In a rivalry that has only grown more spirited in recent years, the Brewers and Cubs appear to be headed in different directions.
The Milwaukee Brewers have been demanding respect. The Cubs haven’t been willing to give it. Cole Hamels once declared Brewers-Cubs wasn’t even a rivalry because the Cubs had more fans/were better or whatever the reasoning behind his insane statement was. All Milwaukee wanted was the Cubs to respect us as opponents and rivals.
They chose not to.
Now the Cubs are declaring themselves “sellers” at the Trade Deadline as they sit 9.5 games back of the Brewers with a 43-45 record.
The Cubs were the team to beat for several years in the NL Central. With their reign over, the Brewers take over as the clear top dog in the division.
The Cubs have a bottom-third farm system, and their core is at the end of their contracts. Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, and Anthony Rizzo, all thorns in the Brewers side for several years, are free agents at the end of the season.
Cubs GM Jed Hoyer has declared the Cubs sellers at the Deadline.
While Chicago is unlikely to embark on another complete teardown and rebuild, they are waiving the white flag on 2021. The players they get in return for whoever they do sell off will be young and under team control for a while. But since the guys they will sell are on expiring contracts, the return won’t be as great, which is good news for the Brewers.
Rental prices have dropped in recent years at the Deadline. That doesn’t help rental sellers like Chicago, although the name value that guys like Bryant and Baez have will help the Cubs reap something in return.
The Brewers open play on July 9th with a seven game lead over the Reds, and a 9.5 game lead over the Cubs and Cardinals. Fangraphs gives the Brewers a 90% chance to win the division.
Anything can happen over the final three months of the season, but it’s only three more weeks until the Cubs and Cardinals have decisions to make about their path forward. If both become sellers, the NL Central will be down to the Brewers and Reds. If the Brewers can take a large chunk of this stretch of seven straight against the Reds, they can bury Cincinnati, too.
That would leave the Brewers all alone at the top of the NL Central.
The Brewers still have some flaws in their lineup to address, so they can by no means just coast the rest of the way if they successfully bury the Reds, Cubs, and Cardinals. They have eyes on the World Series and will need to make some additions if they want to get there.
But it’s nice to know that they won’t have to be worrying about the Cubs trying to catch up in the standings later in the year, not that the Cubs, who are 3-9 against the Crew this year, were going to present much of an issue anyways. But they can be pesky and petty, and even if they’re out of it in September they will play Milwaukee harder than anyone else.
Because it’s a rivalry. A rivalry the Brewers are currently the best team in.
The Cubs have been buyers for years, flexing their financial might. Despite a much larger payroll, they still couldn’t build a better team for 2021.