New-look Cubs, Nationals to face off after busy trade deadline

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The Cubs and Nationals, both gutted by this week’s MLB trade deadline, kick off their weekend series in Washington Friday baring little resemblance to the teams that took the field earlier this week. In the past 48 hours, the Cubs have undergone a fire sale of the highest order, purging their roster in the name of salary relief by trading stars Anthony Rizzo (he’ll be in pinstripes the next time you see him), Javier Baez (now turning double plays with fellow countryman Francisco Lindor in the Big Apple), Craig Kimbrel (acquired by the White Sox in a rare trade between crosstown rivals) and former MVP Kris Bryant, now of the San Francisco Giants.

Chicago bolstered its barren farm system with a slew of choice prospects (Alexander Canario and Caleb Killian are headed over from San Fran while former White Sox up-and-comer Nick Madrigal would seem to have an equally bright future ahead of him), but unloading the trio of Baez, Bryant and Rizzo—all significant contributors to the Cubs’ World Series team in 2016—was undoubtedly an admission of defeat, a tacit acknowledgment that Chicago’s title window has officially closed.

Not to be outdone, the Nationals cleaned house in similarly dramatic fashion, turning the page on three-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, All-Star shortstop Trea Turner (as if the Dodgers and their bloated $250-million payroll needed another talent infusion), Jon Lester, Yan Gomes, Daniel Hudson, Josh Harrison and impending free agent Kyle Schwarber. Washington managed to hold onto rising star Juan Soto, but it’s still remarkable to see the Nationals reduced to afterthought status just two years after raising a World Series banner. Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin’s albatross contracts surely aren’t helping any as the Nats embark on what figures to be a long and arduous rebuild, wiping the slate clean in hopes of eventually regaining relevance in a competitive NL East.

Chicago and Washington’s respective facelifts beg the question, which players could possibly be available to start Friday’s series opener in D.C.? Predictably, Twitter made plenty of jokes at their expense, marveling at the thoroughness of Friday’s trade carnage.

While the depleted Cubs and Nationals will at least be afforded the courtesy of lowered expectations going forward, it unfortunately won’t make fans’ viewing experience any more enjoyable, suffering through two months of makeshift lineups comprised of Triple-A call-ups and other unknowns.

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