It was a crazy day on Thursday as the MLB trade deadline arrived. It was the best trade deadline I can remember, with many huge names being moved, many surprises, and many moves made at the very last minute, adding to the excitement.
Around baseball, you had Jon Lester going from Boston to the A’s (Billy Beane has gone full Brad Pitt on us), and the Tigers countering by getting (stealing? – we’ll see) David Price from the Rays. How good do those rotations look now? I wonder how much Hammel’s struggles since joining the A’s contributed to the decision to trade for Lester (I would imagine quite a bit). By the way, I think the Cubs look REALLY smart by jumping the market and trading Shark and Hammel at the beginning of the month. The pitching market became really crowded yesterday, and Hammel has regressed since the trade. If we found ourselves competing with a crowded starting pitcher market plus a scuffling Hammel? No way we get the return that we got from the A’s on July 4th. I mean, I’m much happier with what we got then I would be as a Rays fan today (I know some of them, and let me tell you, they are miffed).
To me, the most confusing move was the Marlins-Astros trade. The Marlins are trying to win this year (I can’t blame them for that), but they gave up a ton. They moved 3B Colin Moran (the sixth overall pick in last year’s draft!), OF Jake Marisnick, RHP Francis Martes and a 2015 compensatory draft pick to the Astros for starter Jarred Cosart (he of the 4.41 ERA), utility man Kike Hernandez, and OF Austin Wates. Think about this: The Astros pretty much got the #1 and #4 draft picks last year, and they’ll have the #2 pick (since they didn’t sign Brady Aiken this year) plus whatever pick the wind up getting through their record next year (so, they could wind up picking #1 and #2) – PLUS they’ll have a compensatory round pick next year as well. Even though they didn’t sign their first pick this season, they’re going to have a crazy top-end system after next year’s draft. What did the Marlins get for this? A young starter who perhaps isn’t all that good. Maybe he helps them win a few more this year, maybe not. Meh.
OK, onto the Cubs moves. There were basically three transactions yesterday, so let’s take a look:
The Cubs received their player to be named from the Dodgers in the Darwin Barney trade – and hey, he isn’t nothing! Jonathan Martinez is a young pitcher who may actually play in the big leagues one day! That’s much more than I was expecting to get from Barney (honestly, I thought we’d just get a bit of salary relief and open up a roster spot). Martinez is a top-20 organizational type player – he was ranked the #11 Dodgers prospect by Baseball America. He’s 20, so he has some time to develop, but he’ll probably end up as a middle relief guy – hey, I’ll take it.
The second transaction the Cubs made was trading for Red Sox pitcher Felix Doubront. Doubront was a former Theo Epstein International Free Agent signing who was ranked as the #5 Red Sox prospect just three years ago (and that was in a good system). The lefty has the stuff the be a starter in the big leagues, but he’s been inconsistent – and he’s had his share of drama recently. He has been explicitly unhappy about being moved from the rotation to the bullpen. I know you generally want to avoid drama on a team, but perhaps this can be used to motivate him. Chris Bosio has had incredible success with reclamation projects like this recently – and Doubront’s numbers are actually a little better than Arrieta’s were when he came over from Baltimore. I’m not saying that we should expect that level of success, but if he can be a solid member of a rotation, it was more than worth the low price we paid – a player to be named after the Rule 5 draft (don’t worry, it will be a low-level guy, not someone on whom we’re counting on for the future). For now, Doubront has been placed on the disabled list with a, ahem, *cough* real leg injury, so the Cubs won’t have to find a spot for him on the MLB team right now. Isn’t it convenient that this injury would pop up right now? I mean, what are the odds?!
The third transaction the Cubs made, of course, was trading Emilio Bonifacio and James Russell to the Braves for catching prospect Victor Caratini. Apparently, this deal came together no sooner than 45 minutes before the deadline. The clubs had talked about Boni and Russell independently, but the deal came together when a package was suggested. This deal aligns with the Cubs FO’s trading philosophy as of late: rather than trading players individually for a quantity of prospects, they have been packaging players to yield a better quality prospect in return (and, in this case, kicking in more salary to up the level of the prospect). This was also the strategy employed in the Shark/Hammel trade this year and the Feldman/Clevenger trade last year. Caratini is a switch-hitting catcher who was ranked as the #7 prospect in the Braves system by Fangraphs. MLB already has him as the Cubs #13 prospect (and we’re talking about the #1 system in all of baseball), so it’s obvious that at least some scouts believe he can stick at catcher and make a big-league team. If he can indeed stick at catcher, his bat profiles very well there. Catcher was definitely the weakness of our farm system, but after this trade and the last draft, we have a handful of intriguing prospects at the position. If even one of those emerges, you’d be elated.
As with all transactions in sports, only time will tell who “won” the trade. This front office’s trade record has been pretty stellar in the past, so there’s reason to be optimistic. None of the transactions made yesterday were franchise-altering – no players envisioned in future plans were traded away, and no future all-stars were likely obtained in return. However, it’s these types of smaller moves that add up to an overall competitive club.