With the trade deadline quickly approaching and the likelihood of the Chicago Cubs trading their longest tenured player Jeff Samardzija as well moving Jason Hammel some Cub fans are getting upset. They want to know where the payoff is with all these moves the Cubs have been making since Theo Epstein took over. While team Theo has made moves that are both good and bad fans look at the Cubs facing their third straight season of losing close to 100 games and want to know where exactly they payoff is. They want to know where the fruits of the system are that come from their work.
Let me start by saying that losing sucks. I hate losing and would love nothing more than this group of misfit toys to go on a surprising run and win something. Watching a losing team year after year zaps the energy right out of you, and makes watching the Cubs games more of a chore than fun. However, you do not have to look far to see the payoff. While their farm system is currently stacked with some of their up and coming stars shining brighter than ever. With Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Arismendy Alcantara and even brand new member of the organization Kyle Schwarber the future looks nothing short of amazing. Of course, fans don’t care much about the minor league system because all they care about is what is happening with the Major League team. All they care about is that the team they care about is losing in pathetic fashion. They want to know when the great and powerful Epstein will work his magic and we will see results at the major league level.
Well guess what. Team Theo is already working his magic at the major league level, whether you want to want to acknowledge his works or not. While he has traded away already established talent for minor league talent and question marks, you would have to be a fool not to see that he is already working his magic on the major league team.
I know that this probably goes unnoticed, but nearly 25% of the current Cubs roster comes as a direct result of Epstein and his trading away of the veteran talent he inherited when he took the job as President of Cubs Baseball Operations. While six players on a roster of 25 does not seem like a lot, the impact he has already made at the major league level is very noticeable.
For starters, take a look at the first trade Epstein and Jed Hoyer made. They traded Sean Marshall for Travis Wood. While Marshall was a dominating relief pitcher in his time here in Chicago, I would much rather have Wood who had an amazing year last season, and is having another very good year this year. Raise your hand if you would undo this trade if you could.
The second trade he made brought us Anthony Rizzo for Andrew Cashner. This trade is not the one sided trade many believed the Cubs made, but this is still a great trade. Cashner (when healthy) has the ace stuff the Cubs have been looking for, but outside of 2013, Rizzo has been an amazing addition to the Cubs and he will be here for a long time.
Scott Feldman was traded for both Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop. Both of these pitchers have been good for the Cubs, though I think most would agree that this trade was a slam dunk win for the Cubs, especially because for the rental of Feldman, the Cubs got Arrieta who has been tremendous. Most scouts from Baltimore said he had top of the rotation stuff but his command has an issue. I think his last two starts have shown that he has those issues figured out as he has been one of the most dominating pitchers in baseball for the month of June, losing out only to Clayton Kershaw who did through a no hitter (something Arrieta missed out on twice in the late innings his last two starts).
The one that probably upsets Cub fans the most is the trade of Matt Garza which brought back CJ Edwards who is currently in the minor leagues, but also Mike Olt and more importantly Neil Ramirez. While Garza was a good starting pitcher for the Cubs, I think the Cubs won this trade. Now some fans call the Cubs cheap in terms of both Samardzija and Garza, but something you should remember about Garza, he refused to sign the offer the Cubs made him because he wanted more money, but wound up signing with the Milwaukee Brewers for less than what the Cubs offered. While Olt has been pretty much a bust (outside of leading all National League rookies in home runs and RBI), Ramirez has been stellar.
Then you have Hector Rondon who was picked up in the rule five draft. He has been a great addition to the Cubs bullpen as well, taking over the closer role after Jose Veras crapped out. He has done a good job and will have a spot in this pen for a few more years. He is part of the back end of a very good bullpen along with Strop and Ramirez.
That is not even counting Arodys Vizcaino who the Cubs received for Paul Maholm. Vizcaino is currently having a very good season down in the minors proving that he is healthy. With as good as he is pitching, he is right there with Alcantara as being someone who might get called up later this year, or at the latest next year with Baez and Bryant.
You wanted some payoff at the major league level? There ya go. Six players who are actually performing well at the major league level who come as a direct result of Epstein’s tearing down a team for prospects and question marks. There are more to come, perhaps this year with Alcantara and next year with Bryant and Baez. That is not even counting the players the Cubs will be getting in return with the deals they make for Samardzija and Hammel. They could very well get some major league ready talent that can perform this year or next.