SportsMonday: Cubs On A Relative Roll

The trade of Scott Feldman is all about Chris Bosio. The Cub pitching coach has had great success over the past few years taking mediocre pitchers such as Paul Maholm, Scott Feldman and especially Travis Wood and helping them get over the hump.

On the other side those three have found enough sustained success to become significant trade targets (the first two) and an All-Star.

And if Bosio can work his magic with now former Oriole power pitchers Jake Arrieta (assigned to Triple-A for now) and Pedro Strop (joined the Cubs and looked good Sunday in 1.1 innings of relief), Cub fans will eventually look back at last week's trade of Feldman and backup catcher Steve Clevenger as a success. Fans can do so without trying to break down whether the additional international bonus pool money part of the deal made a significant difference - or not.

(See also Roger Wallenstein's White Sox Report for a more sober view of the international teenage market than you're getting Theo sycophants.)

Still, the team wrapped up another decent week (hey, going .500, i.e. 3-3, is the definition of decent, especially for this team) by taking two of three from the league-leading Pirates over the weekend. They have now won five of their last seven series'.

In other words, while there was some unhappiness in the clubhouse in the aftermath of the Feldman deal, the Cubs still haven't made the trade that puts them under water, morale-wise.

Also, Cubs players have to know that Feldman's success was tenuous. Even though he made his Orioles debut with six innings of two-run pitching against the (punchless) White Sox in the middle of the week, his career ERA remains close to 5 (4.81), and after a good first two months this season, his ERA in June was 4.75. Like Dale Sveum likes to say, the numbers on the baseball card don't lie.

The other major development in Cubsland is that it became apparent over the weekend that management actually acquired a serviceable reliever in exchange for Carlos Marmol. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, take a bow!

Just for his contribution to two delightful wins over the Pirates over the weekend (two shutout innings in both), pitcher Matt Guerrier completely exceeded expectations for what the Cubs would be able to get for a guy they were desperate to dump.

Guerrier has been around awhile and his time with the Cubs will almost certainly follow the usual arc of a mid-level reliever - success for a little while followed by mediocrity if not a downright downfall.

But that's OK because the Cubs are clearly on a roll at this point in terms of picking up the needed relievers to keep turning over their bullpen - the key to success in that segment of the game.

All of the Cubs relievers were on display on Sunday, when the team was bailed out by Dioner Navarro's sacrifice fly in the 11th. If he hadn't finished off the game at that point, the team would have had to go eight-deep into a bullpen that had been stretched to the limit in part because starter Carlos Villanueva was limited to 69 pitches in four innings of 1-run, 3-hit ball because he's still being stretched out as a starter in his return to the rotation - to fill in Feldman's spot.

The Cubs have a makeup game with the White Sox tonight and then two games against the Angels before a four-game showdown with the Cardinals takes them into the All-Star break.

No matter how they fare, though, there will be more trades in the next few weeks. It's not clear if the team will get enough back in terms of guys who can help now so that this squad of mostly young players doesn't go in the tank down the stretch like it did last year. That's because it's not clear that management understands that if it continues to set this team up to fail, it will do damage to impressionable young players who not only need to learn how to play but also need to learn how to win.

It isn't the most compelling storyline in baseball history but it is all we have until training camp (I don't have to say for which sport do I?) begins July 24.


Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on Mondays. He welcomes your comments.

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