Floundering Cubs, Diamondbacks meet as trade deadline nears

National Sports

Speculation persisted that the Chicago Cubs would ship away some players after the All-Star break, and they made one move a day prior to Friday’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix.

On Thursday, the Cubs traded outfielder Joc Pederson to the Braves for first baseman Bryce Ball, who was with Atlanta’s Class-A Rome (Ga.) affiliate.

Pederson is likely not to be Chicago’s only move over the next few weeks, as All-Stars Kris Bryant and Craig Kimbrel are also reportedly up for sale.

Bryant is a free agent at the end of the season. The Cubs hold an option for next season on Kimbrel, who would be enticing to a team in need of bullpen help.

Kimbrel, an eight-time All-Star, doesn’t buy into the notion that the club will trade away key pieces prior to the July 30 trading deadline.

“I wouldn’t say it’s clear,” Kimbrel told reporters while in Denver for the All-Star Game. “Obviously, when you go on an 11-game losing streak, it definitely pushes one way. But at the end of the day, that’s not a decision that I make.

“All I can do is go out and pitch and try and win ballgames.”

The 33-year-old Kimbrel has been largely unhittable this season and sports an 0.57 ERA and 20 saves in 33 appearances. He has struck out 54 and allowed just 11 hits in 31 2/3 innings.

The 29-year-old Bryant is a four-time All-Star and a former NL MVP. He has 16 homers and 46 RBIs and is batting .271 in 81 games.

Bryant and the Cubs were unable to reach a long-term contract extension so the versatile third baseman/outfielder has been hearing rumors all season long.

“I don’t know what will happen,” Bryant said at the All-Star Game. “If it does happen, whatever team I do go to is going to get a guy that’s going to go out there and give it all he’s got, play wherever they need me to play, be a good person and good teammate and just play baseball. That’s all I can do.”

The Diamondbacks figure to do some dealing prior to the deadline due to the poor season they are experiencing.

Arizona (26-66) owns the worst record in the majors. The Diamondbacks set a major league record with 24 consecutive road losses, a franchise mark with 17 straight setbacks and went through another skid that lasted 13 games.

Arizona started 15-13 before losing 50 of its next 58 games. The Diamondbacks actually won three of four games last week and then got routed 22-1 by the Los Angeles Dodgers and lost again the next day to end play before the break.

Third baseman Eduardo Escobar figures to be on the radar of some contenders. He has 20 homers and 60 RBIs in 88 games and just played in the All-Star Game for the first time in his 11-year career.

“It’s been one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life,” the 32-year-old Escobar said of reaching the All-Star Game. “This is something that I always strived for, I worked really hard to accomplish this. I think that when you work hard and you do things with love, anything is possible.”

Escobar and the Diamondbacks will be facing Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks (11-4, 3.77 ERA) in the opener of the three-game set. The 31-year-old Hendricks is 9-0 over his past 11 starts.

Hendricks is 3-2 with a 3.38 ERA in six career starts versus Arizona. Escobar is 3-for-8 against Hendricks but teammates Nick Ahmed (1-for-15) and Stephen Vogt (0-for-9) have struggled.

The Diamondbacks hadn’t announced a starter as of Thursday evening.

–Field Level Media

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