LOS ANGELES — The Cubs believe the day is coming when they won’t be obvious trade-deadline sellers, a last-place team or a social-media punch line and can say: Told you so.
“It would be really special to (win with) a team like this, because we’re stepped on so much by everybody,” veteran swingman Carlos Villanueva said Saturday at Dodger Stadium. “We get talked-crap-about so much that it should be nice to stand up and say, ‘You know what, talk now. We’re the team we said we were going to be all along.’”
Villanueva also understands his days could be numbered here, possibly moved in an August waiver deal and positioned to become a free agent after this season. His versatility, clubhouse presence and bilingual background could help stabilize the pitching staff and help transition the next generation.
Do you want to see Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and the kids up here?
“Of course,” Villanueva said. “Why wouldn’t I? I’ve ground it out for two years here in the tough times. I want to be here for the good times, too. That would just make it a lot sweeter if I can (stick around). It will give me a chance to talk smack with purpose, because I’ve been here through those times.
“It would be really nice to see this through, but that all depends on how they evaluate you upstairs. They might see a value in me here, or they might see me as replaceable. But I can’t control that, and I’m not offended by it.”
Villanueva hadn’t seen or heard his name in many rumors, so he wasn’t surprised when he remained a Cubs employee at 3:01 p.m. on July 31 and didn’t have to hug everyone in the bullpen.
“People get caught up sometimes in the hoopla of the trade deadline,” Villanueva said. “A lot of teams, I’m sure, want to do more. There are teams that are still going to be active — and should be active — teams that need help here and there (and can) fix a couple holes.
“Why wouldn’t they try to get something for me, if they can?”
You could start connecting the dots after Dodgers swingman Paul Maholm tore his ACL while covering first base during Friday night’s loss. The ex-Cub is out for the rest of the season.
“You never know,” Villanueva said. “There are teams that have needs, and sometimes it seems like a good fit on paper. (But) it all depends on what teams are willing to part with to make a deal.”
Villanueva’s numbers are skewed by his time as a spot starter (1-4, 10.53 ERA). He’s been very effective eating up innings out of the bullpen (3-2, 2.87 ERA).
As Villanueva held court with reporters inside the cramped visiting clubhouse, he joked about how he wanted to be traded for a dollar. That would have to be the cash consideration, so he would have a better story to tell his kids someday.
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A clubhouse wise guy chimed in with Villanueva’s value: “Priceless.”
Villanueva is another short-term asset hoping to get to the other side of the rebuild and talk trash if/when the Cubs own Chicago again.
“If not,” Villanueva said, “then I’ll still wish them well, and I’m trying to beat their butt every time I face them.”