The Cubs are a team that sells. They already dealt Joc Pederson on Thursday, despite having a statistically similar chance of making the playoffs as the Braves, to whom they traded him.
The floodgates have been thrown open. Should Chicago decide to prioritize restocking a farm system (and lowering second-half payroll) as much as possible in the days leading up to the July 30 non-waiver trade deadline, Kris Bryant and Zach Davies are very likely to be dealt, as are Craig Kimbrel, Javier Baez, and Anthony Rizzo.
Thus, one of the greatest runs in Cubs history would come to an end, a six-year span (2015-20) during which they made the playoffs five times and ended a 108-year title drought in 2016.
I’m curious if that time period can help us put the Yankees into context. For nearly three decades, they have been unstoppable contenders. That may be over now, and I’ve been among those digging for reasons, trying to figure out what went wrong in 2021 and why.
But, in this long run, I’m aware that they’ve only had one July sell-off. That was in 2016, when they traded Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs, among other things.
Chapman allowed a traumatic, dramatic two-run homer to Cleveland’s Rajai Davis to tie the score in the eighth inning of Game 7 of the 2016 World Series. And the Cubs may have only won thanks to a well-timed 17-minute rain delay in the ninth inning, which allowed them to mentally regroup and be inspired by a hastily called team meeting led by Jason Heyward.
The Cubs essentially won their first World Series since 1908 because they overcame Chapman’s postseason homer, which was aided by a rain delay. The Yankees haven’t won a playoff game since 2009, in part because Chapman allowed epic playoff homers to Jose Altuve and Mike Brosseau the previous two years.
That 2016 championship was supposed to be the start of a Cubs dynasty. After all, Baez, Bryant, Rizzo, Willson Contreras, and Kyle Schwarber formed a young nucleus. However, after 2016, that group was never the same.
Since then, the Cubs have only won one playoff round, going 3-9 during that time. That does not include losing a one-game tiebreaker for the NL Central title to the Brewers in 2018 after collapsing to finish second last in the division and then losing the wild-card game to the Rockies 24 hours later. Both losses occurred at Wrigley Field.
The Yankees faced the Astros in Game 7 of the 2017 ALCS the season after the Cubs won. Is it possible that Houston cheated by illegally stealing signs in order to win? Regardless, this appeared to be the start of a Yankees dynasty built around a young positional core of Greg Bird, Aaron Judge, and Gary Sanchez, with Gleyber Torres (acquired in the Chapman trade) set to arrive the following season. But the Yankees’ health and success never recovered, despite going 11-10 in the postseason since then.