Theo/Jed Early Progress Report: Evaluating Trades (Part 1 in 5 part series)

Theo/Jed Early Progress Report: Evaluating Trades (Part 1 in 5 part series)

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:

  1. Trades
  2. Free Agent Signings
  3. Draft
  4. Front Office, Management, and Coaching Staff  additions
  5. 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.

Filed under: Analysis, trades



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  • fb_avatar

    Your usual well written and insightful piece, John. I would disagree only slightly: I think Roni Torreyes could be an impact player, but different from Rizzo or Soler. If you have good bats in the middle of your lineup, a #2 hitter who gets on 40% of the time and has good at-bats (admittedly, Torreyes really has to learn to take balls for this to work) and lets Rizzo-Soler-Baez-Castro-whoever see what the pitcher has and tires said pitcher out a bit can have a huge impact on games.

    In another vein: the cynical part wants to take your entire article and post it on BCB just to watch the entire Internet crash from the flame war that would ensue.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Thanks Mike... and igniting a flame war could be fun ;) Is it because they think the Theo deals are bad? I can see people overreacting to the Colvin "success".

    Torreyes has a chance to be an excellent hitter. I'm a bit more conservative until I see how his lack of size affects his ability to hit for extra base power in the bigs. So far it looks like he can barrel up the ball pretty well.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    There's lots of little pieces of red meat to get things going: Colvin's "success;" Christian Villaneuva not being an impact pickup; Arodys Vizcaino is a closer.

    But, the biggie is that your B- will essentially upset everyone. The "Theo Rules" crowd that posts there will give him an A+ because Rizzo and Vizcaino are future All-Stars who the Cubs got for nothing and how can you not see how brilliant it was? On the other side will be the Hendry fans who want us to be the Yankees and trade our prospects for veterans, are upset we didn't extend Dempster and Maholm, and team this team is a scam that is setting the highest ticket prices in the majors for the lowest payroll. This crowd thinks the gets an F.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Ha! So I'd get it from both angles!

  • You err on generosity when it comes to grades. Other than Rizzo, the rest is inconclusive. And despite his power, Rizzo is no sure bet either.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    But what did they give up? Nobody who was going to be here beyond 2014 -- and most wouldnt have been here next year. If you can add a middle of the order hitter, a cost-controlled starting pitcher, and a potential front-line starter or closer, I think that's a pretty good start.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    And I do want to say that's why it's just a progress report...this could go in either direction depending on how things shake out, especially with Vizcaino.

  • John,

    I'm glad you chose to post this type of review. I generally enjoy reading these types of articles, but it's especially nice to come from a place that is thoughtful and well-informed like this site.

    Looking back to the beginning of the year, where would you say things stand in terms of trades/the farm system versus your initial expectations? I ask that because 1) I think it could effect perceptions on grades, and 2) I wonder if folks struggle to see the bigger picture given what happened with Garza's injury and Dempster's trade refusal.

    I think that overall, given what we gave up, I'm pleased. The farm system isn't totally restocked, but really the only impact trade pieces that we've given up have been Sean Marshall and Andrew Cashner. I don't think anyone realistically would have expected Dempster and Maholm to perform so well this season, and it bumped their stock. Moreover we still have Garza should we decide to trade him.

    Thanks again, and keep up the good work.

  • In reply to mosconml:

    Thanks mosconml!

    The trade impact has been a little less than I would have hoped. That is ultimately why I added the "minus" to the B, but I think it's still a decent haul given the circumstances you talked about. A lot of it to me hinges on Vizcaino, who's a potential monster.

  • Like always great job. We will never know what we could have
    gotten for Garza. I don't see giving him a long term contract.
    Let's hope he still has some good trade value.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Thanks e! That ship has passed. His value will depend on whether he can come back strong and healthy this year. It'll be tough to get a team to roll the dice otherwise.

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    In reply to emartinezjr:

    Well if they don't extend Garza and do not sign a real starter this offseason, we can expect ( at best) a similar season but most likely much much worse.

    I hope they aren't just pocketing the money ( although it is their right, it's their business) like some believe. Personally I have thought like many here that they will spend the money when they feel it is right. Well to all the glass 1/2 full people here, it's not going to magically all happen in 1 offseason. How much did the Angels have to work to sign Albert and CJ Wilson? The Cubs have to add a couple of pieces every year, so I hope they do right by the patient fans, and if they don't extend Matt Garza, then get 2-3 potential impact players. ( Preferably pitchers)

    There is something to the school of thought for young players to have a older role model to learn from. I would think having Matt Garza ( or some other veterans) to lead the rotation and take a little pressure off guys like Wood, Samardija, Vizcaino, Volstad, Raley or whomever. A lot of the young hitters have raved about how much they have learned from Alfonso Soriano! ( God, I never would have though I would have ever typed that 3-4 years ago)

  • fb_avatar

    John, has Theo given any indication that they will spend money on decent major leaguers next year. Guys that are young enough and would still be useful in 2014 or 2015... Besides Sori, Marmol and Garza their payroll is going to be really low..60-70 mil or lower if a trade happens...Baez Soler and Almora are at least 3 years away and probably 5 years from being impact players...also, are there any more Cuban refuges left to sign in 2013?

  • In reply to Barry Bij:

    Depends on what you mean by decent. If you're talking about another David DeJesus or Paul Maholm, then yes, I think they'll bring in a couple of guys. Don't expect the big names until the Cubs feel they are closer. They don't want to build through FA --that's that got the Cubs into this mess in the first place.

    There are some Cuban guys left to sign. I wrote about some guys in January (the Cubs have since signed two of them). Here's the link...

    The last remaining guy who I think they might sign is this guy...

    Armando Rivero, 23, RHP

    Rivero was a teammate of Concepcion's and is very much the opposite type of pitcher. He's older, he's a power guy (96 mph), and he projects as a reliever. Some think he has a chance to start because he does have 3 pitches, but his quickest road is through the bullpen. He could start at AA.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Yes I have been wondering about Rivera John. Maybe you could clear something up for me. Is Rivera subject to the 2.9 mil cap or can they sign him for whatever. Just confused if the 2.9 cap is for 23 and under or for just players under 22.

  • In reply to Holycow!78:

    Under 23, so they can sign Rivero without it counting against the cap. BTW, Gohara just signed with Seattle. I think the Cubs will try to spread that remaining pool money among a lot of different players.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Thanks John. Kinda sucks about Gohara but not unexpected. That is good to hear about Rivero not counting against the cap though. Wonder what the hold up is on him assuming the Cubs are interested. I am a little bummed that most if not all the top 20 have signed. I was convinced the Cubs were sitting on 700k with the hopes of luring someone like Gohara. Is there anyone left that you see being worth the remaining 700k and then maybe signing 6 under the radar guys at 50k each?

  • John, great piece. Looking forward to the rest of the 5 areas series.

  • In reply to drew:

    Thanks Drew! Will try to have one everyday unless something big goes down (which I'm not expecting right now)

  • Hello John, I have be reading your website everyday for a long time, but this is my first reply. I want to thank you for your hard work and dedication to making this website so informative. I really enjoy reading your articles.

    This 5 part series is a great idea, and the first article on the trades was excellent. I think that when you review these trades a few years from now, the trade grade will improve to an A- because of the high percentage of successful trades for the Cubs. With all trades, you win some and you lose some, because future individual production is so difficult to predict.

    I think the new Cubs front office will win many more trades than they lose. The trades above have brought us some very serious young talent with significant upside. I believe Anthony Rizzo, Travis Wood, Chris Volstad, Arodys Viscaino, and Christian Vilanueva all have the potential to become MLB All Stars in a few years. Thanks again for your great work.

  • In reply to CubsFan4Life:

    Thanks for the kind words and the feedback CubsFan4Life! Glad you could chime in.

    Good point on the trade. They're just bound to lose some and hopefully most of the ones they lose are like the Colvin - Stewart deal where you aren't giving up impact players that will make you regret it for years. Sooner or later, though, it's going to happen, probably when the Cubs are ready to contend and take a chance on trading a good prospect.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    One thing I really like about the Theo / Jed administration is that even when they lose a trade like the Colvin - Stewart deal, it was still a very reasonable gamble. As you said, Colvin was not going to be an impact player and Stewart was worth taking a shot on for a short term 3rd baseman. Injuries are very hard to predict. If Stewart's wrist had continued to heal he might have had a good season, then we could have said that the Cubs won this deal or at least it would have been even. I am looking forward to reading the rest of this 5 part series.

  • In reply to CubsFan4Life:

    Exactly. It was a flyer, but there was low risk with that deal.

  • fb_avatar

    Good work John, as usual as many have said. I agree with your analysis but also agree with the commenter who said at the start of the year we probably could not have expected much for dempster or maholm, so I have actually been fairly pleased with the trades so far as well. As the above commenter says, we can't win them all, but they all seem to have been good gambles which were well thought out. Perhaps the Stewart gamble seems foolish in hindsight, but as you say, we didn't give up much. We just need to be patient and keep hoping I guess.

  • In reply to Gary Kueper:

    I may have been a little hard on the grade. I was between a C+ for the talent we got and a B for not giving up much...and I split the difference. This is just at the moment, hopefully Vizcaino becomes a stud and we can upgrade this to an A.

  • I think you have to grade on a curve in terms of what was possible in terms of bringing prospect talent back in trades. The Dempster antics handcuffed the FO. Bradley and Soto were both atrocious players, destroying their own value. LaHair might have brought back a prospect, but he fell off a cliff in June, as soon as the scouting reports caught up to him. Garza's injury wrecked the chance of bringing back value in a trade. Epstein and Hoyer have to be pretty disappointed with their luck, but I think they did well under the circumstances. In particular I'm happy with the deal that sent Marshall to the Reds. We were able to sell high on him, getting a No. 4 starter in Wood and Torreyes, who may be our best 2B prospect. I also really like how much we were able to get for Maholm.

    We can quibble about whether we've gotten the most out of this firesale, but at least we had a front office committed 100 percent to a rebuild, unlike the win-now path favored by Paul Sullivan and his ilk. Imagine if we re-signed Aramis and Marshall, then kept Zambrano, Dempster and Cashner. We'd have maybe five more wins this year, which would still put us in the cellar of the NL, with more bad contracts and fewer prospects. The best move this management team made was to blow up the Hendry Cubs.

  • In reply to Taft:

    There are no curves in baseball! Wait a minute. Yes there is.

    I don't want to give them an A because it's misleading as to how much progress they've made. If anything I might go B or I can see an argument for B+, but I wouldn't go any higher than that.

  • fb_avatar

    Good analysis John!

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Thanks Mike!

  • John great article. I agree they couldn't get higher than a B. However, with the Cubs basically having fallen behind a month in school with the Demptser fiasco and Garza injury it's still a pretty solid grade. I'm just impressed we were able to get two current top 10 prospects at the deadline without losing one long term peice.

  • In reply to Holycow!78:

    Also glad to see an upcoming management article. I was actually thinking a new organization breakdown would be cool to see. It would be interesting to see how the new massive front office divides duties and what kind of roles not talked about much guys like Shiraz Rehman and Ari Kaplan are currently playing.

  • In reply to Holycow!78:

    Thanks. I'll try and find out what I can.

  • In reply to Holycow!78:

    Thanks. I'm really happy with the Vizcaino acquisition. At worst I think he's a closer candidate and if he can stick as a starter, then it's a great deal. Villanueva looks like a pretty solid player too.

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