Entering his third year as Cubs President of Baseball Operations, Theo Epstein has made some shrewd moves to acquire young talent into the organization. Here are just a few. Feel free to add yours as well in the comments below.
Cubs Trade Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson to Atlanta for Arodys Vizcaino and Jaye Chapman
In 2011 Paul Maholm was coming off an injury riddled season with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was shut down late in the season due to a pulled muscle in his shoulder. This left many baseball executives hesitant to sign the 29 year old left hander. The risk paid off for the Cubs. Maholm was one of the most productive left handed starters in the National League. While Maholm was with the Cubs he posted a 9-6 record and an ERA of 3.74, to go along with a 1.24 WHIP.
Epstein then flipped Maholm to the Atlanta Braves for 20 year old pitching prospect Arodys Vizcaino. Durability has been the main concern for the former Brave top prospect. Many scouts believe Vizcaino has the potential to be a top of the rotation type pitcher, with a floor of being a productive middle relief option.
An important thing to note here is that the front office included a club option for 2013 in Maholm's contract. This allowed for the Cubs to maximize his trade value, and was a factor in the decision for the Braves to part with Vizcaino.
Cubs trade Andrew Cashner to Padres for Anthony Rizzo and Zach Cates
This seems to be one of those rare trades that could work out for both teams. The Cubs got a left handed power-hitting first baseman, while the Padres got a potential top of the rotation starter.
Coming up through the Cubs system, Cashner was often compared to former beloved Cub Kerry Wood. Cashner's stuff or ability was never questioned. He spent the majority of his time with the big league club on the disabled list. Some scouts began to wonder if Cashner would be better suited in the bullpen.
In 2013 Cashner finally produced on the field for San Diego going 10-9 with an ERA of 3.09
Rizzo was coming off a dreadful half season with the Padres where he had a slash line of .281/.242/.523. Jed Hoyer (then San Diego GM) has since admitted that many of Rizzo's struggles had to do with being rushed to the big leagues at the end of the 2011 season.
Since being traded to the Cubs, Rizzo has had his ups and downs, though he has consistently hit for power and played excellent defense at first base. He has been labeled by the front office as a "core player" and was recently signed to a 7 year, $41 million deal.
Cubs sent Matt Garza to the Texas Rangers for Mike Olt, C.J Edwards, Justin Grimm, and Neil Ramierez.
That is a ton to get in return for a three month rental. Kudos to The Cub's front office. Edwards is now commonly viewed as the best pitching prospect in the organization. He posted some pretty incredible numbers in the minors last year. Edwards profiles as a number two or three starter in the majors.
Mike Olt is the really interesting piece in this deal. A former top 5 prospect in all of baseball, Olt looks to solve some vision problems that have derailed his once promising career. He will most likely be given the opportunity to be the Cub's starting third baseman in 2014.
Justin Grimm's ceiling is probably a 4th or 5th starter. He did pitch well out of the bullpen at times for the Cubs in 2013. He will most likely get a look for the rotation in the spring, but my guess is he will either start the year in Iowa or be a bullpen piece.
Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger to the Orioles in exchange for Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop.
This is one of my favorite moves made by Theo and Jed. Feldman signed in the off season for 1 year at $6 million. The Cubs were looking to acquire a veteran starting pitcher that they could trade for long term assets at the deadline.
Jake Arrieta, still only 27, has never really been able to reach his full potential as a starting pitcher. His stuff indicates he could be an effective big league starter. In 2013 Arrieta had flashes of being a dominate pitcher, he gave up just 34 hits in 51 2/3 innings pitched. He is also a candidate to crack the Cubs 2014 rotation.
Also included in the deal was reliever Pedro Strop. The 28 year old right hander was an immediate contributor in the bullpen. He had an impressive WHIP of .94 accompanied by a solid strike out rate. Strop has emerged as a possible replacement for Kevin Gregg as the 2014 closer.
Looking back at some of these trades, they validate the approach of the front office. Theo Epstein was very clear that in this rebuild there would be no short cuts. He stated that acquiring young talent was a top priority, and there is no question looking at the organization as a whole, they have done just that.
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