It’s impossible to make a definitive judgment on a trade involving minor-league prospects until about five years down the road, so I won’t say the Cubs made a bad deal in sending starting pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Oakland A’s for infielder Addison Russell (a 2012 first-round pick), outfielder Billy McKinney (a 2013 first-round pick), pitcher Dan Straily and a player to be named later.
But I will say I have concerns – about the trade and about how acquiring quality pitching prospects doesn’t appear to be a focus of the front office.
Russell and McKinney join the “core four” of Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Jorge Soler and Albert Almora to form a six-pack of top prospects in the organization. For all I know, all six could develop into solid major league players, but I’m disturbed that all of the Cubs’ top prospects are position players – and two (Russell and Baez) are shortstops, where the Cubs already have Starlin Castro.
Forget about Sabermetrics and all of the other stuff computer geeks have developed to "revolutionize" the game. The basic elements of baseball are the same as they ever were:
Good pitching always beats good hitting.
If the goal is to win a World Series – and isn’t that the reason we've been subjected to such awful baseball of late? – you better build a solid pitching staff, and you better have a couple of studs at the top of your starting rotation.
I don’t profess to know everything (or anything) about every player in the Cubs system, but from everything I’ve read they don’t have a can’t-miss stud pitching prospect. Straily, the pitcher they received from Oakland, is a 25-year-old right-hander who’s projected to be no more than a third or fourth starter. He was 1-2 with a 4.93 earned run average in seven starts with the A’s this season and is 13-11 over the last three years.
To me, the lack of quality arms is a fatal flaw in the rebuilding efforts of president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer. Maybe they believe they can acquire top pitchers in the free-agent market. Perhaps, but when a pitcher like Samardzija quickly rejects a five-year, $85 million contract offer because he believes he’ll get much more down the road, chances are you’ll have to break the bank to get a stud.
Like I said at the top, I’ll reserve judgment on the blockbuster deal for a few years, but my initial reaction is I don’t see how this gets the Cubs any closer to winning.
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