So here we are. Not one week since a move viewed as nothing but savvy of the front office to move Dan Vogelbach and Paul Blackburn for Mike Montgomery, a left-handed reliever/starter under control through 2021, the Cubs have made the big splash of trade season in acquiring left-handed shutdown reliever Aroldis Chapman from the Yankees.
I didn’t just put together a quick piece on this because I felt it was necessary to get as much information as possible and digest it. After doing so, I believe there are two ways to view this deal and it is not wrong to grade this deal as both a win and a loss for the Cubs organization.
Why is that? How can a deal be both a win and a loss? Well, that’s because we’re going to take two different looks at how this deal grades out. First, let’s look at how the deal went down:
Chicago Cubs receive: Aroldis Chapman
New York Yankees receive: Gleyber Torres, Billy McKinney, Adam Warren, and Rashad Crawford
First, the view you can take of this being a loss for the Cubs.
WHY A LOSS
The easy answer to that question is that the Cubs traded a top 30 overall prospect in Gleyber Torres for a rental relief pitcher. That in and of itself is a short-sighted organizational view to take in any trade. When you add in another fringe top 100 prospect with the midseason rankings in Billy McKinney, a controllable pitcher who has been successful (albeit not this year) at the MLB level in Adam Warren, and an athletic High-A OF’er who is showing signs of being a potential ML 4th OF in Rashad Crawford then it becomes damning on the eyes. In fact, just looking at the names with the trade is why I needed today to digest everything instead of sending out just a knee-jerk reaction to the trade. My knee-jerk reaction was not a positive one.
It’s hard to get Major League organizational depth sprinkled throughout the minors. The Cubs worked extremely hard to get to a level in which they had multiple pieces that looked to be capable of making it to the bigs playing at minor league levels which were above their age point. It’s been painful as a fanbase. Instead of cheering for the team we have grown attached to our prospect pool. This has been for good reason, as the development and scouting for our franchise has been extraordinary. As a fanbase, when you spend 4-5 years growing attached to the process of development and long-term assets it’s hard to envision any of those prospects being moved for a 3 month rental. One analogy I used on social media today was it felt like we had traded in a good chunk of Apple Stock to rent a ski boat. The ski boat may be a lot of fun and it may give us the best weekend of our entire life, but will it be worth the stock we traded in to rent it?
That question simply cannot be answered now. What we do know is that the Chicago Cubs are in on this season to the point where they would move a guy as skilled as Torres to get what may be the most dominant relief pitcher in the big leagues. That says something for the Cubs front office mindset. There are players on this team that the Cubs have made commitments to going for the Series this season(namely David Ross) and they are sticking to their word.
The main statement regarding losing Torres in this deal as being a “non-factor” is how he is blocked at SS. I agree with that. However, that does not mean you have to move him for a rental or for what could be perceived as lesser value. In my opinion, Torres was a piece that the Cubs could have built a package around to get a controllable starter for when Jake Arrieta leaves in free agency. I hate thinking about the Cubs in 2018 with no Jake Arrieta and potentially no Aroldis Chapman and having dealt Gleyber Torres for a shot at a series if we end up not winning it. That would be a loss. No doubt about it. More importantly, the likelihood is we have just traded at least 3 Major League contributors under team control for half a season of Aroldis Chapman. If we don’t resign him and if we don’t win its a big deal.
Many of the fans who are FOR this deal will cite the Royals last season in their moves for Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist as they were able to win the World Series. I would like to remind all of those fans of the moves Billy Beane made the season beforehand, trading away Addison Russell, Billy McKinney, and Yoenis Cespedes just to lose in the wild card round. The A’s are still trying to recover from that “go for it” season. The Royals look like geniuses, the A’s look like Jesters, and it’s all because of what happened in October. The reality is they were both short-sighted moves. Let’s hope the Cubs version of this turns out to result in the latter and not the former.
WHY A WIN
The Cubs now have possibly the best bullpen, the best offense, and the best starting rotation in all of baseball. It’s hard to argue with that being a winning formula in October.
Right now if the Cubs get into the 7th inning with a lead they can send out Strop, Rondon, Chapman. That is not fair for any opponent.
To the same tune of Gleyber Torres possibly being the center of a different package, the reality is he is still best case scenario 2 seasons away from the big leagues. So outside of Adam Warren, the Cubs gave up not one player who will contribute to a Major League ball club before the year 2018 at the earliest. More than likely it will even be later than that. That gives this terrific development team more than enough time to replenish the farm.
Additionally, the farm is far from barren. The Cubs still have the pieces to make a move for a controllable starter. They have Eloy Jimenez, who some rankings had ahead of Gleyber Torres for Cubs top prospects anyway, as well as Ian Happ, Chesny Young, Mark Zagunis, Jacob Hanneman, Donnie DeWees, Dylan Cease, Justin Steele, Oscar De La Cruz, Trevor Clifton, Duane Underwood, Jeimer Candelario, and Victor Caratini. I mean, look at that list. I just rattled off 13 prospects that could be coveted to varying degrees in any trade without blinking, and there are more than that.
Additionally, the Cubs have controllable MLB talent that could be moved in trades as well. Jorge Soler is living on borrowed time with the Cubs. While I absolutely love Javier Baez and believe his defense at 3B could end up being Brooks Robinson-esque, in the right move I could see the Cubs landing a top controllable arm with a package centered around him as well. In other words, the Cubs still have A TON of pieces. Even after this move you won’t find a publication that puts the Cubs minor league system outside of the top 10 in all of baseball. So the Cubs haven’t cost themselves the opportunity to make a move for a controllable starter and hedge against Jake Arrieta free agency.
So to be able to have the best bullpen, offense, and starting rotation in all of baseball it cost the Cubs only ONE person who was a potential Major League contributor this season and next. In that sense alone, you do that deal every day of the week.
Cubs fans, there is no right or wrong here. Do I love this deal? I don’t. I wish the Cubs had locked up something longer for that kind of a package. Do I hate this deal, though? I do not hate it by any means. I cannot remember in my lifetime the Chicago Cubs having a shutdown bullpen to the degree that they now have. To go along with the incredible offensive depth they have and the rotation that has been spectacular? It’s an exciting time to be a Cubs Fan.
So I guess it comes down to this question:
Would I trade my Apple Stock right before it looks like it is about to become more valuable just to rent a ski boat? My answer. Ask me this November.