruled that organized baseball is a sport and not a business, which exempts Major League clubs from antitrust laws and interstate commerce rules.