Discussions have swirled over whether the Chicago Cubs should be buyers or sellers at the MLB trade deadline, and while we still have just under a month until that date, this week is unquestionably the most important measuring stick to help make that determination.
The Cubs, coming off a 1-5 homestand that saw them drop to six games back in the National League Central race, are sitting at 38-44 on the season, but they have a big opportunity to make a statement about their competitive aspirations in the final seven games before the All-Star break.
It all starts with a four-game series against the Milwaukee Brewers at American Family Field starting on Monday afternoon. The Brewers are currently tied for first place in the Central with the Cincinnati Reds, but despite their place atop the heap, they are a flawed team that struggles to score runs at times, with the lowest number of runs scored in the Central and the third-worst offense in the entire National League.
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Add to that the fact the Cubs are rolling out their four best pitchers against the Crew, while missing their ace in Corbin Burnes, and Chicago has a recipe for a potentially-fruitful week in Wisconsin.
After all, if they can take three-of-four from the Brewers, then they would be just four games under .500 and two games closer to their rivals in the standings, making for a slightly-easier comeback road ahead.
To make things even more interesting, the Brewers will finish their first half against the Cincinnati Reds, the team they’re tied with in the standings.
While a sweep in either direction could be a bad thing for the Cubs, a split between the two clubs could also give them an opportunity to gain ground on one of the teams in the final week of the first half.
It also needs to be stated that the Cubs are facing a tough potential test in their final three games, with a set against the New York Yankees in the Bronx.
Not only that, but the Cubs will also have to face Carlos Rodon, Gerrit Cole and Domingo German, making for tough-sledding against a Yankees team that is trying to find its way in the American League playoff hunt.
That being said, if the Cubs can somehow take two-of-three from the Yankees, they should still be within striking distance in the Central after the All-Star break wraps up.
To cap it all off, the Cubs have a bit of favorable scheduling coming out of the break. They will only have four games outside of Chicago for the rest of July, and those four games will be played in St. Louis against the Cardinals.
Needless to say, positioning themselves for that upcoming stretch of games is going to be of critical importance, because if they continue to play the way they did in their last homestand, then the nature of phone calls in the Wrigley Field front office will change in a negative way.