Friday, August 1, 2014
Here are the best moves the Cubs have made at the deadline since 2000:
5. July 26, 2013: Traded Alfonso Soriano and cash to the New York Yankees. Received Corey Black.
The Cubs and many of their fans have accepted the sorry state of the team as the repercussions of a bloated payroll spent on an aging team that never got over the hump in the late 00s. Nobody represented this comeuppance like Soriano, who was signed to an eight-year, $136 million contract before the 2007 season to help push the team over the top.
It's been easy to complain about that contract as the Cubs look to be headed to a fifth straight season with at least 87 losses. Considering how fast the rest of the team aged just as fast around Soriano, trying to exploit their window to win really might have been the best decision by team management, even though it all ended when the Cubs agreed to pay the Yankees most of what was left on Soriano's deal that runs through this year.
Black won't ever help the Cubs, so Soriano yielded no future pieces. But by getting rid of him and the excuse his contract had become for why the team can't afford to go bigger on the free agent market, or can't assemble a team on a reasonable budget, the management team of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer is back on the clock. Their rebuilding plan will either start to pay dividends, or the next guys in charged will be asked to improve the team, hopefully without a big Soriano-like contract signed under Epstein and Hoyer in an attempt to save their jobs.
4. July 31, 2000: Traded Scott Downs to the Montreal Expos. Received Rondell White.
The Cubs were below .500 when they pulled the trigger to land White, who predictably got hurt less than a month later. He'd also live up to the nickname Ron-DL playing only 95 games the next year, but White was pretty good (.310/.374/.515) when he played and was part of the reason the Cubs went from 65-97 to 88-74 the next year, missing the playoffs by only five games. For the cost of a future lefty specialist like Downs, that's pretty good.
3. July 27, 2001: Traded a player to be named later and Manny Aybar to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Received Fred McGriff. The Cubs sent Jason Smith (August 6, 2001) to the Rays to complete the trade.
Despite his initial refusal to join the team, McGriff did eventually come north the Chicago to bat .282/.353/.559 with 12 home runs as the Cubs stayed in the NL Central race. The only condition was that his new team pick up a $6.5 million option for the next season. That would have been a no-brainer anyway, so the Cubs flexed their pocketbook to make it happen.
That option ended up being a great deal for the Cubs as McGriff hit .273/.353/.502 in what was the last fine season of a long and very good career. It could have only worked out better if the Cubs had been able to spin McGriff off at the 2002 deadline as the team was careening towards another 90-plus loss season.
2. July 5, 2014: Traded Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija to the Oakland Athletics. Received Billy McKinney, Addison Russell, Dan Straily and player to be named.
It's maybe way too early to rank this deal this highly. All of the prospects going the Cubs' way could become busts, leaving them with nothing for one of the best pitchers on the market this summer in Samardzija and a solid complimentary arm in Hammel.
This deal also happened a bit early in the year for some to consider it a true deadline trade, but that's one of the reasons I liked this move for the Cubs. By striking so early, they might have gotten a better package of talent than any other team got for pitchers that I think are much more talented than Samardzija and Hammel.
Time will tell if this deal really belongs here, but credit Cubs management for striking decisively.
1. July 23, 2003: Traded a player to be named later, Matt Bruback and Jose Hernandez to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Received Kenny Lofton, Aramis Ramirez and cash. The Cubs sent Bobby Hill (August 15, 2003) to the Pirates to complete the trade.
The Cubs traded what looked like a plate full of leftovers for a guy in Ramirez who had struggled in Pittsburgh, but was talented enough to become the meat of Chicago's lineup for the rest of the decade. Ramirez was arguably one of the best third basemen of his era, batting .294/.356/.531 and playing for five winning Cubs teams, including three playoff squads.
Don't discount Lofton, either, an underrated player who went on a tear for the Cubs (.327/.381/.471) as they squeezed into the playoffs that year and were maybe only one tragic play (or magic if you're a Marlins fan) from going to the World Series.