Two of the most targeted teams of the Trade Deadline will meet in a series Friday night in Washington. The Nationals and Cubs, fresh off a Trade Deadline that saw both teams trade some of the faces of the respective franchises, will now battle for the next three games. In May, the two teams played one another in Wrigley Field, and the series did not disappoint. The Cubs looked like real contenders for the first time under manager David Ross, but soon fizzled out.
The Cubs have really had one of the most tumultuous seasons in recent memory. The expectations were decently low for them. Nonethless, they soared to start the year. They took three out of four from the Nats and looked to be back to dominance. Yet, over the next two months, they self-destructed and now see themselves in the same spot as the Nats: selling off pieces at the Trade Deadline. First, it was two pieces from their bullpen. Andrew Chafin and Ryan Tepera went to the Athletics and White Sox, respectively. Then, the bombshell dropped. Anthony Rizzo, their biggest piece, was moved to the Bronx in exchange for prospects. That was a similarly tough trade as the Max Scherzer/Trea Turner trade.
That is the tip of the iceberg. Any of the trio of Javy Baez, Kris Bryant, and Craig Kimbrel are all rumored to be on the move as well. The Cubbies are really struggling on and off the field, and the fans are experiencing a familiar pain in the eyes of DC fans. Both organizations are dealing with their best players and there is no way for this breakup to happen painlessly. Bryant was spotting emotionally taking in Wrigley Field for one last time as a member of the Cubs on Thursday night. The writing has been on the wall for not only him to get moved, but some of his teammates. Javier Baez was traded to the Mets. Kimbrel was shipped to the White Sox. So, the Cubs have made just about all of their moves, with only Bryant remaining and 30 minutes left on the clock. The Cubs are in a similar spot as the Nationals as they do not have a great farm system.
For all that the Cubs do not have, they still have some talent on their roster. Willson Contreras is always a bat to keep an eye on this weekend. He has terrorized the Nats ever since he came to the team. Additionally, Jason Heyward has rebounded this season and become very productive. Ian Happ is finally realizing his potential for the Cubs, and hit very well this season. Kyle Hendricks is still pitching for the Cubs and has been up to his usual tricks. Outside of him, like the Nats, there are not many options in the bullpen.
Take away the on-field play for the past few weeks, it has been a tough time to be a Nationals fan. The team simply cannot catch a break. Between a Covid infestation, to Starlin Castro being on the Administrative Leave for sexual assault, it has not been easy. Oh, and the trades. How can one forget about those? As not to beat the dead horse, the Nats have cleaned the house. At the time of writing, they have parted with Brad Hand, Max Scherzer, Trea Turner, Kyle Schwarber, and Daniel Hudson. With both Yan Gomes and Josh Harrison both being traded to the Athletics as well, the Nationals are really operating a bare bones squad in this series.
Unfortunately, this is part of the business of baseball. Both teams are learning this the hard way. Unfortunately, once a team is done winning with a core, the team blows it up and starts over in hopes of winning again. The cycle continues, but that does not make it any less painful. The key is to maximize a window in order to make the destruction of a core less painful. The Nationals were forced to demolish their roster. The destruction was to this extent due to the lack of prospects in the Minor Leagues. It is tough, but necessary.
These two teams are anything but stable in terms of their roster composition. What they both are, however, is competing for pride. It is all but a foregone conclusion that these two teams will be watching the entirety of the Postseason from home, but at least, they can help pad individual stats and just win games. No matter what happens on the field this weekend, both teams should be applauded for their ability to play under difficult circumstances.