My family came into Chicago in the middle of the night so that’s how I started my Fourth of July. We got to go to the Museum of Science and Industry, eat Thai food, then hung out until we got some Chicago-style deep dish pizza prior to fireworks. Since we live on the South Side we just gazed at the fireworks at Navy Pier from Promontory Point. It was rather underwhelming. Of course, the Cubs being the Cubs, they decided to make their own fireworks. To sum up, and even more so than Dabynsky had first surmised, the Cubs just sent Jeff Samardzija AND Jason Hammel to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for shortstop prospect Addison Russell, outfield prospect Billy McKinney, former not-actually-that-bad pitcher Dan Straily, and depending on who you talk to, a player to be named later. I was still eating pizza and getting underwhelmed at the time, but after absorbing a lot of feedback from fellow World Series Dreaming brainiacs and the internets, I feel like I can make some quick reactions to these happenings.
I’m sure you can Google all the scouting reports (or just read the link above to Behind The Ivy’s roundup of the trade as it unfolded) but my initial reaction was that the WORST possible case for this was that it was a break-even trade, very similar to when the Cubs traded Andrew Cashner to get Anthony Rizzo. That trade seems to be working out okay for the Cubs right now, and for the Padres whenever Cashner isn’t on the disabled list. For this trade, I felt that the Cubs giving up arguably their two best pitchers should have netted more. I knew of Addison Russell as the A’s top prospect, so that wasn’t bad. But then I saw this:
— Jason Parks (@ProfessorParks) July 5, 2014
And I decided that maybe that wasn’t so bad after all. I mean, I still would have loved to get more (who wouldn’t?) but having three of the top ten and four of the top twenty prospects in all of baseball? That is insane. And I had literally just wrote about the Team Theo front office game plan taking shape, too!
The other minor surprise (mitigated by the fact that the Cubs just wrested away one of the best prospects in baseball) was that the Cubs traded away 40% of the starting rotation without netting impact pitching in return, other than Straily. Of course, then I had to take a step back and realize that there was some pitching in the minors that could potentially step in and not embarrass the Cubs. Some of these guys, like Dallas Beeler (who pitched masterfully in his debut) and Tsuyoshi Wada (a Pacific Coast League All-Star this year) are already on the 40-man roster. There are some arms that could be stretched out to start, such as Neil Ramirez or, if they choose to go that route, Arodys Vizcaino. So it’s not like the Cubs are dead in the water with pitching either.
So then there were the largely predictable group of fans who asked, “Hey wait a minute, we have a shortstop and a bunch of guys who can play shortstop in the minors. Why another shortstop?” The best answer to that comes in the form of a tweet:
Shortstop is the hardest position to find. Why is it a problem to have a plethora?
— Jordan Gorosh (@JGoro8) July 5, 2014
Sure, Starlin Castro is doing fine at short. Javier Baez can probably stay there if it were up to him. But honestly, the bat will play anywhere there is room on the diamond for the guy. Heck, teach him how to catch. Alternatively, think about the incredible amount of trade currency the Cubs just built up. They can rebuild their pitching at the upper minors and major league level by trading away this shortstop surplus. They could even do what I had suggested long ago (and you thought I was nuts) in flipping some of these prospects for an elite starter like David Price.
The Cubs have one of the best, if not THE best now, farm systems in baseball. They have a manageable budget situation coming up starting this winter. Hell, they might even be able to start making money off Wrigley Field sooner rather than later. Yeah, this trade probably torpedoed their chances of getting closer than within 7.5 games of the wild card, but the Cubs were never playing for this year. Now they can play for next year.
There are numerous trade situations that I don’t have time to go into now to snag a number of cost-controlled pitchers or additional help on offense. If looking at the free agent list coming up, there are a number of mid-tier to elite pitchers that could be had, along with various reinforcements for the outfield and for the bench until the prospects trickle up to MLB. I was discussing with my WSD compatriots earlier about the possibility, assuming none are traded, of having a super-versatile roving platoon of Arismendy Alcantara, Emilio Bonifacio and Luis Valbuena supplementing Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo; all three of Alcantara/Bonifacio/Valbuena could probably be had for less than $10MM, and give the team the platoon advantage (Alcantara and Bonifacio are switch-hitters) while covering almost every spot in the infield and outfield except catcher (though Valbuena had been considered an emergency catcher at one point!).
On the surface, I again have to believe this is at worst a break-even trade. The Cubs got an infusion of talent and extra currency that they can build on for a run in 2016 or even in 2015 depending on how the prospects develop. The A’s got the pitching help they needed to solidify their rotation and take that next step. I’ll be rooting for the A’s anyway since I’m from the Bay Area, and it helps that former Cubs are going to be leading the charge.
How little I knew that the real fireworks would have started after the Navy Pier show had fizzled out. Good job, Cubs. Hope everyone had a fun and safe Fourth of July!
UPDATE 11:15 AM: The trade is official. Say hello to the new guys.
It’s official: Cubs acquire INF Addison Russell, OF Billy McKinney, P Dan Straily & PTBNL from @Athletics for Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) July 5, 2014
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) July 5, 2014