Cubs add Candelario, but leave push for playoff contention unfinished

Analysis: Cubs add Candelario, but leave push for playoff contention unfinished originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The Chicago Cubs reeled off a string of victories in late July, all but forcing the front office to make additions to a potential playoff contender, but those measures can’t help but feel unfinished as the MLB trade deadline passes.

That deadline came and went on Tuesday afternoon, and the moves the Cubs had made on Monday were the only ones that were to be.

The club did acquire Jeimer Candelario from the Washington Nationals, and there is a strong argument to be made that he was the top hitter that was ultimately moved at the deadline.

What’s more, he can play both first and third base, two areas that the Cubs have gotten scant production from this season, and he gives the team the flexibility to move Christopher Morel, Cody Bellinger and Nick Madrigal around at will.

Finally, he did enable the Cubs to designate Trey Mancini for assignment, a move that could point to the club exceeding the luxury tax next year, as the team will still be on the hook for roughly $7 million of his salary.

With all of those plaudits, however, comes the downside, and that is the feeling that the team’s status as “buyer” went largely unfulfilled on deadline day.

Sure, there were rumors. There was talk of acquiring Brooks Radley from the New York Mets, or Andrew Chafin from the Arizona Diamondbacks (and compounding this one is the fact he went to the Brewers), or even Aaron Bummer from the Chicago White Sox.

All of those moves would have helped this team’s bullpen and eased some of the pressure on guys like Adbert Alzolay and Daniel Palencia, but instead the team ended up left with just José Cuas from the Kansas City Royals as they enter the home stretch of the season.

Cuas is a fine addition and could potentially give the Cubs some help at the end of their bullpen, but players like Radley and Bummer, who would have come with team control for a few extra years, seemed like they would have been a much-more impactful addition at the deadline.

Even Chafin, a fan favorite who hasn’t been the world’s greatest lefty this season, would have addressed the team’s glaring deficiency in that area, with Anthony Kay still the only left-handed reliever in their bullpen post-August 1.

While the lack of follow-through on upgrading the bullpen is not exactly thrilling for Cubs fans, the team could still salvage things if they want to do something bold and unexpected.

While the plan at this point would almost certainly be to have Ben Brown finish out the regular season as a starter in Iowa, adding him to the mix for the remainder of the season could both limit his pitch count (he’s already thrown 85 innings this season) and could add an element of swing-and-miss to the pen, as he has racked up 120 strikeouts in those 85 innings.

Jordan Wicks is another player the Cubs may want to leave in Iowa for the end of the season, but he is also striking out roughly 10 batters per nine innings and has maintained a solid walk rate even as he’s been bumped up to Des Moines this season.

Needless to say, if the Cubs want to use patience with both pitchers, it wouldn’t be shocking and would even be understandable. Both figure into the team’s plans well beyond 2023, but rolling the dice on one of them could give a boost to a club that could be in need of it once September rolls around.

This conversation could well end up being moot if the Cubs struggle against the Reds and Atlanta Braves this week, but if the team was serious about trying to mold itself into a contender, then they missed an opportunity to really cement that plan this week.

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