Cubs get bullpen help, acquire RHP Joe Smith from Angels
CHICAGO (AP) The NL Central-leading Chicago Cubs identified the bullpen as the biggest weakness in their quest to win their first World Series since 1908.
Enter All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman, left-hander Mike Montgomery and, just before the trade deadline Monday, right-hander Joe Smith from the Los Angeles Angels.
''That was an area we thought we could make some changes,'' general manager Jed Hoyer said. ''Adding a closer, a left-hander and then adding a guy like Smith who can be a right-handed specialist, we felt like those were areas that would improve our team and improve the mix of our bullpen.''
The Cubs' third trade in two weeks sent minor league righty Jesus Castillo to the Angels for the 32-year-old Smith. The sidewinder is 1-4 with a 3.82 ERA and six saves in 38 appearances with the Angels this season. Smith has also pitched for the Indians and Mets in his 10-year big league career and is in the last season of his contract.
Manager Joe Maddon sees Smith producing double play grounders and getting right-handers out.
''Try to set him up for the righty, the one that's not going to get pinch-hit for,'' Maddon said. ''The chance to get you out of the inning with one pitch, that kind of stuff. Or maybe start an inning based on another team's lineup . as well as one out, runners on first and second, right-handed hitter up, it's a good spot to put a guy like that in.''
With Chapman coming from the New York Yankees last week and Montgomery from Seattle, the Cubs have a much more imposing look in the late innings.
But the Cubs weren't able to bring in a needed left-handed bat following the season-ending knee injury to slugger Kyle Schwarber in April.
Hoyer said they were hampered because the teams looking to deal late included the crosstown White Sox and division foes Milwaukee and Cincinnati.
''It was really hard to do deals with those teams,'' Hoyer said. ''There's probably a tax you have to pay or even not be able to get a deal done. We were certainly active, but of the teams making moves over the last 48-72 hours, a lot of the most active teams we would have had a hard time matching up with.''
So with high-priced left-handed hitter Jason Heyward struggling, do the Cubs have enough offense to end their championship drought?
''There is enough here,'' Maddon said. ''But we have to incorporate what we're learning, move the baseball when it's necessary, accept your walk.''
The 20-year-old Castillo has a 3.27 ERA in seven starts at Eugene in short season Class A and is seen as a long-term prospect for the Angels.
The Cubs also designated left-hander Brian Matusz for assignment Monday after he gave up three home runs in his Chicago debut Sunday. Right-hander Spencer Patton was recalled from Triple-A Iowa.
Hoyer stressed the Cubs still could make a roster tweak or two before the postseason.
''We'll work through the August waiver period and try to find small things,'' Hoyer said. ''We did it last year, and you can make good and impactful moves after the deadline.''