CHICAGO -- The Cubs head into the second half of the season on a roll, boasting the best record in the National League despite not having two of their biggest offseason free-agent signings contributing as expected.Yu Darvish, who signed a six-year deal in February, has been limited to eight starts
CHICAGO -- The Cubs head into the second half of the season on a roll, boasting the best record in the National League despite not having two of their biggest offseason free-agent signings contributing as expected.
Yu Darvish, who signed a six-year deal in February, has been limited to eight starts because of injuries, while Tyler Chatwood, who signed a three-year deal, leads the Major Leagues in walks. Manager Joe Maddon predicted this year's rotation would be the best he's had in Chicago, but Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana also have not performed as expected.
"To be here without the benefit of the pitching like I thought it would be is pretty phenomenal," Maddon said of the Cubs' 55-38 record and 2 1/2-game lead in the Central.
Plus, Anthony Rizzo was batting .246 at the break while Kristopher Bryant has been sidelined with a shoulder injury and has 10 home runs and 40 RBIs. Maddon is hoping Bryzzo and the pitchers have a strong second half and get Chicago to the postseason for the fourth straight year, something the Cubs franchise has never done.
Current status: Buyer
Don't look for the Cubs to make a blockbuster move at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline as they did in 2016 to get Albertin Chapman. They will actually "acquire" a starter when Darvish returns from the disabled list, just as they got a left-handed reliever back when Brian Duensing was activated on Friday. The bullpen also will get a boost when lefty Mike Montgomery, who has been subbing for Darvish, shifts to a relief role. Drew Smyly, rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, could provide an extra arm in September. Said Maddon on Smyly: "This guy could be very helpful."
What they are seeking
Pitching, pitching and more pitching. Even though youngsters like Luke Farrell, Randy Rosario, Justin Hancock and James Norwood have done well, there's a lack of depth in the organization and the Cubs like to stockpile arms. They've had scouts watching the Rays' Nathan Eovaldi, who could be a low-cost option, and there are reports that they're looking at the Padres' Brad Hand and the Orioles' Zach Britton. The Cubs may not need to go outside of the organization for help on the bench. David Bote has impressed every time he's been promoted from Triple-A Iowa. Remember Chris Coghlan? The 33-year-old left-handed-hitting outfielder is playing now at Iowa as he tries to come back from a shoulder injury.
What they have to offer
The Cubs don't have Eloy Jimenez or Gleyber Torres as possible trade bait anymore, but they do have talent in the lower levels in the Minor Leagues. Jimenez was dealt to the White Sox last year for Quintana while Torres was traded to the Yankees for Chapman.
The Cubs don't have an opening regarding position players -- Maddon actually has a tough time sharing at-bats among the players. If they could swing a deal for someone like Eovaldi, that would give the pitching a boost. Said Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein: "I don't think this is the year we're going to be out front beating the market, but I do think industry-wide there will be a lot of activity well before the Deadline."
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.