2019 Trade Deadline: Cub Fans Must Trade For A Dose Of Reality

Right as I was hitting publish the Cubs made a trade acquiring Outfielder Nick Castellanos. On to the good stuff.

The truth is here, and it’s clear: The Cubs’ 2019 roster simply cannot win a championship.

The earth-shaking acquisitions of Derek Holland and David Phelps aside, Theo Epstein and company must know that they’re straddling a line no other club even possesses. The 2016 championship bonded the more emotion-based Cub fans – that is to say, most of them – to the members of that roster in ways that teams who win more regularly never experience. To them, Kyle Schwarber isn’t a below-average outfielder who has what appears to be a power bat in an otherwise low-wattage offense, he’s The Guy Who Started The Rally That Changed My Life.

Trading that for, say, two prospects, even good ones, is going to turn a lot of fans against you. It makes those fans feel like 2016 was just business to the Cubs, instead of The Greatest Thing That Ever Happened In Chicago.

What those fans miss, of course, is that it was business then, it’s business now, and the Cubs’ business is sliding steadily down the mountain.

Championship teams do not have a bullpen hole so wide that a late-inning, 2-0 lead feels at best like a tie. Real contenders aren’t praying that their savior comes in the form of a career minor-leaguer who killed it for a little while in Italy. This team can’t compete with the likes of the Brewers and Cardinals, much less the Dodgers, Astros, or Yankees. To win in 2016 (and to try to win the following year), the Cubs’ front office sold everything they had. I’m a Cub fan whose mother died during that season; I still get emotional watching clips of the final out, of the throngs outside Wrigley, all of it. I am eternally thankful for what that team allowed me to feel.

2019 and Beyond

But it’s 2019 now. To get another one, we need much stronger moves than a couple of relievers whose names you probably recognize on the backside of their careers.

What Cub fans must understand is that those moves simply aren’t coming. To get what we need at the major-league level, we’d have to strip down what we HAVE at the major-league level, and that will simply leave us where we are: decent, but not scary, not a threat. Juuuuust good enough to get knocked out the way we did last year.

The real moves will come this winter. The fun feeling around that 2016 team is gone. There was a joy to them, a quirkiness, that’s disappeared. Joe Maddon will go down as one of the best managers the Cubs have ever had, but his style seems to have worn thin. It feels like he’s grasping at straws having Willson Contreras lead off, pinch-hitting Schwarber against a lefty in a game Hendricks had until control (that the paper-thin bullpen blew), playing people in ever-revolving positions on both sides of the ball. As great as he’s been, I think it’s time to move on.

The biggest hamstring for the Cubs is financial. If Darvish earns his money – which he’s starting to – that contract might stop being such an albatross, but Heyward will never earn what he’s making, and neither will Chatwood. Until we have some attrition salary-wise, we simply can’t bring in anything more than the Hollands and Phelpses of the world.

We can be above-average, but we can’t be a threat.

So as this deadline passes with no substantial action on the North Side, I implore all my fellow Cub fans: Love 2016 forever, but find the colder side of your heart, and find it soon. Hanging on to the past never works, in sports. It takes big deadline deals, or big off-season moves, to make any team a championship club. 2016 doesn’t happen without the massive Lester deal and the now-painful Chapman trade. It’s going to be hard for Theo to maintain this era of relevancy, but to simply hang onto everyone and hope for a 2005-like playoff miracle as the White Sox had….that’s a ticket back to the cellar, my friends.

Remember, in the end, we’re all just rooting for laundry with a Cub logo on it.

Jack McDonald