Cubs lose, Contreras ready for trade talk to end
For certain Cubs, this game was a wrap.
The team is off Monday, so the ESPN Sunday night special in San Francisco was the Cubs' last game before the trade deadline hits on Tuesday at 5 p.m. Central.
Once again, there were no signs of impending moves. Willson Contreras started at catcher, Ian Happ was in left and both played the full game.
In the top of the ninth, Contreras struck out and Happ grounded out as the Cubs went down quietly in a 4-0 loss to the Giants.
After the final out, Contreras lingered in the dugout and accepted a few hugs from teammates. He's said many times he'd prefer to stay with the Cubs, the team he signed with out of Venezuela in 2009.
"That's when I realized it was the last game before the deadline. It hit me a little bit there," Contreras told reporters after the game. "Tomorrow's an off-day, we'll see what happens. It's going to be a long day. It's been a long, long, long week, long, long month for me. I'm ready for this to be over."
Some would argue it's a bad idea to play those guys, because an injury could ruin a player's trade value. On the other hand, the Cubs might want to be respectful to their regulars by letting them play it out. President of baseball operations Jed Hoyer should also be sending the message that he's willing to shut down trade talk if the Cubs don't get their asking price.
"I just want this to be over," Contreras said. "If they want to trade me, they're going to trade me. If they don't want to trade me, then don't. But I just want this day to pass and keep focused on playing baseball. I just want this to be over."
The Cubs' next game on Tuesday in St. Louis will start roughly two hours after the deadline arrives. Contreras said he may try to play video games or visit the pool -- anything to take his mind off the trade situation.
"It's hard, because anytime you have a little free time, your mind is going right away to the trade rumors," he said. "I wish this was not the case, but I won't lie. I talked to (manager David) Ross about it and it's not easy. You have to learn how to deal with this.
"I care, man. I care. I care a lot about my pitchers, I care a lot about the game-calling, I care a lot about making the team better and I care a lot about winning. I know this team is not made to win this year, not even close. But I've learned a lot from this team too, losing, I learn a lot."
Relievers David Robertson and Mychal Givens did not take the mound Sunday, since the Cubs never led. Contreras, Happ, Robertson and Givens are four leading candidates to be dealt, but the final number remains to be seen.
The Padres, Astros, Mets and Rays appear to be the most logical destinations for Contreras, although some teams might be reluctant to add a catcher at midseason, since he'd have to learn a new pitching staff with two months left in the season.
The game itself wasn't very eventful. Former White Sox lefty Carlos Rodon shut down the Cubs, allowing just 2 hits and no walks over 7 innings, with 10 strikeouts.
Cubs starter Adrian Sampson kept pace for a while, but after getting the first two outs in the fourth inning, he loaded the bases with a walk, single and hit batsman. A single by Jason Vosler and double from Austin Wynns drove in 4 quick runs.
Infielder Zach McKinstry, acquired from the Dodgers on Saturday, made his Cubs debut as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning and struck out. Before the game, McKinstry talked about feeling like a caged animal with the Dodgers, due to limited opportunities, and his love for Lou Malnati's pizza.
To make room for McKinstry on the roster, the Cubs sent Alfonso Rivas to Iowa.
The Cubs and Giants swapped minor-leaguers Sunday afternoon, with shortstop Dixon Machado headed to the Bay for right-handed pitcher Raynel Espinal.
The Giants wanted Machado so badly, they started him at shortstop Sunday night. He's a veteran who spent four years with the Tigers and had a nice year for the Iowa Cubs.
Espinal, 30, is a Dominican Republic native who has pitched 2 innings in the majors, with Boston last season. This year in Triple A, Espinal's 5.29 ERA doesn't look great, but he did collect 102 strikeouts in 83 innings.
Nick Madrigal and Andrelton Simmons continued their rehab assignments with Iowa on Sunday, while pitcher Wade Miley is expected to make a rehab start for Iowa sometime this week.
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