Cubs Trade Samardzija and Hammel: Thoughts on a Blockbuster

Cubs Trade Samardzija and Hammel: Thoughts on a Blockbuster

I am not going to write too much about the players involved in the trade. You can read Tommy Cook’s excellent breakdown of the move here. You are also advised to check out Cubs Den updates on the deal, particularly for information on McKinney, who is the most unknown to me of the bunch, in the next few days as well. I am going to write about the idea of this trade and some thoughts about the immediate future in the minors.

I love this trade. I love this trade because the Cubs got the most possible value for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. Strip out all the other concerns involved. The Cubs front office has consistently and consciously chased value to add the most talent to the Chicago Cubs organization. Yesterday, the Cubs got a top 5 prospect in baseball. A prospect that is on the level of Javier Baez and Kris Bryant. Yes Addison Russell is a shortstop, but the concern was always getting the most talent back for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel.

There is no advantage, particularly when rebuilding, in taking less-talented players. It doesn’t speed things up. Drafting a less-talented player just to fill a position of need doesn’t shorten the window to compete. The Cubs have shown that through their draft strategy, taking Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber despite a lack of top-of-the-rotation pitching in the system. And the Cubs are better for it.

The other important general trade rule that is very important to keep in mind is that quality is always more important than quantity. Think about it like this: would you rather trade Rizzo for a bunch of prospects like Dan Vogelbach and Pierce Johnson or would rather trade him for Kris Bryant. The Cubs, like the Mets did several years ago when trading Carlos Beltran for Zach Wheeler, made the correct choice of eschewing quantity for quality.

Addison Russell is the biggest prospect, the biggest piece, this front office has acquired for the Chicago Cubs organization. They added another top 10 prospect to the stable, and that is far more than they’ve done in any deal (at the time of the trade at least). This front office has made great trades for players that have done well in Chicago, but the guys the Cubs have gotten back always have had warts.

Arrieta has been great but he was a change-of-scenery guy and potential bust when the Cubs got him. Arodys Vizcaino has huge injury concerns. CJ Edwards’ build has many questioning his ability to hold up a starter’s workload, and given his time on the DL that concern hasn’t gone away. The one wart that Addison Russell has is that he plays the same position as some of the other very talented players in the Cubs organization.

Seriously, the only problem with Addison Russell that anyone can raise is that he plays the same position, the most difficult defensive position in the game by the way, as other very talented players in the Cubs organization. That is not a wart. That is not a problem.

Here is just one way that the Cubs can handle this situation in the near term: Russell goes to Tennessee and plays shortstop there for a while. Arismendy Alcantara is likely the only top-100 guy that gets promoted to the majors this year. Alcantara’s promotion would clear 2B for Javier Baez to play full time at Iowa the rest of the year and Addison Russell to play shortstop full time in Iowa. The Cubs have all sorts of options to get all of these players in a Chicago lineup if they all make it, which is not a guarantee either.

But what about pitching? If this front office has earned any trust it should be in their ability to find and develop under-valued starting pitching. The Cubs added Dan Straily in the deal, and the reviews on him are mixed at best. Straily is following the same plan as Jake Arrieta, which is to head to Iowa first. That puts him under the control of Cubs minor league pitching coordinator Derek Johnson.

Johnson doesn’t get the fanfare of Chris Bosio, but he is just as important to the Cubs developing pitching. The Cubs also have shown the ability to find Jason Hammels in free agency each year. Add to that the ability to spend a tremendous amount of money in a pitching-rich free agent market in the offseason (at least for now) and/or the ability to trade with the biggest stack of chips in baseball, and it should alleviate anyone’s fears about the Cubs’ ability to build a rotation when the time comes.

The Cubs got a top-5 prospect and two other intriguing pieces for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. That is the only thing that matters at this moment. Two guys that were going to be traded no matter what netted the Cubs the single best piece they’ve acquired in this FO’s tenure. There is no reason to be upset about this trade. The Cubs are getting close to the turn-around.

The rest of this year is going to be hard to watch, between a looming post-deadline free-fall and only a couple cookies in Alcantara and Straily likely up. However, the Cubs will have $50-60 million to spend in the offseason, combined with three top-10 prospects ready to come up in 2015. It has been a long, dark road but the light has only gotten brighter after last night.


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  • fb_avatar

    A great piece.

    I might add that the competition at middle infield just got kicked into overdrive. This move has to make Javy Baez and even Starlin Castro want to push themselves to be better players. I don't think any of the Cubs heralded minor league stud squad wants to be moved out of this organization, including the three we just acquired last night.

    Billy McKinney is no slouch either. Yes, in most systems he probably wouldn't be a #2 overall prospect but he is a bona fide prospect with a near-elite (projected) hit tool, and he's only 19.

    The Cubs now have a glut of young assets, almost an embarrassment of riches, really, and the two team leaders/core veterans are on team-friendly contracts. You can disagree with or question the plan, but make no mistake, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have stood firm and strong in their united intent to rebuild this organization. On talent projection alone this is the strongest farm system in MLB in the last decade, maybe the last two decades. In saying that, this is the strongest farm system in the history of this organization, again, on talent projection and skills grades alone.

    You have to love this trade as well considering that basically you have acquired 20+ years of potential service (when you include the PTBNL) for basically 3 months of Hammel and 15 months of Samardzija. An embarrassment of riches.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Michael Canter:

    The royals of a few years ago had a higher rated farm ( prospects i BA top 20) and I believe the rays in mid 2000s as well.

    By no means am I saying this is a bad thing. The rays rode there prospects backs to a WS appearance and the Royals look like they are trending up. ( even w a bunch of there top prospects not living up to the hype )

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    The Royals in 2011 had 9 top 100 prospects which is the most ever by one team on BA's list. The Cubs have a legitimate shot to challenge that. Now what does that mean for the future of the Cubs is the question.

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    Keep in mind, the Royals don't have the best rep when it comes to development.

  • PTBNL will be Raul Alcantara

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    I sure hope you are right.

  • I'm completely confident in the FO's ability to find the under-valued pitching. They've done it every year they've been here. Yes, there has been EJax and Volstad, but that doesn't negate they've still had a successful, productive FA pitcher added to the starting rotation each year.

    That said, I'm not sure you can always say quality over quantity. Because of the reality of prospects, sometimes quantity can be just as valuable as quality.

    Still, I'm fine with not getting back Bundy like I wanted...or any other top pitching prospect I was lusting over. The fact is that TINSTAAPP. Pitching prospects are overly valued by possessing teams, and highly unstable commodities to trade for (or even draft for).

    Combining the two, we arrive at the FO's drafting strategy of loading up on pitching prospects in great quantity.

  • There is absolutely NO..ZERO,,,hystorical evidence/proof that a team must stink before it gets good. Waiting to resolve revenue generating signage issues at the park before spending? Waiting for new TV revenue deal to kick in before spending? Honey, bring me my violin. Life goes on. What is the guarantee that who (if any) from this stockpile, actually is successful in the big show? Does Cory Patterson, Josh Vitters or Felix Pia ring a bell? All "sure bets" right? If two of the projected "hall of fame" shortstops the Cubs have can actually stick and produce, we should be more than pleased. I have bled Cubbee Blue before most of you on this board took your first breath on this earth. Seeing one or two kids come up NEXT YEAR (always next year) would be beyond special but I would hold off on World Series tickets just yet. The saving grace for this owner is that no matter how the product performs on the field, fans will put their fannies in those expensive seats regardless. Ripley wouldn't believe that....but it's true. This is where we are mentally. Look at all those who voted for O'Bama not once, but TWICE. Again, beyond astounding.....

  • In reply to Hey Hey:

    no one is asking you to stay a fan.

  • In reply to Hey Hey:

    Corey Patterson was the only prospect you listed that was considered on the same level as Bryant, Baez and Russell. Pie and Vitters were highly thought of at different points while they were a prospect, but none were ever on the echelon of those three. And that is the difference instead of counting on one "can't miss" prospect the Cubs have several. Again not a guarantee, but the odds are greater the more and more of these guys you stack up.

  • In reply to Gunther Dabynsky:

    I've also heard many sports radio types talk about how much scouting has changed in the last 10 years. When Patterson and even Pie were coming up the main source of information on them was from the actual team. So there was a lot of overhyping. Additionally metrics have advanced so much in that time. Now there are so many objective, third party scouts who are assessing these talents. I'm not saying it's 100% guaranteed by any stretch, but we now have a much better overall picture of who a player is and what they are capable of before they reach the majors. This isn't Patterson and Pie.

  • In reply to jorel1114:

    I know I've read something about BA's list improving over time, but honestly not up to searching for it. There are two important top prospect aspects that previous failed hyped prospects overlooks. One is the point you raised which is the improvement in third party evaluations, and the second thing is the dramatic improvement (at least hope given the focus on it) in player development that this organization has gone through.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Hey Hey:

    No one's saying it's fun to lose. I'll not take issue with some of the spelling stuff, as that is something that happens to the best of us. But if you've really bled Cubbie blue for that long, you've seen your share of disappointment, including during the years in which the team spent big. You probably also know that the team regularly drew 3+ million fans, and that there are empty seats galore these days.

    You are certainly correct in saying that not all the prospects will turn out. We've said as much here and Jed Hoyer said that point blank on the air today, saying that attrition is an obvious part of the game. And that's where the comparison to prospects of the past falls dead in its tracks. Those guys you mentioned, along with a host of others, were generally the ONE hope the Cubs had in the system in any given year or series of years. Now they've loaded up so that having one or two, even three or four, of these guys fail doesn't hurt the organization.

    You're also correct that there's no historical proof that a team has to tank. Of course, the CBA, IFA pool money restrictions, and the financials of baseball are so different that history really has no relevance to the way front offices operate. Prior to Curt Flood, teams could continue to string players out on one-year deals too, but free agency is now the norm. My point is that things change, and this FO is doing what it must do given the constraints of both the general rules of MLB and those they've had imposed on them by Ricketts.

    I don't expect this to change you mind and I'm probably wasted my time with it. If you're trapped in that narrative, I'm afraid that even my most persuasive prose won't sway you. Rest assured that you're not alone, but also rest assured that many of us are doing our best to provide a counter narrative. We appreciate you reading though, even if you don't agree with what's being presented here. It's the sharing of different opinions that makes sports, and the Cubs in particular, so fun to discuss and argue about.

  • In reply to Evan Altman:

    The only thing I figure is based on the roll sign behind home field, Theo assured that a whole lot of people in D.C. got half price pizza Sunday.

    Ricketts better do something similar if he expects attendance in Wrigley Field the rest of this year.

  • In reply to Evan Altman:

    I couldn't have said it better if I tried. But I'm sure you are wasting your time. The people that buy into that narrative are like science deniers; they have no concept of how baseball has changed over the years. They are used to watching the Cubs do baseball ops the way it "was done" or "is done." They aren't used to seeing a guy that recognizes the situation of the CBA and finds the new "right way" to build.

    And that is what Thoyer have done. They came into Chicago planning that they would do "parallel fronts", putting together a winning roster while building the minors. The CBA changed, and they found that doing both at the same time was far too difficult now.

    The Cubs have now been set up to not just produce a first wave (Baez, Alcantara, Bryant, and Russell) of potential studs but have a second wave (Soler, Schwarber, Edwards, Johnson) and a third wave (Almora, Tseng, Vogelbach, 1st round pick 2015) on the way too. That's how teams win long term. Constant waves of good, young players.

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