There’s an old joke about a guy who’s just lost everything — marriage, job, home — and decides to end it all, so he goes to the top of the Empire State Building and jumps. As he’s plummeting to his doom, at the last possible second he performs a triple somersault and lands on his feet, completely unharmed. Two cats are watching across the street and one says to the other, “See? That’s how you do that.”
Since taking over the Cubs front office in October, 2011, Theo Epstein has been carrying out a three-pronged rebuilding plan: (1) acquire a stable of fast-developing power hitters; (2) find a #1 starter; and (3) rebuild the roster with a yard sale. The first prong is coming along well, with Arismendy Alcantara joining Anthony Rizzo in the majors and another wave (including but not necessarily limited to Kris Bryant, Javy Baez, and Jorge Soler) on the way soon. The second prong has borne no fruit yet; there is still no one in the Cubs system that realistically projects as an ace.
The jury is still out on the third prong, which has involved international signings of, and trades for, young players who in some cases are several years away from the majors. But at least on the surface, Theo has made the most out of the tattered wares in his basement. This is especially true of the parade of pitchers (some he inherited and some he acquired as reclamation projects) that he has, for the most part, successfully sold high. For the most part the folks stopping by Crazy Theo’s Pitching Palace have walked away happy, only to soon suffer buyer’s remorse.
Here’s a list of pitchers Theo has traded away, together with the principal player received in return. In this post, all slash numbers are ERA/FIP – the first pair is the player’s numbers with the Cubs, and the second are his numbers with the team that acquired him.
Sean Marshall (3.96/4.02 , 3.27/2.67 (CIN))
Swag: Travis Wood
Skinny: Marshall’s thrown just 24 innings since 2012.
Andrew Cashner (4.29/4.84, 3.08/3.25 (SDP))
Swag: Anthony Rizzo
Skinny: Trade could end up helping both clubs, though Cashner’s durability is still questionable.
Paul Maholm (3.74/4.14, 4.14/4.09 (ATL))
Swag: Arodys Vizcaino
Skinny: Vizcaino could be a future closer, but the T.J. survivor has logged just 34 IP in the minors this year.
Ryan Dempster (3.74/3.78, 5.09/4.08 (TEX))
Swag: Kyle Hendricks
Skinny: Hendricks is already benefiting from the long Wrigley grass.
Scott Feldman (3.46/3.93, 4.27/4.13 (BAL))
Swag: Jake Arrieta
Skinny: Arrieta won’t defy gravity forever, but some of his improvement may be for real.
Matt Garza (3.45/3.45, 4.38/3.96 (TEX))
Swag: C.J. Edwards
Jeff Samardzija (3.97/3.80, 3.19/4.00 (OAK))
Swag: Addison Russell
Skinny: Sharknado 2 is about as good as the original, but his 2014 FIP jumped a run after the trade.
Jason Hammel (2.98/3.19, 9.53/7.31 (OAK))
Swag: Addison Russell
Skinny: Might be time to try pine tar, Jason.
Epstein hasn’t been able to spin all the lead into gold: he may have held onto Travis Wood past the sell-by date, and Edwin Jackson, inked to a union-appeasing contract, has been barrel-bomb bad and is now unmovable. Taken together, however, these trades brought 60% of the Cubs’ current rotation, two guys (Rizzo and Reed) who may have numerous all-star seasons in them, and a potential closer of the future. In virtually no case except Cashner did the player traded improve after the trade. (Marshall had one good year in the Reds’ bullpen, but he’s spent the bulk of the last 2 seasons in the trainer’s room.)
See? That’s how you do that.
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