Cubs improve pen; Sox stay put again

By Cat Garcia

As the 2016 trade deadline has now passed and the calendar changes to August, the Cubs are gearing up for a strong second half campaign. Bullpen help, specifically in the form of a left-handed reliever, was the target area of concern going into the deadline, but giving the bullpen a total revamp is the route the Cubs took instead.

The Cubs added three new relief pitchers to an already exceptionally strong late-inning arsenal, and gave up barely any pieces that will be missed in return. The Cubs have successfully come away from the trade deadline a better team while leaving the major league roster intact. No blockbuster Miller-for-Schwarber trades were needed.

A last minute move, the Cubs acquired Angels right-handed reliever Joe Smith just moments before the 3 p.m. deadline on Monday. Smith is a ten-year veteran of the game, a sidearm reliever who has a 56.6 percent career groundball rate. Smith currently has a 3.82 ERA on the season and a 4.62 FIP.

Since joining the Cubs bullpen, left-handed reliever Mike Montgomery has appeared in four games and allowed three earned runs with two walks and four strikeouts. The sample size is small, and it’s not as if the Cubs were heavily relying on him to bridge a gap in the bullpen, so the poor performance to start off shouldn’t be a cause for concern.

On the other side of things, despite his first blown save in a Cubs uniform on Saturday, newcomer Aroldis Chapman has dazzled in his first four appearances, striking out six while only allowing one earned run and no walks. Chapman continues to bring the heat, throwing his trademark 100-plus mph heaters with exceptional frequency.

The Cubs took two of a four-game set against the White Sox last week, both victories coming at home, before taking on the Seattle Mariners and winning two of a three-game set. Wednesday the Cubs will close out the homestand with one final matchup with the Marlins before an off day on Thursday. The Cubs will then head to Oakland to take on the Athletics for a three-game set.

•On the South Side, the speculation coming into trade deadline week was quite loud; however, the reality of the deadline at U.S. Cellular was rather quiet.

Rumors and apprehension have swirled throughout the White Sox fan base recently, starting as far back as Hahn’s poetic dirge about his club being “mired in mediocrity” when he met with the press on July 21. Trade rumors were fueled even more when the statement was promptly followed by the spectacle pitcher Chris Sale put on in the clubhouse that weekend. However, the thought that the White Sox would move Sale or Quintana became a fruitless reality by 3 p.m. on Monday.

“We had a number of conversations with just about every team in baseball at one point or another over the last week plus.” General Manager Rick Hahn told the media. “But ultimately no other deals presented themselves that made sense for the White Sox from a long-term competitiveness standpoint.”

The White Sox did make one move, trading relief pitcher Zach Duke to the St. Louis Cardinals for outfielder Charlie Tilson, who the White Sox brass wasted no time in promoting to the major league club. Tilson, a 23-year old from Wilmette, was ranked a top 10 prospect in the Cardinals system according to Baseball America. Tilson made his debut with the White Sox club on Tuesday against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park.

The White Sox won two of a four-game set against the Cubs this week before dropping a three-game series to the Minnesota Twins at Target Field.

The club will finish out their road trip in Detroit on Thursday before heading back to Chicago to take on the Baltimore Orioles this weekend at U.S. Cellular Field.

Cat is a Staff Writer for BP Wrigleyville and BP Southside, Baseball Prospectus’ blogs covering Chicago baseball, and a Contributor for Follow her on Twitter: @TheBaseballGirl.

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