When I was in school, we used to get progress reports before the official report cards came out. Usually for me, this was about the time to get serious and make that late spring drive to get the grades up to snuff and keep the summer free for maximum baseball playing. The only grade my parents would let slide would be for penmanship. That was a hopeless cause. Short term won-loss record is the penmanship grade of the Theo/Jed progress report, so we're going to let that slide...for now.
So while it's way too early to judge the moves made by the new Cubs front office, here's an early look at how they've done in 5 areas:
- Free Agent Signings
- Front Office, Management, and Coaching Staff additions
- Farm System
We'll look at trades today...
- Traded OF Tyler Colvin and INF DJ Lemahieu to the Colorado Rockies for 3B Ian Stewart and RHP Casey Weathers
- Traded LHP Sean Marshall to the Cincinnati Reds for LHP Travis Wood, OF Dave Sappelt, and 2B Roni Torreyes
- Traded RHP Carlos Zambrano to the Miami Marlins for RHP Chris Volstad
- Traded RHP Andrew Cashner and OF Kyung-Min Na to the San Diego Padres for 1B Anthony Rizzo and RHP Zach Cates
- Traded RHP Marlon Byrd to the Boston Red Sox for RHP Michael Bowden and LHP Hunter Cervenka.
- Traded C Geovany Soto and cash to the Texas Rangers for RHP Jake Brigham and a player to be named or cash.
- Traded RHP Paul Maholm and OF Reed Johnson to the Atlanta Braves for RHP Arodys Vizcaino and RHP Jaye Chapman
- Traded RHP Ryan Dempster to the Texas Rangers for INF Christian Vilanueva and RHP Kyle Hendricks.
- Traded INF/OF Jeff Baker to Detroit for two players to be named.
As I mentioned yesterday, the Colorado deal looks like a loss so far as Ian Stewart struggled and now is out for the year with a wrist injury. He's a non-tender candidate and while the Cubs may still bring him back, wrist injuries can be tricky for hitters, especially in the short-term. Casey Weathers still has a good arm, but he won't be a factor until he greatly improves his control. Tyler Colvin has been a very good part-time OF for the Rockies, providing power from the left side against RHP, against whom he has 12 of his 13 HRs this season. He has also liked Colorado, where he's hitting over .300 with 7 HRs. On the road, he's hitting .258 with 6 HRs. Colvin has been a solid bat but, realistically, he would not have been an answer for the Cubs with his below average defense, OBP skills, and numbers away from Coors Field. DJ LeMahieu, meanwhile, remains a tweener: not enough glove for 2B, not enough bat for 3B. He hits for average and is hitting .302, but with limited OBP skills and power, his ceiling remains as a utility IF/RH bat off the bench. In other words, at best, he's Jeff Baker. This deal is a "loss" in the sense that the Rockies got themselves a couple of useful players, but it's a wash in the sense that the Cubs didn't lose anyone who factored greatly in their rebuilding plans.
Sean Marshall is a great LH reliever and has made an impact with the Reds, but as a pending FA who was about to get paid big, he was a luxury on a team that was in the early stages of rebuilding. As good as he's been this year, statistically he's been worth 1 win over a replacement level RP. Meanwhile, the Cubs have picked up a 25 year old cost-controlled SP in Travis Wood, who figures in the 2013 rotation, a potential inexpensive reserve in Dave Sappelt who can play all 3 OF positions and who hits RHP well, and a legit starting 2B prospect in Ronald Torreyes, who has been tearing up the FSL as a 19 year old in the second half. Marshall is the best player in this trade this year but for a team playing for beyond 2013, this was a pretty good deal for the Cubs. Both teams made out well on this one considering their respective situations.
The Carlos Zambrano trade is pretty much a wash. The Cubs did not save money and both pitchers have struggled. Zamrano has moved to the bullpen and Chris Volstad has shuffled back and forth between Iowa and the Cubs and does not have a win in the majors this year. However, their FIPs are almost identical (Zambrano 4.54, Volstad 4.57) and Volstad actually has the better xFIP. Moreover, Volstad is still 25 and has actually pitched well in his last two starts and the Cubs, for whatever it's worth, rid themselves of a player that the media was obsessed with. You could probably give a slight edge to the Cubs here.
The Anthony Rizzo deal was a good one for the Cubs. Though he has frontline SP stuff, Andrew Cashner seems destined for the bullpen with an arm that just doesn't seem to hold up over big innings. Cashner will likely end up a closer, and probably a very good one, but the Cubs got themselves an everyday player to put in the middle of the lineup for the next decade. Kyung-Min Na is hitting .135 for the Padres and Zach Cates is stuck in low A ball with decreased velocity, a flat slider, and inconsistent command. Of the two, Cates is the better secondary piece, but right now it looks like neither is destined to be a major league ballplayer.
Trading Marlon Byrd didn't hurt the Cubs in any way. He had struggled mightily since getting hit in the face, was DFA'd by the Red Sox, and then received a 50 game suspension for using a banned substance. That the Cubs got two young bullpen arms is just gravy. Michael Bowden has a chance to help short and long term while Hunter Cervenka has shown an impressive 94 mph two seamer with improved command, he could factor in down the road.
It's too early to judge the deadline deals but we do know the Cubs didn't trade anyone who they considered a part of their long term future. The best player they received was Arodys Vizcaino, who in some ways replaces Andrew Cashner as a pitcher with front line SP stuff who may end up as a dominant closer because of durability issues. 3B Christian Villanueva also has the potential to be a starting MLB infielder while RHP Kyle Hendricks could soon provide a cost-effective bottom of the rotation arm. Joel Brigham pitched poorly and will now likely miss the rest of the season with arm issues. At best he's probably a reliever, but the Cubs had two younger, cheaper players at catcher who were already outperforming Geovany Soto. Jaye Chapman is, at best, a so-so middle reliever who will provide depth and ride the Iowa-Chicago shuttle as needed.
Early Grade: B-
The Cubs didn't have much too trade. Their biggest trade chip, Matt Garza, remains with the team for now. They didn't give up any piece they intended to have 2 years from now, and have picked up a long term starting 1B in and a bottom of the rotation LHP in Wood in the short term, and may soon add another top arm in Vizcaino, another rotation piece in Hendricks, two possible starting infielders in Villanueva and Torreyes, a bullpen arm in Bowden, and a reserve OF in Dave Sappelt. All of them are cost-controlled for the next 4-6 years, which can free up money for Cubs to spend when they're truly ready to contend. They only picked up 2 potential impact players, however (Rizzo, Vizcaino), so it's impossible to give them anything more than a B here. If Vizcaino turns out to to be the front line starter they so desperately need, that grade can improve down the road. The grade could also improve (or go down) depending on what they do with Garza, Alfonso Soriano, and Carlos Marmol.