Cubs 'bracing for tomorrow,' not Deadline

July 23rd, 2021

ST. LOUIS -- The social-media conspiracy theorists have been active with Cubs star out of the starting lineup for the past two games against the Cardinals. Surely, his absence is somehow related to the upcoming Trade Deadline.

"My decision-making is a broad spectrum, for sure," Cubs manager David Ross said prior to Thursday's 3-2 loss at Busch Stadium. "But in this scenario, that has not been a factor."

Do not expect those words to quiet the rumor mill.

There are eight days left until the July 30 Deadline and the Cubs remain in a seller's position. Following a 3-4 showing through a road trip to Arizona and St. Louis, the North Siders now return home in fourth place in the National League Central, trailing the first-place Brewers by nine games.

The next seven days -- consisting of a weekend set with the D-backs and four games against the Reds -- might very well be the last time some core players perform for the home team in front of the Wrigley Field faithful.

That includes Bryant, who has been resting some heavy legs (Ross' phrasing) and/or a fatigued right hamstring (Chicago's official description of the injury). The manager said that, in his mind, he sees the star back in the lineup Friday. There are plenty of contending teams that will want some last looks at Bryant before a potential trade.

For what it’s worth, outfielder said after the loss that there has been little talk behind the scenes about what could happen to the roster in the coming days.

“There's not much talk amongst each other on trades and all that stuff,” Marisnick said. “It's all, ‘What can we do to get better today?’ And I know guys have been saying that, but that's honestly what's going on in here.”

While Bryant was unavailable during Wednesday’s 3-2, 10-inning loss, Ross summoned the star off the bench as a pinch-hitter on Thursday. With lefty reliever T.J. McFarland on the hill in the eighth, Bryant drew a leadoff walk but was promptly replaced at first by a pinch-runner (Jason Heyward).

The moment fizzled when Robinson Chirinos then chopped into a double play, erasing Heyward from the basepaths. That continued Chicago’s course to a 17th loss in 21 games, dating back to its season-altering, 11-game losing streak. The Cubs (47-50) are now three games under the .500 mark for the first time since May 4.

“I've been around other teams and groups of people that hang their heads in these situations,” Marisnick said. “But these guys are coming to work every day and getting their work in.”

It is worth noting that Marisnick could be an attractive complementary trade piece for teams searching for a good-versus-lefties bat, and a player who offers plus speed and defense. In that tier of trade chatter, the Cubs already dealt outfielder Joc Pederson to Atlanta during the All-Star break.

In the name of shifting away from the all-consuming Deadline storylines, count Ross among those ready for July 31 to arrive.

"Yes, at this moment, I am looking forward to it," Ross said. "I'm serious. Well, it's just, I don't have to answer more questions. There's a sense of moving forward, right?"

What happens is out of the players' control, and Ross' job is to keep the group focused on each game as distractions fly from all directions.

Along those lines, righty struck out eight in a quality start, but he surrendered a pair of home runs. Marisnick ended a personal 0-for-16 funk by delivering a two-run, two-out double in the fourth off lefty Kwang Hyun Kim, but the Cubs’ lineup did little else.

There was also a vintage no-look tag in the second by shortstop Javier Báez, who caught a pinpoint throw from catcher Willson Contreras to nab Tommy Edman stealing.

The question on Cubs fans' minds is how many more of those highlight-reel plays are left from the likes of Báez, Bryant, Rizzo or Contreras (all free agents over the next two winters).

Eight days left. Plenty more speculation to come, and perhaps some blockbuster trades to follow.

Ross is counting on his players to avoid it all becoming a distraction.

"I haven't seen a lack of concentration," he said. "I don't think there's any extra conversations I have to have, as of right now. We'll see. We've still got a week to go."

Are the Cubs’ players bracing for trades?

“We're bracing for tomorrow,” Marisnick said. “We'll go about it like that. There's not much chat in here about what's going on. We can't control it.”