clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2023 Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 99

And it begins to get interesting. Cubs win 7-2.

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Chicago Cubs David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The Cubs will wake up Monday 6½ games out of first in the National League Central and just 5½ back in the wild card race. They’ll enjoy a day off on Monday and maybe have a few minutes to take in a little bit of Monday’s Reds/Brewers game in Milwaukee. One of them will lose. The Reds just finished their 10-game homestand coming out of the break with five straight wins. Oddly, that made for a 5-5 homestand. Not quite what they were looking for, but the Brewers, Diamondbacks and Giants are pretty decent opposition. Next for the Reds? Nine on the road against the Brewers, the Dodgers and the Cubs. There is no off day for them between Los Angeles and Chicago. If things stay on line, the Reds will see both Marcus Stroman and Justin Steele in that series.

But enough about the Reds. Let’s talk about the Cubs. The run up to the trade deadline has been an odd one. The Cubs have been slowly rising from the ashes. Accordingly, I’ve kept my mouth shut a lot in regards to the deadline. Let me spray to a couple of fields briefly. First, I’m okay with the Cubs doing a light amount of rearranging if they find the right deal. The Cubs traded all of their top relievers at the deadline last year and their pitching staff performed better after the deadline than before. If a very good deal is available for one of the relievers, I’m not going to be appalled. I probably wouldn’t screw with chemistry. But I don’t know that anyone in the pen is untouchable, though I have no idea why you’d even talk about Adbert Alzolay. There’s quite a bit of cost control there and more than adequate performance.

Now then, let me weigh in on the two biggest potential trade chips. Cody Bellinger has played himself into an incredible trade chip. Again, I probably wouldn’t screw with chemistry, but if you were going to, you are looking for a Herschel Walker deal. Teams don’t make those anymore for the most part. But if you are trading Bellinger, you should be getting a king’s ransom. You should get their most ready to play now prospect. Their highest ceiling prospect. Their highest floor prospect. Their best pitcher. Their No. 1 pick from last year’s draft. Necessarily, some of those descriptions are going to overlap and be two or three descriptions of the same guy. You should absolutely be asking for more than you could ever dream you’d get back and you shouldn’t back down.

If Bellinger plays out the rest of this season as a Cub, you make the qualifying offer. He rejects, he becomes a free agent. You get the highest possible QO compensation, less than it used to be, but the best you can do. Bellinger signed here as a place where he could get regular playing time to rebuild his value to try to cash in this coming offseason. This isn’t the Cubs being cheap or some misstep. Scott Boras and Cody Bellinger did a nice job of identifying the place for him to play. We know Joc Pederson had nice things to say to Cody about being a Cub. Being good to people helps. So does having a good opportunity. It was a perfect spot and he cashed in.

Put together a really strong offer and make it to them right after the World Series, before he elects free agency. Make sure he hits free agency knowing you’d love to have him. Let him know that you’d really like a chance to talk to him after he’s visited other suitors. But know they are going to try to sign him before he leaves his visit. He’s going to get paid this offseason. And, he’s a really great fit for this organization. There is no world in which his bat isn’t going to play for the next three or four years in this organization. Sure, he might transition to first or even a corner outfield spot if/when Pete Crow-Armstrong arrives.

So on that hand, I don’t think that Bellinger is something Cubs management is screwing up. I don’t believe that Bellinger can be extended. Nor do I think he should extend. He’s going to get paid. He should get paid. If that’s by the Cubs, great. But he should test the waters. It’s the right thing to do. On the other hand there is Marcus Stroman. Marcus holds a player option for 2024. He’s flirted off and on with being a top tier starter in baseball this year. When he’s not a top tier starter, he’s a second tier starter. He’ll make more on the open market. Since the Cubs didn’t extend him, he should test the market.

The Cubs should have extended him. I have no reason to disbelieve Marcus when he says that he and his agent reached out to the Cubs about extending him. Their policy against negotiating in season is asinine. I know that player negotiations can become a distraction. Good players walking away is worse than a distraction. At this point Marcus should test the market. I have trouble understanding why he got here. He’s been terrific and he’s a good fit with this team. Marcus Stroman, by all accounts is a good player, a great teammate and a good human being. Do I surely know everything? Of course not. I only know what I see in the media and on social media. But Stroman looks exactly like a guy the Cubs should want to have for some time.

On top of that, Marcus can’t receive a qualifying offer, since he previously received one. If he walks, he walks and you get nothing. Heaven forbid he reaches a point where he walks because he feels in some way slighted. He talks about no hard feelings, even if he were to be traded. That he would give them a fair shot anyway to sign him. Again, he screams quality human being. I’d hate to see him walk for nothing.

If the tenor of this writing isn’t obvious, I think the Cubs anted up on this homestand. They deserve a chance to go down fighting and not be neutered by trading their top talent. I think the Cubs should either be modest or hybrid buyers. I don’t think they should break the bank. If you can deal from say a crowded upper minor league outfield situation, great. But I think this team should do what it has done best in recent years. Hit all of the thrift stores and the clearance racks. See if you can find some discounted merchandise that you can maybe tweak and see if you can get more. The needs are obvious to everyone. Third base, first base, bullpen and maybe a depth starter. On that last one, either someone that can park in the bullpen or at Iowa and maybe make two or three starts down the stretch. There will almost certainly be needs. But I’m not in a position where I want to raid the prospect list to add to the team.

Of course, that’s easy for me. I’m not buying this team as a contender. I’m just buying that they are alive. It’s not unfathomable for a team where they are with three starters as good as Steele, Stroman and Kyle Hendricks (plus a trending Jameson Taillon) to overcome this deficit. I never believed in this team, so certainly I’m not buying that they’ll finish the deal. But I am buying that they can. I’m not a big white flag trader, so I think you at least roll with what you’ve got, at most you make some tweaks to see if you can squeeze out some extra wins.

So that’s Tom’s thousand word plus trade deadline opinions. Take it all with a grain of salt. No front office is knocking down my door to hire me. So these are still the ramblings of a Cubs fan on the internet. Let’s take those rambles to Sunday’s win and see what nuggets there are. The best way to do that is to look at three stars.

That starts with the man of the hour. Cody Bellinger is the best player in baseball this month. I know there are a lot of very good players and I know that Shohei Ohtani is maybe the most unique talent in baseball history and having an amazing season. But Cody is the man this month. A former MVP having an MVP stretch. Sunday was a slow day for him. Just one hit. Of course it was a two-run homer. He then added a sacrifice fly later. He even struck out once. Feels like it has been forever since that happened.

The second star of this one has to be Jameson Taillon. When I was previewing this one, I talked about how much the Cubs need Jameson to come up big. He did that. He got two outs into the sixth inning and it’s not hard to imagine that if he’d had a bit better of a track record this year they might have let him work out of trouble in the sixth. But with a win they needed to lock down and has struggles, it was the right decision to go to the pen. Still, seven hits, one walk, one run. That’s really good work. I know what the definition says, but I’ll go ahead and call this a quality start. We don’t love three over six. Three over seven? Yeah, we love that. One over five? Yeah, we love that. Two more outs? Absolutely. Your mileage may vary, but I’ll take this start from ever starter every game and love it. No exceptions.

There are some really good options for the third spot. Javier Assad’s work with a depleted bullpen or even Anthony Kay for that matter were huge. But give me Dansby Swanson. Two hits, a run batted in and a run scored. Hat is definitely off. No rehab stint, back-to-back two hit games. A run driven in and a run scored in each. And the usual steady, strong defense at short. Yes please.

Game 99, July 23: Cubs 7, Cardinals 2 (48-51)


Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.


  • Superhero: Cody Bellinger (.198). 1-3, HR, SF, 3 RBI, R, K

*The last Cub with three straight Superheroes was Ian Happ from June 13-15.

  • Hero: Jameson Taillon (.158). 5⅔ IP, 25 batters, 7 H, BB, R, 6 K (W 4-6)
  • Sidekick: Ian Happ (.048). 1-4, 2 R, K


  • Billy Goat: Nico Hoerner (-.050). 1-4, 2B
  • Goat: Miguel Amaya (-.009). 0-3, HBP
  • Kid: Seiya Suzuki (-.007). 0-3, BB, R

WPA Play of the Game: With two outs in the first inning, Cody Bellinger batted with a runner on first. He hit a two-run homer. (.188)

*Cardinals Play of the Game: With a runner on second and no outs in the third inning, the Cubs were already up three when Nico Hoerner faced Jordan Montgomery. Montgomery got Hoerner to fly out. (.029)


Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?

This poll is closed

  • 65%
    Cody Bellinger
    (120 votes)
  • 28%
    Jameson Taillon
    (53 votes)
  • 0%
    Ian Happ
    (0 votes)
  • 4%
    Dansby Swanson (2-4, RBI, R)
    (9 votes)
  • 0%
    Javier Assad (1 ⅔ IP, 6 batters, H, 2 K)
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    Someone else (leave you suggestion in the comments)
    (0 votes)
183 votes total Vote Now

Yesterday’s winner: Cody Bellinger - 114 of 135 votes (Superhero is 67-31)

Rizzo Award Cumulative Standings: (Top 5/Bottom 5)

  • Cody Bellinger +20
  • Ian Happ +18.5
  • Marcus Stroman +18
  • Mike Tauchman +14
  • Justin Steele +12
  • Michael Fulmer/Drew Smyly -9
  • Julian Merryweather -12.5
  • Patrick Wisdom -13
  • Jameson Taillon -15
  • Trey Mancini -20

Up Next: An off day Monday. Then the start of six road games, with two on the south side of Chicago. The White Sox are 41-60 and have lost seven of 10. Trades are likely in their future and not the happy kind. Kyle Hendricks (3-4, 3.38 ERA, 64 IP) starts for the Cubs. He’s 2-2 with a 3.76 ERA over his last seven starts, a total of 40⅔ innings. His last start was a very good one against the Nationals. He allowed one run on five hits with no walks over six innings.

27-year-old righty Michael Kopech makes the start for the White Sox. The former 33rd pick overall of the Red Sox (2014) is 4-8 with a 4.29 ERA over 92⅓ innings. Over seven starts, he’s looked a bit better, 1-3 with a 3.82 in 30⅔ innings. Last time out he picked up a win with 5⅔ innings in New York against the Mets. He allowed two hits and four walks leading to one run. The start before that he didn’t make it out of the first inning against the Braves in Atlanta. He faced seven batters, walking four of them and allowing a hit.