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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