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Who Did Cubs Get In Return For Trades?

By bullpenbrian - August 2, 2012 - 1:30 am Leave a comment.

This is a Guest Post by John Guminski. He’s a Junior at the University of Missouri majoring in Journalism.

Catcher Geovany Soto to the Texas Rangers for RHP Jacob Brigham

Steve Clevenger and Welington Castillo provided plenty of depth at the catcher’s position behind incumbent Geovany Soto entering the 2012 season.

Soto’s season long struggles at the plate, in addition to being the oldest and more expensive backstop, was also a deciding factor in shipping him to Arlington.

In return the Cubs receive Double-A right-hander Jacob Brigham. His fastball sits at 91-93 with an average curve and change. Brigham could fit into a middle relief role down the road.

Paul Maholm & Reed Johnson to Braves for pitchers Arodys Vizcaino & Jaye Chapman

This a classic example of buy low and sell high that has worked for the Cubs to bolster their farm system. Maholm’s sensational pitching of late seemed to considerably raise his trade value towards the deadline.

Johnson has been as steady as ever off the bench. His 13 pinch-hits are tied for the most in the majors and most importantly, he’s stayed healthy this season. Reed’s versatility defensively is also a plus, especially in the NL as a guy who does well spot-starting or coming in off the bench mid-game.

The return pieces for the Cubs are quite intriguing. Although Arodys Vizcaino is out for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in March, he was a top 3 prospect in a very deep Braves organization a year ago.

The Braves rushed him along last season and had slotted him into a relief role with the big club before his injury. He features a high 90’s fastball and an excellent curve with fantastic control.

If he doesn’t have the durability to continue as a starter, he certainly has the stuff to replace Carlos Marmol at closer.

Jaye Chapman is a 25-year-old reliever in Triple-A. He’s striking out 10.1 per 9 on his with a 3.52 ERA. He projects to be a middle reliever with an upside to be an impact player.

Ryan Dempster to Rangers for RHP Kyle Hendricks and 3B Christian Villanueva

The final deal was the most expected, although Texas ended up somewhat of a surprise destination for the 35-year-old Dempster.

Christian Villanueva was the only hitter acquired at the deadline by the Cubs. Seen as a sleeper around many scouts, he sports an above-average glove while hitting .285 with 10 home runs in advanced A-ball.

Right-hander Kyle Hendricks, throwing in the high 80’s, relies on his cutter and curveball as out pitches. He’s more of a throw-in to the deal, but projects as back end starter material.

In Summary

Theo and Jed concentrated their efforts to fill the need for pitching depth in the Cubs minor league system. The pair could also further increase the returns later this month with a deal for Soriano, who’s willing to waive his no-trade right to join a contender once he likely passes through waivers.

Matt Garza’s unfortunate injury, fluid build-up on his right triceps, appeared to kill the lack of interest from potential suitors at the deadline.

It appeared the Cubs had every intention of dealing Garza, but doing so will be on hold until the offseason as Garza is not an August trade candidate (no way he’ll get through waivers).

It remains to be seen whether or not the Cubs will reconsider offering Garza the long-term contract he so desires.

All things considered, the Cubs trade deadline deals were a good step in the right direction towards the massive rebuilding project.

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Celebrating the Trade Deadline

By bullpenbrian - July 31, 2012 - 5:59 pm Leave a comment.

I found today’s non-waiver trade deadline thrilling. Lots of player movement, big names in the mix, and the hotly contested division races in both leagues seemed to get even tighter.

I’d love to ramble on about the winners and losers during today’s trading period, but the exhaustion of pulling an all-nighter and then updating the trade tracker this afternoon is finally taking its toll.

By no means is this a complaint. There’s simply no place I’d rather be than working the phones and the keyboard like a mad-man! But the adrenaline from the early mornings hours has worn thin—Dempster, after all, has been traded!

So we’ll save those thoughts on the deadline trades for a latter post.

In the meantime, I’m taking a break from the computer and heading to Wrigley Field for tonight’s Cubs vs. Pirates game.

I’ll definitely do some tweeting, but I’m largely looking to relax for a bit and just enjoy watching the Cubs, or what’s left of them.

Greatly appreciate everyone who checked in on the Trade Tracker. Always looking out for the visual learners :)

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Reaction To Cubs Trades: Maholm, Johnson & Soto

By bullpenbrian - July 31, 2012 - 3:10 am Leave a comment.

I watched the Cubs 14-4 shellacking of Pittsburgh (you’re welcome Reds fans) from the bleachers Monday night. Definitely one of the most enjoyable games I’ve been to all year.

But all the excitement that came from a nine-run fifth-inning and home runs from Barney, Castro and Rizzo, quickly turned the buzz in the bleachers to trade anticipation after Reed exited the game in the fifth inning and Soto soon after.

I rushed home after the final out, quickly showered and then began digesting the Cubs latest player movement.

Quite honestly, my initial reaction to the trades was “Thank gawd. Something finally went down.” I’ll admit, I was growing more nervous with each passing hour the Cubs didn’t make a move as we close in on today’s 3pm EST non-waiver trade deadline.

PAUL MAHOLM & REED JOHNSON TRADED TO BRAVES

It turns out my gut feeling was right about Paul Maholm ending up with the Braves.

July 29 Post: “My gut feeling is Maholm ends up in Atlanta. The fact the Cubs and Braves already came to terms for Dempster, despite the outcome, tells us the Cubs like what the Braves have to offer as far as talented pitching prospects and Atlanta is clearly ready to deal.”

It’s a good fit for Paul and for Reed. It also appears what the Braves can’t make up in talent towards catching Washington in the NL East they’ll instead rely on high-character, team-first personnel the likes of both Maholm and Johnson.

There’s never anything wrong with adding a couple of high-character guys to a ball club. The Cardinals dynamic team-character largely outweighed its talent en route to winning the World Series last year.

The return pieces in the trade with Atlanta look favorable as well. You can read more about it here.

GEOVANY SOTO TRADED TO RANGERS 

In the ‘Lucky Dog’ trade of the day, Geovany Soto is changing his Cubbie blue for silver spurs. Good for him, good for the Cubs.

Soto couldn’t be in a better situation. Texas needed a quality back-up catcher and Soto is plenty good to fit the bill for a couple of months.

Despite not hitting worth a darn this season (.199/.284/.347), we know the potential is there for Soto to contribute offensively with Texas, not that the Rangers are in any need of offensive help.

But Soto’s greater value to the Rangers is his ability to call a good game and provide much needed relief down the stretch for his counter-part, Mike Napoli.

I’m happy Soto gets this opportunity to compete for a ring considering his career has basically trended downwards since his Rookie of the Year campaign in 2008.

This could very well be the last shot the 29-year-old gets, not just to play for a contender, but to remain in the majors before he hits himself out of the league.

Steve Clevenger and Welington Castillo, meanwhile, will fill out the Cubs catching corps nicely throughout the rest of the season.

It was time the Cubs moved on from the underachieving Soto, and time to find out whether Clevenger or Castillo should remain as part of the Cubs rebuilding plan.

WHAT TO EXPECT OF THE PLAYERS COMING IN RETURN

Not surprisingly, the return for Soto is minor league RHP Jacob Brigham. The 24-year-old is (5-5, 4.28 ERA) through 20 starts with Double-A Frisco.

You can read more about Brigham here.

With two trades the Cubs received three minor league hurlers. Knowing trades are never a sure thing, and neither Maholm, Johnson or Soto were of great trade value, my hope is for two of the three prospects to pan out.

It might only be one that finds his way to the Cubs 25-man roster, or none for that matter. But given the current state of the Cubs, these are calculated risks Team Theo needed to make.

Now that the ball’s rolling, it doesn’t appear the Cubs will stop here with player trades–nor should they.

The big fish of Dempster, Garza and Soriano are left to fry. And the best part is, today’s the deadline…no more waiting games.

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Paul Maholm Cubs Top Trade Piece

By bullpenbrian - July 29, 2012 - 9:30 am Leave a comment.

In early June I wrote a post saying the Cubs needed more from Paul Maholm. At the time he was (4-5) having gone winless over his last five starts and was struggling to get past the fifth inning.

It was unsettling for two reasons:

  • 1.) The Cubs simply needed more innings logged from its 30-year-old southpaw to reduce the stress on its subpar bullpen.
  • 2.) Maholm’s trade value was seemingly decreasing with each start.

Oh, how things have changed.

Maholm enters today’s game against St. Louis looking to win a career-best sixth consecutive start. He’s (5-0) over his last six outings (five starts, one brief relief appearance vs. Mets before the All Star break) with a dazzling 0.94 ERA.

He’s averaged nearly 8-innings pitched during the stretch and no more than one earned run allowed per outing. His trade value has risen from a blip on the radar to arguably the Cubs strongest trading chip before Tuesday non-waiver trade deadline.

DEMPSTER & GARZA TRADE VALUE THE GREAT UNKNOWN

The precarious case of Ryan Dempster’s refusal to approve a trade anywhere other than Los Angeles (for the time being) has deprived Team Theo of leverage in trade discussions. And it’s entirely possible Dempster may not be dealt at all.

Same can be said for Matt Garza who’s dealing with fluid buildup on his right triceps. Trading for Garza would be to buy “blindfolded,” according to one National League executive speaking to Yahoo! Sports Tim Brown on Friday morning.

This, of course, leaves Maholm as the prized trade piece on a Cubs roster On Sale from top to bottom.

WHO WANTS MAHOLM?

The Pirates and Royals were quickly tabbed as suitors for Maholm two weeks ago. But the list has obviously grown with Maholm pitching like Cy Young and Pittsburgh having already traded for lefty starter Wandy Rodriguez.

The Braves, Nationals and Orioles are still in the market for pitching help, and with Zack Greinke dealt to the Angels and Cole Hamels locked up long-term in Philadelphia, Maholm’s stock is steadily rising with the big-guns falling off the trade board.

The Dodgers, as Cubs fans well know, are also seeking another starter. What a weird turn of fate if Maholm–and not Dempster or Garza–ends up the Cub pitching in Dodger blue.

My gut feeling, however, is Maholm ends up in Atlanta. The fact the Cubs and Braves already came to terms for Dempster, despite the outcome, tells us the Cubs like what the Braves have to offer as far as talented pitching prospects and Atlanta is clearly ready to deal.

I never thought Paul Maholm would be the Cubs saving grace come July 31, but it’s unquestionably turned out that way considering every attempt at rebuilding through the trades of Dempster & Garza has been futile for TheoJed to date. Indeed, how things have changed.

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Dempster On Damage Control

By bullpenbrian - July 26, 2012 - 7:37 am Leave a comment.

I get the sense there’s more to Ryan Dempster’s dugout tantrum than meets the eye.

Dempster says he was upset Dale Sveum pulled him after 6 innings and having allowed the go-ahead (and eventual game-winning) run to score during the Cubs 3-2 loss vs. Pittsburgh.

That seems reasonable. But what about what Dempster didn’t say?

It’s purely my speculation, but perhaps part of Dempster’s frustration taken out on the water cooler was the realization his final days wearing a Cubs uniform wasn’t turning out the way he envisioned.

It’s not ridiculous to think the drama of the past few days didn’t creep into Dempster’s head before, during or after his departure from Wednesday’s start, which is why I believe Dempster’s dugout tirade was fueled more from the unraveling of this past week than Sveum’s completely reasonable decision to pull his pitcher from the game.

Not only was Ryan coming off a tough loss against St. Louis, he was also dealing with the disappointment of not being traded to the Dodgers and then alienating a large portion of Cubs fans on Monday by exercising his 10-5 rights to refuse a trade to Atlanta–a team reportedly on Dempster’s approved teams to be dealt list.

Meanwhile, Dempster’s continued indecision approving a trade anywhere other than Los Angeles has only further ruffled feathers leading up to his recent start. The pressure was mounting, Sveum merely lifted the lid.

ARE THE DODGERS STILL AN OPTION? 

The Dodgers, who staunchly refused to come off its top pitching prospects in trade negotiations for Demspter last week, will now barter with Chicago knowing Theo & Jed have virtually zero leverage in peddling the 35-year-old rental.

It obviously posses a high-hurdle for the Cubs front office who now find themselves in a precarious spot: trade Dempster to the Dodgers for donuts, or risk playing chicken with the man who could toe the July 31 trade deadline still undecided about joining the Braves, or anyone else for that matter?

IS THIS WHAT DEMPSTER REALLY WANTED?

Say what you will about Demps, but the man’s no dummy. I’m certain he’s well attuned to his potential options, the ticking trade clock, and the volatile backlash from Cubs fans.

There’s simply no believing this is how Dempster wanted his Cubs farewell to play out–muddied up on Twitter and stealing the spotlight of baseball’s biggest trade rumors. But that perfect farewell, as Paul Sullivan of the Tribune alluded to, seems to have already come and gone.

For me that perfect ending came when Dempster tossed six shutout innings against the Diamondbacks on Saturday July 14 at Wrigley Field when he not only extended his consecutive scoreless innings streak to 33.0, but also retained the major’s best ERA and had won his fifth straight outing.

It presented the optimal chance for Team Theo to deal Dempster, his trade value was likely never to be higher, and what better sendoff could Dempster really expect?

Lord only knows if Dempster will depart Chicago via trade at this point. I sure as heck have given up making such predictions. But whether he stays, or he goes, it’s very possible Dempster can never recover from his fallout with Cubs fans after this week.

DEMPSTER’S DAMAGE CONTROL 

I see three scenarios that could cure the Dempster hurt once and for all.

  • 1.) Dempster throws a complete game shutout against the Pirates at Wrigley Field on Monday and then happily tells TheoJed he’ll approve any deal to the bust suitor for the Cubs.
  • 2.) The Dodgers agree to trade one of its top pitching prospects in return for Dempster sparking a no harm, no foul reaction from Cubs fans.
  • 3.) The Braves reconsider trading for Dempster and agree, at least in part, to the original framework of the trade that included highly regarded pitching prospect Randall Delgado.

We could stretch our imaginations to come up with a fourth scenario, but why waste our time? The way things are developing it’s probably more likely to happen than the first three.

Whatever the case may be, I’m still hopeful this maddening situation ends the way I expected it to days ago–a win for Dempster and for the Cubs.

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Should Cubs Trade Bryan LaHair?

By bullpenbrian - July 25, 2012 - 2:45 am 2 comments.

The Baltimore Orioles have made preliminary trade calls on Bryan LaHair according to Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun.

The Cubs would seem inclined to trade LaHair given he’s looked the furthest thing from an All Star hitter since early June.

Although LaHair quickly squashed the notion he wouldn’t hit at the major league level the way he did in the Pacific Coast League, he’s just as quickly failed to prove he can produce consistently over the course of a marathon 162-game schedule.

Consider the following: since June 1 LaHair’s average has dipped 35-points, his OBP is down 44-points, and he hasn’t homered over his last 38 at-bats (July 4).

Furthermore, LaHair has but 10 RBI vs. 47 strikeouts during his last 40 games while continuing to struggle against LHP (.070)–3-for-33, 1 HR, 1 RBI & 26 Ks.

Matt Garza, for heaven’s sake, has two hits against southpaws for a .125 average, and Anthony Rizzo is 7-for-33 against lefties.

MAKING THE ADJUSTMENTS

It’s obvious opposing pitchers have made the necessary adjustments against LaHair since his blazing hot start to the season.

But it begs the question if LaHair is able to make his own adjustments to get back on track?

LaHair, as we know him, has been a late bloomer, which his tenuous minor league career suggest. So it’s not inconceivable to think he could bounce back and finish the year strong given the opportunity.

“Most scouts believe Bryan LaHair has legitimate late-blooming power like Nelson Cruz and Jose Bautista, according to Jim Bowden of ESPN.”

This, however, poses two problems.

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Theo Epstein’s Silence Speaks Volumes For Cubs

By bullpenbrian - July 24, 2012 - 7:01 pm Leave a comment.

The conceivable fallout of the Ryan Dempster trade is a reminder why Theo Epstein prefers to play Cubs business close to the vest.

Since joining the Cubs, Epstein has instilled an identical bunker-mentality he used to combat the obsessive and baseball crazed market that is Boston.

He says very little, if anything, and let’s his actions do the talking for him. Jed Hoyer, same thing, and so on for the rest of the Cubs front office.

The Cubs firewall has become a sore spot with some local beat writers and reporters who rely on communication with the front office to report stories of substance, and most importantly, credibility, to their readers.

What Epstein’s approach hasn’t done, however, is jeopardized a potential trade the likes of Dempster who’s smarting over the fact ‘sources’ in Atlanta (not Chicago) leaked the framework of a potential trade for the 35-year-old yesterday morning.

The Cubs, of course, are not to be at fault for Dempster’s uneasiness with approving the trade. Team Theo, as I see it, are only guilty of working a deal–and a darn good one at that–to trade Dempster to a team Ryan agreed to be traded to, no less.

But the damage has been done, whether Dempster accepts the deal to Atlanta or not. What little information the Cubs front office has provided the media this season is likely to become a dead-end street, at least until the trade speculation passes in favor of September call-ups. There’s simply too much at risk between now and the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline to let either speculative or pending information slip outside the walls of the Cubs front office.

The Dempster drama is an unfortunate spot for all parties: Atlanta, Chicago & Dempster. No side is truly at fault, Atlanta certainly didn’t want the deal to fall through and Dempster has fairly earned the right to nix any deal. But as Len Kasper notably pointed out during Monday’s broadcast “It’s the world we live in.”

What’s transpired around the Dempster trade speculation should serve as an embarrassing reminder to both the media and baseball’s organizations that communication is best when it’s a two-way street.

When it’s not, inaccurate stories leak, players get angry and trades collapse. None of which is good for baseball, the media or the fans.

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Why Braves Need Ryan Dempster

By bullpenbrian - July 24, 2012 - 4:46 am Leave a comment.

The Cubs & Braves await the approval of Ryan Dempster to complete a trade that sends top-pitching prospect Randall Delgado to Chicago in exchange for the 35-yr-old right-hander, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

It’s no lock Dempster will approve the deal, as we found out Monday, and is listed as a 50-50 chance by Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.

I’m fully aware I’m putting the cart before the horse, but let’s take a look at how Dempster could greatly improve Atlanta’s rotation, assuming he approves the trade.

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Dempster Trade on Hold, Garza On Deck

By bullpenbrian - July 23, 2012 - 4:05 pm Leave a comment.

Now this…Dempster Tweets trade to Braves not a done deal, yet. What a headache.

Finally, yes, FINALLY…we have a real Cubs trade to talk about!

WAITING GAME – IF DEAL GOES THROUGH CONTINUE BELOW

Ryan Dempster to the Braves for 22-yr-old RHP Randall Delgado. Nice!

Good deal for Dempster. He rejoins the pennant race on a team hungry to reach October.

Atlanta is playing with urgency. It’s Chipper’s last year and these guys won’t want to repeat the disappointment of last season’s historical September collapse.

The Braves (52-43) trail NL East leading Washington by 3.5 games, but currently hold one of the two NL Wild Card spots.

I couldn’t be happier for Dempster. He’s a winning player who deserves a winning team. This might be his last shot at a ring, not to mention, the city of Atlanta will love Dempster’s southern gentlemanly qualities.

I’ll take a look at how Dempster fits into the Braves rotation a bit later.

GARZA A DODGER BY DAY’S END?

Meanwhile, the Dodgers remain interested in acquiring Matt Garza. The Cubs reportedly want the highly-regarded pitching prospect Zach Lee in return.

It appears any deal will include a package of players being swapped both ways.

Pitchers are headlining the trade reports, but make no mistake, Los Angeles is starved for run producers. My guess says the hold-up is position players being squabbled over.

July 19: Los Angeles ranks 14/16 in runs scored in the National League. They’ve played the most one-runs games in the majors this season (36) and are certain to fall out of the race unless they find offensive help, particularly at first base where James Loney is batting a paltry .245 with 2 HR, 25 RBI.

Bryan LaHair and Darwin Barney could be potential fits in LA, which desperately needs offensive upgrades at first base and shortstop.

Dempster was long expected to be the first Cubs trade domino to fall. A Garza deal could come to fruition by the end of the day. More trades are sure to follow.

At last, the best part of rebuilding is underway. Staying tuned…

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Cubs Taking Offers And Risks On Ryan Dempster

By bullpenbrian - July 21, 2012 - 3:00 pm Leave a comment.

It feels like the Dodgers called the Cubs bluff on Friday.

Seemingly unwilling to come off the pitching prospects Team Theo wanted in return for Ryan Dempster, Los Angeles stood firm and didn’t budge.

By most reports it’s evident Dempster’s first choice is to join LA, and with the two clubs swapping offer sheets, it’s clear the Dodgers have what the Cubs want–young, talented pitching prospects.

Apparently, neither side wanted it enough to make a deal happen, and the Dodgers are now reportedly out of the hunt for Dempster.

What I don’t understand, however, is why the Cubs let Dempster toe the rubber in St. Louis last night?

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