There was a surprising number of big name starting pitchers moving prior to the trade deadline. Sonny Gray went to the Yankees and Yu Darvish went to the Dodgers after the Cubs acquired Jose Quintana. Even lefty starter Jamie Garcia got traded TWICE before the deadline.
It has been said that in spring training, you build a roster to win 162 games. But at the trade deadline, you build a roster to win a playoff series.
This year's trend seems to be a blend of the old way and the new way. The old way was to stock up on four power pitchers to hold down the opponent in a short series. In 2016, the Cubs starters cruised with quality start after quality start. But the Royal and Indians way is to stock up on a strong bullpen to close out games after the 5th inning.
The Cubs added a front line starter in Quintana, who has gone 2-1, 2.37 ERA for the Cubs. With his addition, the playoff rotation would be: Lester, Arrieta, Quintana, Hendricks.
By adding closer Justin Wilson, the Cubs have the option of using him like Cleveland did with Andrew Miller: as a "stopper" in any inning. Maddon had tried to use Mike Montgomery in that role, but Montgomery appears to be better suited for long relief.
But can the Cubs shut down an playoff opponent with just its bullpen? Rondon and Strop can be good but inconsistent. Montgomery has been consistent. Duensing appears more and more like a situational lefty specialist. Uehara and Edwards would be 7th inning hold guys. Wilson can be the set up man and spot closer while Davis continues to be the prime closer.
The Cubs have five pitchers with experience closing games - - - which should mean that they are familiar with high pressure situations and can get anyone out.
But in a pressure situation, a manager can forget how to manage his bullpen. Last year, Maddon rode Chapman too much in the playoffs because he did not trust his bullpen. Maybe this year, Maddon will not have to ride Davis.
The other major roster move was getting Alex Avila from Detroit to be the back up catcher. By all reports, Avila is a good clubhouse guy and leader. However, he is in a contract year - - - and wants to be paid next season as a starting catcher. He will get limited playing time behind Contreras which will hurt his off-season value. Whether that will be an issue for Avila is something that only time will tell. On the flip side, Avila is now on a team that can contend for a ring.
The Cubs have started to play better since the All-Star break. The roster tweaks show that the front office is committed to repeat this year.