Cubs acquire former top SP prospect Eddie Butler for James Farris

I know you think I am being redundant here, but I love this trade.  James Farris is a good pitcher who has solid average stuff with good movement and command.  He will probably have some success as a middle reliever, perhaps more, if he gets the opportunity.  That opportunity should be easier for him in Colorado.

In exchange, the Cubs received former top SP prospect Eddie Butler, who has battled injury and then had a disastrous 2016, but only on the surface.  More on that later.

Additionally, the Cubs are sending their top international bonus slot (28th) to the Rockies in exchange for the 74th spot.  The Cubs lose $255K from their international signing pool.

I did see Butler throw here in AZ last spring and I was wowed by his raw stuff.  He was throwing 96-97 mph and touching 98 on occasion.  He showed a good change-up, potentially a second plus pitch, and a very hard slider (high 80s/low 90s) that should grade out as at least average but perhaps a lot more considering it’s sheer velocity if he can just harness the pitch.

Butler was once a well-regarded prospect after being picked in the sandwich round (1st round supplemental) in the 2012 draft.  Even with that lofty draft status, Butler still outperformed expectations and became a top 50 prospect in all of baseball entering the 2015 season, but that is about when those troubles began.

Aside from injury, Butler has had significant command issues.  And if this is starting to sound a bit like a Jake Arrieta-like role of the dice, then I would say you aren’t too far off.

Butler did improve his control during his partial season in the big leagues in 2016, lowering his BB/9 IP ratio to just 2.95.  But he did have quite a bit of what may have just been bad luck.  His strand rate was a very low 58%. suggesting he was unlucky with men on base.  And the BABIP against was a whopping .354, which suggests he was unlucky with balls put in play.  Of course, that is just a rough guide and it may not always be due to bad luck, especially with regard to his high BABIP.  That could also be caused by things like a lack of movement, a delivery that is too easy for hitters to pick up, or just poor command and leaving the ball out over the plate — especially if he was falling behind on counts.  His high HR/Flyball ratio of 20.3% was also exceptionally unlikely and it may have had something to do with pitching in Colorado — but again, it could have had something to do with the quality of contact.  The sizable gap between his ERA (7.17) and his xFIP (4.47) suggest there is significant room for improvement with nothing more than a little good fortune.

Of course, the Cubs would like him to be even better than that. There is no doubt Butler is going to need some work and perhaps some tweaking from Chris Bosio to get the most out of his significant raw talent — though it just be a case of just getting healthy and giving him some time to find it himself. He also has one option left so he does not need to even play in Chicago this year.  Butler is still just 25 years old and the Cubs already have 6 solid starters, so there is no need to rush him.  He can work on some of those nuances that might get him past some of the issues that have dragged his performance down.  For now, he may just serve as AAA depth but the hope is that he can be a potential replacement in the rotation next year, when the Cubs will likely lose John Lackey and, of course, Jake Arrieta.

The Cubs gave up James Farris, who turned himself into a solid relief prospect.  Farris pitches in the low 90s that has good movement.  He compliments that with a solid slider and above average command.  He projects more as a middle reliever but perhaps more given his good control and demonstrated ability to pitch in high leverage situations.

The Cubs DFA’d Dylan Floro to make room for Butler.

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    When I saw this pop up on Twitter, I was trying to remember if this was that Eddie Butler....
    Just getting out of Denver, working with Bosio and team; given the risk involved, this is a huge upside play. Love it.

  • Love this move. When you can acquire a big-time arm at a relatively low cost, you do it.

    I like how you comp'd this to Arrieta, but the first thing that popped in my head was at worst case "Butler could be another Wade Davis" given he has top-end velocity and potentially a plays secondary offering. Heck, maybe he only becomes a Grimm which is still a useful pitcher.

    Keep him starting and could be a closer if that doesn't quite work out.

  • You can be as redundant as hell as long as you are redundant in late October/early November!

    Well worth the risk. Sickem Boz!

  • Oh yeah that is potentially a steal. Was wondering about this when I saw he was DFA'd by the Rocks. Great arm if healthy.

  • Clearly a move that has ultimately no downside, but I'm managing expectations that this will be closer to a Jacob (Turner) outcome than a Jake. Hope Bosio has some magic left.

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    In reply to Stubbs:

    Turner wouldn't be that bad of a floor. Arrieta is the almost unmatchable ceiling, but still possible.

    Per AZPhil he has 1 option left. Worst case scenario we could stash him at Iowa and let him work things out there.

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    Alot of folks feel Butler should really be moved to the bullpen. His curveball was so bad he should ditch it, and his FB velo last year averaged 93.1 mph, even though he topped at 97.

    In the bullpen, the velo would stay 95-97, the control would be less of an issue, and he could get by with either his OK change or slider as a secondary

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Would much rather have him develop as a starter. As mentioned, he has an option left. I think the Cubs have higher hopes than a reliever for him, but it is nice that that is a fallback option.

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    In reply to Zonk:

    Bosio pitchers seem to have had success implementing the cutter as well. Perhaps another secondary option to replace the curve.

  • I like this move as well. Impressive ground ball rate, solid stuff, blue chip pedigree, he's exactly the kind of guy this FO looks for. One thing that concerns me a little is the fall off in K's from his time in A and AA ball to now. John, do you think this is a function of command with him and that the K/9 should improve with that command? Just curious. No matter there's very little downside to this move and potentially a ton of upside.

  • Can't wait to see him in the Spring!

  • Worth the risk for that price.

    I think I read an article that his pitches don't move much and the exit velocity against him is pretty high, which would lead to the high BABIP and HR rates. Maybe as a reliever with higher velo. Or maybe Bosio can get him to focus on the 2 seamer/slider combo like he did with Hammel.

  • This brings the Iowa pitching staff up to about 35 guys. The competition for jobs is going to be intense.

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Maybe we can sign Travis Wood and they can list him as a LF! LOL.

  • To make room on the roster the Cubs DFA's Dylan Floro

  • Honestly, I was sad when I saw this move as I really like Farris. One of those guys that we've followed for quite a while now and he got a camp invite this spring. Good to bump over here to the old reliable Cubs Den and get the skinny from John. Feeling better about things now.

  • In reply to lblegacy:

    Farris is a solid RP prospect, probaby more middle relief than closer, but I'd be surprised if he doesn't make the majors soon, maybe this year. But you gotta give up something to get something back,

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    If two or more quality starters emerge from the following group over the next two years, it will make the future potential roster/salary crunch so much easier to deal with:
    Butler, Anderson, Monty, Rob Z, Ryan Williams, Clifton, Travis Morrison, Zach Hedges... and others I can't remember off the top of my head. I can't remember this kind of depth. These are middle/bottom rotation starters, but that commodity is getting pretty darn expensive on the open market.

  • In reply to Glen Krisch:

    Exactly! Everyone talks about the TOR guys but really it the bottom guys that get you through the regular season. Even more so spending big on BOR guys can really cripple your budget. The FO is doing the smart thing this season i.e. trying to find 1 and hopefully 2 cost controlled guys to occupy the BOR. I have a good feeling Monty is one those guys, they just need to find the other. If they do that they can the spend money next offseason anyway they like for a FA TOR arm and/or trade for one. Its also opens money up for KB, Addy, Schwarbs, etc. extensions.

  • Honestly, looking at Butler's career numbers and his BB/9 and K/9 he looks more like Chris Volstad than Jake Arrieta. It's a roll of the dice and a cheap one at that.
    You're never going to find gold unless you dig for it. So, it's worth taking the chance I suppose.

  • In reply to PtownTom:

    Stuff is nothing like Volstad, though. It's plenty good enough for high K rates if he can locate better. BB rate is bigger question for me.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Butler had a big inning jump from 2012 to 2013. Is that when his shoulder issues started?

  • In reply to Glen Krisch:

    Possible, I don't know, though.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    It looks like he might have been rushed with both advancement through the system and innings load. Hard to say, though, when we don't know his workload before getting drafted.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I'm guessing John, getting Butler out of Colorado could do wonders for him. Pitched in the PCL even before the bigs, and the PCL is a hitters league to say the least. Kind of feel for Farris, a guy who relies on movement going to a play where the thin air hurts movement.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Got to feel for any pitcher going to Colorado as power pitchers don't fare well there either. At least he is getting an opportunity and even if his numbers aren't great, we at least know how to statistically separate that from individual performance.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I'm happy to hear that. Unfortunately, I can only glean information from bballreference and the like, which obviously only tells a fraction of the story.
    I wish I lived in Mesa so I could enjoy the sights and sounds you and Vivi enjoy so regularly. Thanks for sharing your input with those of us who are stuck in the midst of a Midwest winter.
    Also, thanks for all the work you do with the Cubs Den. It's my first site to visit in the morning and my last at night.

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    In reply to PtownTom:

    Volstad was a guy who didn't work out. But it wasn't a terrible deal. There was reason to believe that Volstad would be an OK BOR or, maybe MOR starter. That has value. It didn't work out. Arrieta came over with a similar pedigree and immediately became a very good pitcher when he arrived in Chicago and eventually reached his TOR ceiling.

    John had an article about it several months ago--maybe it was longer than that--and he talked about Volstad and Arrieta being the same kind of deal. One worked out really well, one didn't. But they were both low risk moves from the Cubs point of view. And if some pan out it more than makes up for the one that didn't work out. And if this doesn't work out we aren't saddled with a huge contract. We can just walk away. If I remember correctly, Jacob Turner was a similar deal. Depending on your point of view Montgomery may be a similar deal. The Cubs just keep going to the well on guys who were highly thought of in the minor leagues and then, for one reason or another, didn't quite live up to the hype at the mlb level. But are still young enough that things can turn around for them.

  • Its a forgone conclusion the Cubs are going to use a pseudo 6 man rotation this year but I don't think necessarily the 5 & 6 spots will be limited to just Monty & Anderson. I could see them calling up guys like Butler, Brooks, Z, etc. for spot starts along the way too. Not to mention these types of guys can also be used in doubleheaders.

    Sure we all hope Butler becomes the next Jake or W. Davis down the road but if healthy he will serve a purpose this year, if nothing else to eat some innings and provide some cheap insurance. This FO doesn't like to be backed into a corner to make a deal, this type of trade along with the Anderson deal helps to avoid that imo.

  • In reply to Ronnie’sHairpiece:

    That will depend on health. None of the Cubs projected 13 man staff have minor league options left outside with the exception of Edwards so they can't just send guys down and bring others up.

  • I've never heard of either player, so won't pretend to claim I can evaluate this. But I am intrigued by the Rockies in general, and wondering if they can push past the Giants in the NL West.

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    I like what they're doing but I'm not sure they're better than the Giants and certainly not better than the Dodgers who I think could run away and hide in that division.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I agree, they are not better than the Dodgers. But I keep expecting the Giants to suddenly be not that good, especially when you look at the second half of last year when they were terrible. They lack depth, their key players are mostly over 30, and their offense isn't that good. Maybe wishful thinking. Whereas the Rockies...I'm picking them as my surprise Wildcard team.

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    They do have good young pitching, I am not sure 2017 will be their year yet, but I do think they'll be much more competitive soon.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    They are 2 games better for getting rid of Weiss. Give a bad poker player a crappy hand and watch what happens.

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    Rox line up this year can be scary if eberyone stays healthy' Arrenado is an absolute beast.

  • The fact that they can stash him in Iowa and shuttle him up if needed or if he excels there and somebody else falters is a definite plus.

    I also won't pretend to know much of anything about the guy - outside of the Cubs farm system and prospects I tend to know close to nothing. But if a consensus of the informed around here thinks its a good deal - then it probably is a good deal.

    Either a projectable BP arm with a solid Fastball - or a mid-range or better SP,... Butler sounds like a good return for Farris.

    It will definitely interesting to see who emerges out of Iowa this next season or two as a SP,... Butler, RobZ, and Ryan Williams - even one of those two emerges as a replacement for Lackey come 2018 and it'll be a nice thing to see. And good injury or fatigue insurance for this year when added to Anderson and Montgomery. That Rule-5 guy still on the roster?

  • Love this trade. Incredible the amount of depth they have. How many other organizations would have been satisfied with the current roster and depth that they have, especially after winning the World Series?

  • No team is satisfied with their roster and all teams always look to improve.

  • Hey, there's baseball this month. Excite!!

  • Wow. Regardless of what happens with either farris or butler these are the types of moves that separate the cubs from just about everybody else. A few years ago this trade would have been laughable. The rockies have always been poor at developing pitchers so i'm not really focusing on what he did with them as much as the pure stuff he brings to the table. Lots of reasons to LOVE this trade

  • In reply to youngcub91:

    i dont think Colorado the organization does poorly. I think Colorado itself is just horrible for pitching. Not being able to get much break on any of your breaking pitches has to just handcuff pitchers. I know Arrieta looks absolutely lost pitching there the last few years.

  • In reply to youngcub91:

    All teams make a lot of moves like this each off season.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    Not really. This isn't like a typical waiver wire pick up or minor league free agent signing. This is a guy the Cubs have wanted for a long time but was never available. They don't know if he'll be the same guy he was 2 years ago, but if he is, this is an acquisition with a lot more upside than your usual minor deal.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    I would add that the Cubs gave up a pretty good prospect who will probably be an MLB reliever. It's not a blockbuster deal, but it wasn't your average minor depth deal either.

  • YES!! Clearly Theo & Co were reading the comments here a couple days ago when I posted that Butler got DFA'd and the Cubs should scoop him up.

    If we do luck out and he comes close to his ceiling we are stoked b/c he is under control until 2021.

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    This is why I love Theo and Co. We trade for a high ceiling middling bottom pitcher who could be very good. With "the arm whisperer" Bosio he might be a real steal, he's only 25 and I don't know how much we're going to miss Farris. We might miss the IFA money more. These are the kind of players that scouts find and organizations develop. I don't want to fall in love with his talent just yet, because he might be the Ryan Duren of the Yankees who had a blazing FB but sometimes little control (he was pitching in the 1950's) but as I read his bio he was a 4 time AS, but I just remember that FB going all over sometimes.
    We could have the next Pedro Strop though and that wouldn't be bad. Another great trade by the FO. ST is going to be mighty interesting, and this year we will definitely need John's pictures to identify everyone.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    You mention Strop. Did his salary ever get resolved for this year?

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    In reply to John57:

    Not that I've heard.

  • In reply to John57:

    He's going to arb unless they cut a last minute deal.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I am hoping for that last minute deal.

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    In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Minor point but it is Ryne Duren. Ryne Sandberg was named after him (Ryne Dee as in Duren Sandberg). Again a minor point but as a lifelong Sandberg fan I never tire of pointing out this little factoid.

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    In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Thanks Joel. I knew that. I appreciate the correction.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Duren's problem was that he couldn't see worth a darn.
    Wore Coke-bottle glasses, which added to the intimidation factor.

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    In reply to hoffpauir6:

    The "inspiration" for "Ricky Vaughn"?

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Duren was, as I recall, the namesake for Ryno.

  • Three comments:

    1. Yes, Yes, Yes! MiLB trades. More of them. Let's keep trading from positions of relative strength to those of weakness.

    2. Our AAA SP was just destroyed by injuries last year, and represented simply nothing to the Cubs. Fortunately they didn't need it. I've got to think a AAA rotation of viable MLB starters is a much better situation -- seems like their filling in this group, and creating a much better bridge to the potential SP studs lower in the minors.

    3. I've now seen video for a grand total of one pitch the Mr. Butler has made. And i'm just a fan. But boy that delivery looks terrible. Sort of a 'turtling and hurtling.' C'mon Boz, you can fix that!

  • I love my middle-of-the-night Cub's Den fix! I'm headed to the Tennessee Smokies' park in a few hours to buy an armband which will allow me to get my pic taken holding the World Series' trophy! The trophy was in Iowa (AAA) a couple of days ago and is now in Tennessee (AA)!
    On a different note, our senior sports writer (John Adams) wrote his Christmas shopping list column on Dec. 24 in the Knox News Sentinel. I was first on his list as the #1 Cubs Fan in the World! Hillary was #44 wishing her a corner room at Attica.

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    In reply to Tennwolfeman:

    Funny. I thought Hillary was going for #45.

  • Can't believe the Rockies couldn't get more for Butler. Surprised the Astros or some other team with a tradeable competitive balance pick didn't go for him. That pick would have come with Int money too.

    Good get from the FO.

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    In reply to berber31:

    If you have ever watched him pitch and I have about a half dozen times, you could see why they didn't get much for him. Any team that was remotely interested in him probably was looking to get him for nothing after the DFA.

    I hoping to chalk up his pathetic pitching to Coors Field, poor coaching ( I doubt), and pitch sequencing. I think dropping the curve in favor of developing a cutter could help w the control n fly balls.

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    You're right, I've never seen him pitch before. I was just going off of the value teams are placing on starting pitching and his former status as a top prospect.

    The Marlins once traded the #39 pick for Bryan Morris, a below average reliver.

    I was actually thinking that the FO should be targeting these competive balance picks in trades to increase the draft pool, in order to select more Dylan Cease type prospects.

  • well that sucks..couldn't we give up Dylan Maples instead? I liked Farris, best of luck to him. I think he will be a very good relief pitcher one day, but this is a move that can be worth the risk. The international pool means nothing to the Cubs this year so it is really a pitcher for pitcher deal.

  • correct..Dillon Maples

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