Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL


July 8, 2014

Czachorski: A's/Cubs trade an A for Chicago

EFFINGHAM — There are basically two ways to look at Friday’s blockbuster trade between the Oakland A’s and the Chicago Cubs that sent Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija to Oakland for Addison Russell, Billy McKinney and Dan Straily.

Number one, from the Cubs side, they just nabbed a top-10 prospect in baseball and continued putting together a group of prospects so impressive it makes one’s heart fill with glee.

The other is that, oh look, the hapless Cubs traded away two of their best four players from this season and now are continuing a cycle that hasn’t yielded them a World Series, insert something about “the curse”, etc.

The second one, even trying to remove my Cubs-shaded glasses, is shortsighted and a blatant misunderstanding of where the current state of the game is

It’s true that now, without Hammel and more importantly Samardzija, the Cubs have maybe three players they’re counting on to be a major part of the next good Cubs team — All-Star Starlin Castro, potential All-Star Anthony Rizzo and Jake Arrieta, who’s been very impressive this season after being a scrap heap pickup from the Orioles last year.

But look down to Iowa, Tennessee and even Daytona and try not to be impressed. Baseball Prospectus released its midseason top-50 prospect list Monday. It’s hard to read without tripping over Chicago Cubs players, as Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Russell, Arismendy Alcantara and Albert Almora all made the top 50 from a single farm system, with the first three making up half of the top-six prospects in baseball.

The thing about all those players is they’re position players. Most of them even play in the infield, with Baez and Alcantara being shortstop prospects who are learning other trades to get to the show quicker. Bryant, a third baseman, has been rumored to be able to play the outfield in case he’s needed there.

What one wouldn’t see is pitching, and they’d be right. There are a few okay arms in the system, like Kyle Hendricks, Dallas Beeler and C.J. Edwards, but no standout pitching prospects like Michael Wacha from St. Louis.

That could seem shortsighted, but to me, it seems like the Cubs have a fundamental understanding of what they do well — find pitching on the cheap. I mentioned Hendricks, who came over in the trade that sent Ryan Dempster to Texas. Edwards came from Texas as well, in the Matt Garza trade. Arrieta came from Baltimore with Pedro Strop in a trade for bargain-basement signing Scott Feldman. Even Straily could be a redemption story, as Arrieta as been beyond solid as a Cub after several underwhelming years in Baltimore. The same could have been said for Feldman or even former Cub Paul Maholm.

Hammel himself signed the Feldman special, taking a one-year deal, pitching his tail off for a few months and being the key to the Oakland deal, as Samardzija alone didn’t get it done.

Pitching is at an all-time high for the era, but the Cubs seem to be going the other direction — loading up on valuable hitters, surpluses at shortstop or not. They’re out in front of the curve, and even if half of their impressive prospect stack doesn’t turn out (after I left out first-round pick Kyle Schwarber, last year’s first-rounder from Oakland in McKinney and Jorge Soler), the odds are solely in their favor to generate top-flight talent out of this class. If it pans out at an above-average rate, the Cubs will be in great shape going forward.

Who knows? Maybe this winter or next year, the Cubs make a splash and sign a big pitcher or trade one of their many shortstops for some pitching help. With Castro turning things around, he could be a centerpiece of a lucrative package. Or Russell. Or Baez. Or Alcantara.

What Friday’s trade was about was asset-acquisition. The Cubs turned one real asset (Samardzija) into one for the future (Russell) that opens up a number of doors to make creative moves. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer can keep picking up pitchers on the cheap and flipping them, or finally keeping them as the wins creep up. Even with a leaky bullpen, the Cubs have had one of the best pitching staffs in baseball this season by advanced numbers like Wins Above Replacement and Field Independent Pitching, per Fangraphs.com, and anyone who has watched them for more than a game knows the offense has been the problem, not the defense.

So when analyzing this trade, it depends on your point of view. Sure, the Cubs glass got a little more empty for this season. But it looks like it’ll be half-full soon — and maybe filling up past that mark at a rapid pace.



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  • czachorskimug.jpg Czachorski: Extra innings intrigue unmatched

    Obscenely long baseball games are my kryptonite. Once I get sucked in, it’s impossible for me to stop watching until it’s over. It doesn’t matter if it’s the Cubs, the Cardinals, the Astros or the Mariners — if it’s on TV and it’s going into the twelfth inning or later, you can bet I’m finding a way to tune in.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • 7-29NewtonOrientmain.JPG Newton's season ends in 14-4 loss

     Newton Post 20 almost pulled another comeback off against the Orient Miners, cutting a 5-1 deficit to 5-4 midway through Monday night’s game.
    But Newton’s Junior Legion Fifth Division tournament run came to an end, as Orient rattled off nine runs in the sixth inning and clinched a spot in the state tournament with a 14-4 win.

    July 29, 2014 2 Photos

  • 7-28NewtonSundaygame2.JPG Comeback win keeps Post 20 alive in 10-7 win

    Newton Post 120 didn’t let a 4-1 deficit get to them against Highland Post 439, using a patient approach in the face of an elimination game.
    Three bases-loaded walks in the bottom of the third tied the game at 4-4, and with the bases loaded down 5-4 in the fourth, Tim Weber broke the game open with a two-run double and an error.
    By the time the dust settled, Newton led 10-5 heading to the sixth inning and would hold on to a 10-7 win to keep its season alive.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • 7-28NewtonSundaygame1.JPG Salem deals Newton first divisional loss

    Mitch Bierman started off Newton Post 20’s game against Salem Post 128 with a bang Sunday afternoon, hitting a leadoff triple and scoring on the next batter.
    Post 20’s offense didn’t follow his lead from there, as Newton had just three more hits and no runs, and falling in a Junior Legion Fifth Division winner’s bracket game to Salem 12-1 in seven innings.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • DSC_0725.JPG Newton Post 20 bests Belleville Post 58 in opener 6-1
    After a 9-3 loss to Breese Post 252 Gray Monday night, Newton Post 20 coach John Grunloh predicted the five-day break until the Junior Legion Fifth Division tournament would be good for his players, especially his pitchers. 
    Mitch Jansen proved his coach right, spinning a gem in Newton's opener Saturday afternoon as Post 20 made short work of Belleville Post 58 6-1. 

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • daughertyfootball.jpg Hearts to prep with Mattoon 7-on-7

    Two weeks ago, Effingham was supposed to start shaking off the rust with a 7-on-7 football tournament in Mattoon. Naturally, it rained and was canceled.
    So Saturday, the Flaming Hearts will head up to Mattoon and play their first 7-on-7 event of the season, taking part in an 10- team field with Mattoon, Rochester, Robinson, Marshall, Cahokia and Pleasant Plains from Illinois, with Terre Haute North and Northview coming from Indiana. Rochester is bringing two squads.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mammoser3.jpg Newton Post 20 plays Belleville Saturday

    With the District 23 tournament behind them, Newton Post 20 now knows its fate for the Fifth Division Junior Legion tournament this weekend in Bethalto.
    Newton will play Belleville Post 58 at 2:45 p.m. Saturday afternoon in Bethalto, in the third game of six on the day.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bateman.jpg Effingham's season comes to a close with 11-1 loss to Salem

    A 1-0 lead for Effingham Post 120 rapidly evaporated, and the post’s Junior Legion season came to an end with a 11-1 loss in five innings to Salem Post 128 Tuesday night.
    The game was for the final spot of District 23 in the divisional tournament, with Newton Post 20 and Breese Post 252 Gray punching their tickets by winning their district divisions.

    July 23, 2014 2 Photos

  • Bierman.jpg Newton Post 20 falls short against Breese Gray 9-3

    While the District 23 title ultimately exceeded Newton Post 20’s grasp, their season will continue in Bethalto.
    Newton took on Breese Post 252 Gray for the Junior Legion District 23 title as the two division winners, but Breese’s bats proved too much for Newton in an 9-3 loss for Post 20.
    “The innings where they put some runs on us, we gave them some extra outs,” said Newton coach John Grunloh. “You’ve got to make the plays when you play better teams.”

    July 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • Barnes3.jpg Barnes' one-hitter boosts Post 120; Effingham beats Dieterich 1-0

    Ryan Barnes hasn’t seen a lot of time with Effingham Post 120’s junior legion team this season, but he showed up in a big way Monday night in a 1-0 win over Dieterich Post 628.
    The win kept Effingham’s season alive one more day in the Junior Legion District 23 tournament, as the post will face Salem Post 128 at 5:30 p.m. today for the district’s final spot in the divisional round. Salem Post 128 downed Mt. Vernon Post 141 1-0 in the West Division loser’s bracket, setting up the final with Effingham today.

    July 22, 2014 2 Photos

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