Last night’s trade of Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the A’s for Addison Russell, Billy McKinney and Dan Straily is basically functioning as a referendum on which Cubs fans are the dumbest. Â Not surprisingly it’s a several million way tie.
Their confusion, anger and rage is mainly focused on the idea that the Cubs have won seven of their last 10 games, have won four in a row and have one of the better records in the majors the last six weeks. Â Apparently, even though they are still in last place, and still have one of theÂ worst records in the National League, those signs point to GO FOR IT!
I knew trouble was brewing yesterday when I heard the Cubs postgame and the great Andy Masur was getting harassed by fans who were so impressed with a sweep of the terrible Red Sox and one win against the Nationals, that they were demanding Kris Bryant and Javy Baez be summoned immediately from Iowa so the Cubs could mount their charge for a wild card berth.
Not only would such an effort be ill-advised and fruitless, but it’s as if the goal around here should be mere contention. Â The Cubs are trying to build a championship team. Â I know it’s a foreign concept. Â But thankfully, the grown ups are running things on the baseball side, because while a few random dipshits were dreaming of 84 wins and a one-game playoff loss, Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and the sexiest GM in the business Billy Beane were finalizing a trade that would require all three of them to set their balls on the table before anyone could sign off on it.
In a single trade, the Cubs traded their two most valuable trade chits, and the A’s traded their two best prospects, one of whom is considered a better prospect even than the aforementioned Bryant and Baez. Â The Cubs had been looking for pitching prospects in deals for Shark and Hammel, but weren’t getting the caliber of prospect they wanted. Â So they decided to just get the best player they could. Â And it’s Russell.
The reaction in front offices yesterday was “Holy shit.” Â GM’s were amazed Russell could be had for anything short of David Price.
The reaction among many Cubs fans was “is that all we got?” Â Because most Cubs fans are really fucking stupid.
Chief among them is the most unctuous of them all, Alvin Yellon. Â This was his reaction last night.
Addison Russell is a fine prospect, for sure, but that’s way too small of a payoff, in my view, for Jeff Samardzija and Jason HammelÂ two major-league starting pitchers. Ken Rosenthal is usually on top of things and I would be nearly certain that he’s right about at least the beginnings of this deal. I’d bet there’s a lot more involved.
Here’s the not-so-secret about Al. Â He doesn’t know shit about baseball. Â So his reaction is no surprise.
Nor is his next–very telling–paragraph:
Obviously, we’re going to get more news coming up soon — and one thing this affects immediately is the starting pitcher for Saturday afternoon’s game in Washington, because Samardzija was scheduled to start the game against the Nationals’ Gio Gonzalez.
Nobody should care that the Cubs were going to scramble to find a starter. Â The next meaningful game the Cubs will play is in 2016. Â To get a player like Russell if you had to trade so many players you had to forfeit your next game, you’d do it. Â But Al’s worried about a game in early July that means nothing.
Most of the fans who were enraged by the trade fall into three camps:
1. Why didn’t we get a pitcher? Â We need pitching!
2. Why would we trade our two best pitchers when we’re playing so well?
3. Why do we needÂ anotherÂ shortstop?
OK, I explained number one. Â Theo and Jed went for the best player available in this trade. Â I also explained number two. Â Despite fits of competence, this team is still shitty. Â It’s more fun to watch now, sure, but it’s bad. Â And, wins are of no consequence at this stage.
As for three, it’s true the Cubs do have an embarrassment of riches at shortstop. Â Starlin Castro has returned to form this year, and he’s only 24, and he’s signed to a nice team-friendly contract. Â Javy Baez has begun destroying Iowa (I wish this were literal) since a rocky start. Â Now, there’s Russell. Â You can’t play three shortstops, right?
The Cubs are in asset collection mode. Â Hell, if the nine best available players were all shortstops they’d be after all nine.
Shortstops tend to be great athletes. Â Great athletes can learn to play other positions pretty quickly. Â It would not be hard to configure a lineup with Castro, Baez and Russell all in it.
But also, great young players are very, very tradeable. Â If you think the Cubs couldn’t trade one of these guys for pitching…well, one of them was just traded for pitching.
What the scouts contend is that Russell is a real shortstop. Â They compare him to Barry Larkin. Â Barry wasn’t too bad.
Starlin’s a good hitter, and a better shortstop than people give him credit for, but he’ll never be a defensive whiz. Â Baez is likely outgrow the position.
Move one, trade one, play one.
Which one do you trade? Â Hell, trade the one that brings you back the best player. Â How’s that for a novel idea?
What this trade does is reminds us that Theo and Jed are very good at this. Â The amount of raw talent in the Cubs system is the envy of the rest of the league. Â They made a great trade the week they capped off an incredible draft where they signed all of their top 22 picks, and drafted the best hitter in the draft, then signed him under slot, which allowed them to use that extra cash to sign three supposedly unsignable high school pitchers.
Another thing the Cubs have proven is that they can find undervalued veteran pitching. Â They found Paul Maholm, and fixed Ryan Dempster to the point he was very tradeable in one of the final seasons of his career, they found Scott Feldman, they got enough out of crazy Matt Garza to flip him for a huge haul, and they found Hammel and developed Samardzija into more than we ever thought he’d be.
Pitchers carry higher injury risks than position players, and thus, teams tend to lock up their best young hitters and take a more measured approach with young pitchers. Â Therefore, more pitching is on the market than top hitting. Â Stockpiling top hitting seems like a no-brainer.
Today, Alvin took a more measured approach to the trade. Â But he’s still an idiot.
He compared this trade to the last time the A’s and Cubs traded, when the Cubs got Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin for Eric Patterson, Matt Murton, Josh Donaldson and Sean Gallagher.
Only a moron would compare those trades. Â Al’s perfectly qualified to do so.
That deal, in fact, might be instructive to understanding this one. At the time — almost exactly six years ago — the Cubs were “going for it” and had they won the World SeriesÂ with Harden, that deal might still be looked at as “worth it.”
The deal was still worth it, because they didn’t trade anything they were going to use.
What’s worth keeping in mind is that the two keys to the deal as seen at the time were Patterson and Gallagher, who were both thought of as hot prospects.
No. Â No they were not. Â Patterson was never considered to be a big league regular, and Gallagher was just an arm that might have a chance some day. Â That day never came.
Murton had been a starting outfielder for the Cubs in 2007, much as Straily was in the A’s rotation last year. Donaldson was just a year past being drafted and was hitting .217/.276/.349 at Peoria in the Low-A Midwest League at the time of the trade, seen as perhaps a failed catching prospect.
Murton was a fourth outfielder at best. Â Anyone with two legs could have been a starting outfielder on the 2007 Cubs, hell those were Jock Jones’ actual qualifications. Â Donaldson was a throw in. Â The A’s deserve credit for taking a chance on him, but it was a long time before they got anything out of him. Â It’s turned out great, but this was not a bold move by either team. Â It was a salary dump by the A’s, and the Cubs just sending them four “guys.”
It’s a terrible comparison to this trade. Â Even for Al. Â What would have been bold would have been making the trade that this was a reaction to. Â Jim Hendry couldn’t or wouldn’t get CC Sabathia and the Brewers did, so he got Harden instead.
Think of the deal this way, assuming there’s a PTBNL, in two parts:
Samardzija for Russell and a PTBNL, and
Hammel for McKinney and Straily.
That seems dumb. Â The trade only has five guys in it. Â It’s not so complicated that it needs to be broken down into parts.
Now, that looks pretty good, doesn’t it?
But, just eight hours before you wrote:
Addison Russell is a fine prospect, for sure, but that’s way too small of a payoff, in my view, forÂ Jeff Samardzija and Jason HammelÂ two major-league starting pitchers.
I doubt that Billy McKinney and Dan Straily changed Al’s mind. Â The chorus of national experts oohing and aahing over what the Cubs got did.
Also, check this out:
McKinney seems somewhat like Albert Almora,Â perhaps with a bit more power and not quite as good defense.
So,Â nothingÂ like Albert Almora.
Besides, Billy McKinney is 59 years old. Â I trust Theo, but this is BOLD.
But here’s the most instructive part of what Al wrote. Â It’s the kind of nonsense being spouted today by all manner of dumb Cubs fans. Â It’s proof, for the billionth time that he has no idea what the Cubs are doing, or what is actually important.
The issue as I see it now is this: This year’s Cubs team has been playing quite well for the last month or so, in part because of good pitching from Samardzija and Hammel.
Unless your issue is they’re screwing up their last run at a really high draft pick, then you might have a point.
That’s not your issue, is it?
Removing them from the rotation makes it markedly worse. It’s not as if the Cubs were going to contend this year — they weren’t — but perhaps they could improve enough to break through the 90-loss barrier, which could be psychologically important for young players like Castro and Anthony Rizzo.
I’m sure they’d like to feel the team is going in the right direction at the big-league level, not just in the system, and yes, I believe that does matter.
I believe that does not matter.
I believe you are an idiot.
I believe what matters is that Starlin and Anthony continue to improve, not if this team loses 93 or 89 games. Â That’s what’s at stake here. Â Samardzija and Hammel posted a 4 WAR in the first half. Â So if they had kept it up in the second half, it’s four wins. Â That’s not the difference between the the playoffs or not. Â It’s the difference between drafting third and fourth next year.
If the big-league Cubs go on a long losing streak again, heading toward 100 losses again, how do you build from there to a winner?
The way every winner has ever been built. Â By finding better players. Â Which, is what this trade is all about. Â It’s not that complicated.
But this team will now have to go out and get pitching this offseason.
Oh, I didn’t realize next year’s staff was already set before this trade. Â Hammel’s a free agent, so you were going to replace him anyway…or, maybe they’ll just bring him back? Â He already said he’d like to do that. Â You have assets to use to find pitching. Â Again…that was the whole idea behind this trade.
In conclusion — if this one works, Theo & Jed will have pulled off a blockbuster, thinking big, and winning big.
Well, Captain Hindsight, you run down to Walgreens and pick out a congratulations card just in case.
Good luck to Shark and Hammel with the A’s; they have a chance to get World Series rings this year, assuming they can dodge the sewage at the Coliseum in Oakland.
It’s no worse than the sewage in the left field corner of the bleachers at Wrigley.