- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
ST. LOUIS -- The Chicago Cubs extracted nothing worthwhile from their weekend series here, losing all three games with the St. Louis Cardinals, including a Sunday night decision twice delayed by severe weather. This guaranteed that through the Cubs' overnight flight to New York and into their day off Monday, they would have to gnaw on the implications of their five-game losing streak, which has driven them back close to .500, 11 ½ games behind a Cardinals team that is off to their hottest start since the World War II seasons.
The Cubs will stabilize, eventually, because they have too many good players not to, Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant and the like, and because help is on the way. Whereas the Cubs have been sellers in the past -- like moving Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel last season -- this year, they will be buyers over the next 32 days, with their focus on starting pitching. They'll get somebody, because of all the various elements with their team -- the lineup, the bullpen, etc. -- their need for depth is greatest in their rotation, given their limited options in the minors.
But their search for a starting pitcher could be unusually challenging, because of some serendipity in this summer’s trade market.
The Cincinnati Reds could have the best array of talent available if they decide to become sellers, but with the Reds sort of hanging in the wild-card race -- they're 6 ½ games behind the Giants for the No. 5 playoff seed as of this morning -- they could wait awhile before moving Johnny Cueto and/or Mike Leake.
And if the Reds ever do decide to move one or both of those veterans, who are eligible for free agency in the fall, it's hard to imagine they would make a deal with the Cubs unless they extracted significant value; in intra-division situations like these, a selling team will want a clear win in the trade, and the Cubs probably won't execute a deal like that, given the reality of their big-picture development.
Cueto and/or Leake might be effectively off-limits to them, and the same might almost certainly be true of Samardzija, because if the White Sox turn into sellers and Samardzija is moved, they probably wouldn't be interested in making part of a rare deal with their crosstown rivals.
Samardzija also is a free agent after this season, having already turned down overtures from the Cubs before he was traded to Oakland after last season. Scott Kazmir, who may also emerge in the market sometime before the July 31 deadline, also is headed into the open market after the season.
It may be that the only tangible advantage gleaned by the Cubs in recent days is that club executives can start to turn away from the group of would-be free agents that could become available and start to focus on pitchers who they can control at least through the 2016 season -- the sort of deal that the Detroit Tigers made a few years ago when they acquired Doug Fister from the Seattle Mariners.
The list of pitchers available under those circumstances is very short. If San Diego becomes sellers, Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner would be interesting possibilities. Jon Niese has been made available by the Mets for months. The Orioles have some depth in pitching, and a looming need for position-player help, given that Chris Davis, Matt Wieters and others are headed to free agency.
There will be a need to be creative, as the Tigers were with the Fister deal. But the Cubs aren't going away anytime soon, and neither is their need for a starting pitcher.
Joe Maddon says of the weekend, "Our inexperience showed up."
• Chris Coghlan's consecutive-game streak has reached 138, and incredibly, he is baseball's reigning ironman, now that Freddie Freeman’s streak has ended. Coghlan has played in more games consecutively than any player in the majors. “I don’t think I’m worthy,” he said with a laugh, because he knows how improbable his standing is. Coghlan has started games on the bench, as part of a platoon situation or in layaway as a pinch-hitter, and yet has managed to find his way into action one way or another. But the game has changed so much, with teams using the disabled list more often and more teams focusing on resting players.
Coghlan wears No. 8, by the way, in honor of his favorite player from his childhood -- Cal Ripken. The Ironman.
• The Angels have been looking for a bat for weeks, and Christina Kahrl writes that they need another good hitter.
• We had a late game last night and I’ve got an early-morning flight, so I couldn’t get to all the links. We’ll be back at it again Tuesday.
And today will be better than yesterday.