There have been a few trades lately that have shaken the baseball world to the core. I’m not going to bother to link to certain blogs that complained of such, but I have been informed of various statements wherein Cubs fans wondered why the Cubs couldn’t pull off similar trades, or sign the big name free agents, etc. etc. Which leads us to one of the earliest blogs we posted on this new site, where we talked about the benefits of prospects. In a nutshell, with prospects a baseball club can either retain them as a source of cheap, efficient talent or trade them for established stars. The Cubs’ problem in the recent past has been the lack of impact prospects which prevented them from filling holes at the MLB level or trading for coveted players. The new Cubs front office is composed of folks who are exceptionally good at filling the farm system with impact talent and using said talent to acquire established talent.
The first mega-trade occurred with the Toronto Blue Jays and the Miami Marlins. The Marlins are the devil, but what was impressive was how relatively little the Blue Jays had to give up (due to the salary-dump nature of the trade) to acquire solid talent.
The trade sends All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes to the Blue Jays along with pitchers Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson, catcher John Buck and outfielder Emilio Bonifacio for seven players, none of whom has a big-money contract.
The Jays were able to do this trade without giving up top prospect Travis d’Arnaud (more on that later) and made their team leaps and bounds better even though the Marlins players they received underachieved last season. While not as spectacular in scope, this is similar to what happened in the early 2000s when the Cubs had a deep farm and traded most of it for Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee. Despite opinions to the contrary, those trades worked out extremely well for the Cubs.
The Royals acquired former All-Star James Shields and fellow right-hander Wade Davis from Tampa Bay in a six-player deal that sent top prospects Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi along with two other minor leaguers to the Rays. The swap immediately bolsters the Royals’ starting rotation and should make them a contender in the relatively weak American League Central.
Laments aside, the Royals still have a relatively deep farm, and have their sights on contention with an up-and-coming offense built from within and pitching help from without. This is more similar to the Matt Garza trade to the Rays that I totally flipped my shit over (not because I hate Matt Garza but I didn’t see the need to decimate the farm during an obvious rebuild moment while only adding three or four wins, tops). No offense if you’re reading this, Mr. Garza, I still love you and your Rasputin beard.
The final mega-trade (so far) also involved the Blue Jays, and this time the other side was the New York Mets. While many consider it an overpay, it was obviously impressive that Toronto had the depth and the balls to engineer yet another blockbuster and still have enough intriguing talent left over.
Toronto acquired the 38-year-old knuckleballer [R.A. Dickey] and catchers Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas. The Mets got top catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud and catcher John Buck, plus minor league right-hander Noah Syndergaard and outfielder Wuilmer Becerra.
This time, the Jays did have to cough up d’Arnaud but they were able to bring back the reigning Cy Young winner, a previously capable catcher in Thole and another catcher just in case the first one broke. But mostly it was about that Dickey fellow. Absolutely impressive even if you think the Jays shot their load on that one.
The point here is that two organizations (Jays and Royals) had enough minor league depth of sufficient potential that they were able to acquire impact pieces (you can argue how impactful later) that will likely make the team better and perhaps even turn them into contenders. The Cubs as currently constructed don’t have that unless the intention is to strip apart the rebuilt system over the last year, and that just puts them back at Square One again.
The good news, as stated before, is that there are two very intelligent and successful engineers at the helm. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer set up the trade that sent Anibal Sanchez (who they tried and failed to sign) and Hanley Ramirez over to the Marlins in return for Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell. Result = 2007 World Series. Theo also sent Anthony Rizzo to San Diego for Adrian Gonzalez, which at the time was considered to be a hell of a trade and that 2011 team were on the cusp of the playoffs. That is a lot of impact talent that the two brains in charge racked up and sent away to acquire even more talent. Can we at least wait a couple more years to see if they can repeat their success? I’m willing to wait. Then again, I’ve wanted a rebuild since at least 2010.