CINCINNATI — It began to get better. Or maybe a catch in the ninth inning that saved the game. Or a streak of 17 runs. At the trade deadline, the Chicago Cubs were ready to eliminate some players, but a sudden run of wins changed the course of their season.
“There was a time when it looked like we were going to be sellers,” said Jed Hoyer, the president of baseball operations for the Cubs. “We were seven games under.500, down 3-0 to the Nationals, and about to go eight games under. We scored 17 runs that night and didn’t look back for a while. It hasn’t been that long.”
After that night, the team won 10 of its next 12 games, sending scouts who were watching Cody Bellinger back to their teams without him. Hoyer said that Bellinger was “popular in my early conversations.” The Cubs were no longer willing to give away veteran players.
“They (executives from the other team) asked about the players we would have available,” Hoyer said. “It was interesting that as we got deeper into it last week, more and more teams called and said, “You’re not selling. You guys are good, and you will buy.’ No one took us seriously as sellers anymore.”
If other teams thought the Cubs should be sellers, their leaders thought they were right. Instead of waiting for calls about Bellinger, they started making them. On Monday, they got Jeimer Candelario from the Washington Nationals.
Hoyer said, “He was the best choice.” “In all honesty, it was a good time to sell. The market was not strong.”
Candelario went 4-for-5 and drove in two runs as the Cubs beat the Cincinnati Reds 20-9 on Tuesday night.
Dansby Swanson, who hit two home runs against the Reds, said, “We’ve got a great team.” “We had a lot of fun together. I think it’s easy to see how hard we’ve worked, both on and off the field, and what we expect from each other. It’s been a lot of fun.”
The National League standings also influenced Chicago’s decision to change direction. Even though the Cubs only have a record of 54-53, they are only four games behind the division leader and 312 games behind a wild-card spot.
Hoyer said, “There’s no doubt that where our division stands and where the wild card stands this year had much to do with it.” “When we look at our real numbers, we see that our team is even better than our record shows. This group has gotten a great response from their fans.”
The Cubs were the only team in the NL Central to have a positive run differential for most of the year, but their hitting and pitching in big games were terrible. The team thought they would have a chance if those numbers evened out. Just a few days before Tuesday’s trade deadline, the positive regression came at the right time.
The Cubs’ fate was sealed on Sunday when they lost their ninth game. It included a comeback win against the White Sox on Wednesday. Two days later, center fielder Mike Tauchman saved the game with an over-the-wall catch against the St. Louis Cardinals with two outs in the ninth inning.
“The most important thing was to wait and see what happened,” Hoyer said. “Not cutting the process short by making a choice too soon. We wanted to see how we did in St. Louis over the weekend. As we got closer, it became clear we were going in a certain direction.”
The team also tried to get help for the bullpen, but Hoyer said the Cubs were never close to making another deal. Either way, it might feel like a team that wants to make the playoffs for the first time since 2020 is adding instead of taking away. Everything changed for them over about ten days.
“The way the team played made it easy in many ways,” Hoyer said.