Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

Sports

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.

 

 

1
Text Only
Sports
  • Groce.jpg Illini coach Groce stops in Effingham; Speech focuses on team building

    A crowded ballroom met for "An Evening with John Groce” Thursday inside the Thelma Keller Convention Center.
    Groce has been the men's basketball coach at the University of Illinois since March 2012. Prior to that, he was the head coach at Ohio University, where he led the Bobcats to a Sweet 16 appearance in 2012.
    His speech was focused on team building and Groce said it was the a variation of the same speech he will give Sunday evening at his beginning-of-the-year players' meeting.

    August 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • MadisonBushue.jpg St. Anthony second at Charleston scramble

    In their first meet of the season, the St. Anthony Bulldogs came out firing, taking second place at the Charleston Invitational Thursday afternoon.
    The tournament was a scramble at Charleston Country Club, and the hosting Trojans took home the tournament with a combined score of 72. St. Anthony was five shots back, shooting a 77. Effingham finished fourth with an 88, and Teutopolis took ninth with a 98.

    August 22, 2014 3 Photos

  • Ryan.jpg Czachorski: Lunt the right man at QB

    There haven't been many times I've put pen to paper — or I guess more fittingly finger to keyboard — and written about the Illinois Fighting Illini.
    Part of it is due to their football team's struggles, as it's hard to have an opinion on them outside of "man, they went 1-7 in the Big 10 last year" or "I remember that one time they went to the Rose Bowl, but that's about it." Part of it is staying in my wheelhouse, which is MAC football and my alma mater Central Michigan Chippewas, a topic that doesn't concern many, if any, around here.

    August 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • NeogaGresens.jpg Neoga prepares for upcoming volleyball season

    Another area team finds themselves with a new coach holding the clipboard this season.
    Susan Hutchinson is the new volleyball coach for the Neoga Indians, but she isn't new to the game of volleyball. Hutchinson coached at Mattoon for seven years when they were still in the Big 12 Conference. She said her new players had to get used to her coaching style very quickly.

    August 21, 2014 2 Photos

  • Bulldogs fifth at ISU

    St. Anthony took to the links for the second-straight day and had a strong showing at the Raider/Redbird Classic.
    The Bulldogs finished fifth among a 20-team field, shooting a 318. East Peoria shot a 312 to win it, Normal U-High and Lincoln each shot 315s with Normal winning the tie-breaker, and Bloomington took fourth with a 317.

    August 21, 2014

  • DonovanHammer.jpg St. Anthony will lead with speed

    For the last five years, Eric Morales has been the assistant coach of the St. Anthony Bulldogs soccer team. But this season he will have his chance at the helm and try to help lead the Bulldogs to their first regional title since 2010.
    St. Anthony is missing six seniors from last years team, including its leading goal scorer and starting goalie.

    August 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • JakeLinders.jpg Flaming Hearts win St. Anthony Invitational

    The Flaming Hearts of Effingham were the overall winners and also had the medalist. Effingham shot a team score of 312 to beat the host Bulldogs by nine shots. Hearts senior Jackson Wendling finished with a 72 to take medalist honors.

    August 19, 2014 2 Photos

  • Willenborg.jpg Teutopolis takes opener against St. Thomas More

    Teutopolis took the course with a new coach and four players, but as coach Becky Probst said, it takes four to score.
    And those four Lady Shoes took their first match of the year, topping Champaign St. Thomas More 216-227 in both teams' openers at Cardinal Golf Course in Effingham.

    August 19, 2014 2 Photos

  • callawaysmith.jpg Time to tee off, golf season starts fall sports campaign today

    The fall sports campaign kicks off in earnest Monday afternoon, with the first area varsity contests being held in Windsor and Effingham this afternoon.
    The St. Anthony Invitational boys golf tournament will be held at Fox Prairie Golf Course at 1 p.m. in Windsor, while the Teutopolis Lady Shoes host St. Thomas More at Cardinal Golf Course at 4 p.m.

    August 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • AndrewBingham.jpg Flaming Hearts' flexibility a plus; Effingham prepping for upcoming soccer season

    Three days into the practice season, Effingham soccer coach Aaron Witges sees a lot of flexibility.
    It was something his squad had last year, with 10 seniors but young players forcing their way into the lineup as well.
    Coming off a 10-8-3 season, some of those young players will find themselves in new positions for the Flaming Hearts this season.

    August 16, 2014 1 Photo

AP Video
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.