Admit it. You’ve done things at night that when you wake up the next morning, your feelings toward those actions have changed, most often for the worse. There’s that tattoo on the small of your back or, God forbid, your butt. Perhaps it’s that hideous looking young lady you made out with as a result of beer goggles the night before. It’s happened to everyone. Last night Theo and Jed pulled the trigger on a massive deal involving both of their major assets in the rotation. There have been some who have praised the deal and other fans who have been quite critical of it, particularly on Twitter. After sleeping on it last night, I’d like to present my case for why a skeptical Cubs fan who’s tired of losing can get behind this deal.
Combining Both Pitchers in One Trade – The fact of the matter is, the Cubs are not in an position to contend this year. We knew a deal was going to go down for Jason Hammel and we knew a deal was probably going to happen with Jeff Samardzija. What we didn’t know was that they would both go together. It’s easy to criticize that move and complain that the combined deal may have caused the return to be diminished, but I would argue that it’s hard to know the full picture without being in the room when discussions are taking place. We simply don’t know what the value of Samardzija and Hammel was to other teams. We’ve seen rumors of what the Cubs were asking for, but asking for and getting in return are two separate animals. If nothing else, the leaked Astros trade discussions should have taught us that. If you’re going to trust that Theo and Jed have a plan, then it’s important to trust that they had a reason combining the two into the same deal. My guess would be that the market for these guys just wasn’t what they wanted it to be on their own and by combining them, it allowed the Cubs to get a player in Addison Russell, who can either be a major part of the future or who can be a major part of a deal to acquire starting pitching down the road.
The Hugeness of Russell in the Deal – Russell is a shortstop. So is Javier Baez and Starlin Castro. Even Arismendy Alcantara could be considered a shortstop. Why the need to deal for a shortstop and not a starting pitcher? That is a valid question and I have a valid answer for you. I believe the acquisition of Russell is a precursor to another move to bring in the type of starting pitcher that the Cubs want to build around, and I don’t think it’s a prospect. My guess is that by bringing in Russell, it allows the Cubs a surplus of talent at one of the most highly coveted positions in the game. With Castro rebounding and signed on the cheap for a long term deal and Baez and Russell both on the cusp of the Majors, the Cubs have elite talent at that position. I believe one of those names will be used in a deal to acquire a front line starter. Couple that move with a free agency to bring in someone like Jon Lester or Max Scherzer and I think this rotation can be right back in line with where it needs to be, if not better.
Keith Law’s take on Russell serves for more encouragement:
Russell is a top-five prospect in the game, a true shortstop with an advanced bat who shows good on-base skills and line-drive power, even though he’s just 20 years old in Class AA. He has some of the best hands I’ve ever seen on a prospect, both as a fielder and at the plate. He slimmed down before his senior year of high school to prove to scouts that he could stay at shortstop, and he has the soft, quick hands for the position, as well as plenty of arm, though he needs refinement on his footwork to remain there. At the plate, he has a simple, fluid swing that produces hard line-drive contact and should eventually lead to 15 to 20 homers a year, if not more. His approach at the plate is already advanced and continues to improve; he came into July 4 with as many walks as strikeouts in his brief Double-A tenure, which was interrupted by a hamstring tear that cost him more than two months. He could still be ready for the major league club next spring, though a return engagement in the Arizona Fall League to make up for the lost at-bats would help significantly. In the long term, he’s a potential All-Star at shortstop who posts high OBPs with the aforementioned power and above-average defense.
Getting the deal for Russell is huge. You can never have enough shortstops in your system. They are the best athletes on the field and can easily adjust to one of the other positions on the diamond.
The Continued Success of the Starting Pitcher Flip – This is the part of this organization that continues to be amazing to me, and we saw it again this season. Take a look at the recent success with this strategy by this regime and you can’t help but step back and be excited about the fact that we did it again.
2012 – Cubs sign Paul Maholm to a one year deal with the intention of capitalizing on his low price tag and moving him in a flip deal. Maholm does well and is moved to the Braves for Jaye Chapman and Arodys Vizcaino. While Chapman didn’t factor into the long term plans of the organization, Vizcaino currently sits as the # 10 prospect in a loaded farm system. He’s got a power arm and should be a factor in the bullpen for this team moving forward. I’m a big believer in what he brings to the table.
2012 – Cubs trade Ryan Dempster, who was on his way out anyway, to the Rangers for Kyle Hendricks and Christian Villanueva. Hendricks went 13-4 last season with an ERA of 2.00 combined over two levels in the minors. He ranks 16th on the top 20 list in the organization and Villanueva sits at 13th. Once again, rebuilding the stockpile with guys who were going to go anyway.
2013 – Matt Garza is moved before free agency to the Rangers (they didn’t learn from the year before) for C.J. Edwards, Justin Grimm Neil Ramirez, and Mike Olt. Edwards ranks 5th on our list and Grimm and Ramirez have both been useful pieces in the bullpen. If Mike Olt can do anything, this would be a complete whitewash of a deal.
Take comfort in this deal. Trust that the return is one that we should be proud of.