BALTIMORE -- Chicago Cubs players, as well as manager Joe Maddon, understand what the front office provided for them during the All-Star break and are committed to doing their part after a lackluster first half.
"They're consistent," first baseman Anthony Rizzo said Friday afternoon after welcoming Quintana to the team. "They believe in us just as much as we believe in ourselves...We have to play better. It's plain and simple. We have to play better baseball and become the team that everyone loves again."
The Cubs are far from the darlings of baseball they were a year ago as teams like the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers might be able to claim the title of "best young team" along with the real title of World Series winner. The Quintana trade could provide for a wake call to the still defending champions.
"Anytime you feel like the front office is trying to add to your team and help you make a push that should send enough of a message," outfielder Jason Heyward said. "From Day 1 they've done everything they can to meet us more than halfway...We just have to do our job."
At 43-45 entering play in the second half the Cubs have decidedly not done their job to this point. They trail the upstart Milwaukee Brewers by 5.5 games, never showing the kind of play that made them world champions in 2016.
Team president Theo Epstein has doubled down on his core players after trading away his top three prospects over the last two Julys.
"Not only can this be a winning group, this is a winning group," he stated on Friday. "They just won a World Series."
The team won a championship on the backs of their starting pitchers but this season has been very different. Ranked 8th in ERA in the National League it's been a struggle on the mound. They lead the league in first inning runs given up after ace Jon Lester could not get out of the opening inning in the first half finale last Sunday. The Cubs trailed 10-0 before coming to bat against the Pittsburgh Pirates -- hence a need for Quintana.
"I'm a little surprised (by the trade to the Cubs) but I'm so happy to go to the other side of the city and stay in Chicago," Quintana said. "I just want to help this team."
Help is what they could use considering the disarray in their rotation. John Lackey and Kyle Hendricks are on the disabled list while others like Brett Anderson and Eddie Butler have been ineffective. Perhaps Quintana can be that stabilizing force the team has been looking for. One player can't make all the difference but he can have an effect on the rest of the team.
Maddon isn't used to getting what he wants or needs at the trade deadline, having come from Tampa Bay, but the Cubs front office isn't playing around, not when they have a window to win more than one world title.
"It's definitely an injection," Maddon said. "There's definitely energy involved. It's more believable with him around here right now. "It's wonderful to know if you need something you're able to get it. It's not just plugging holes, it's about reinforcing the whole thing. It's nice to be in that kind of position. I cannot deny that."
A strategy Heyward concurs with.
"They aren't out here trying to do anything secretive," Heyward said. "They want to win."
As for what's next, it all depends on the next couple of weeks. The Cubs are taking a step back as they evaluate their team with Quintana.
"We're going to see how we play," Epstein said. "It's a really important two weeks."
A move towards first place might mean a more aggressive approach to helping the roster for the final two months. A step back and the Cubs will be thinking about the future. The good news is the Quintana deal -- with his team friendly contract -- addresses both needs.
"You cannot do this without pitching," Maddon said. "He gives us chance to do that more on a consistent basis."
One bonus for Epstein, as well as Sox GM Rick Hahn, was that the deal for Quintana didn't leak except for a Reddit user named WetButt. When asked if the Cubs had other deals in play, Epstein quipped, "Go ask WetButt."