Speeding Up the Rebuild Through Trades

For the past couple of years, the Cubs have been all about acquiring talent to bolster their farm system. With prospects like Javier Baez, Mike Olt, Kris Bryant, Arismendy Alcantara, Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta and Junior Lake likely playing roles on the big league roster during the upcoming season, this year figures to be one of transition for the team. Once the core is established, it will be time for the front office to start trading from the farm system to acquire some Major League ready pieces to help accelerate the team’s rebuilding phase. Let’s take a look at some trades Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have made in the past.

Theo Epstein – Boston Red Sox
  • Traded with: Arizona Diamondbacks – November 28, 2003
  • Sent: LHP Casey Fossum, RHP Brandon Lyon, LHP Jorge De La Rosa
  • Received: Curt Schilling

We start with this trade because it sums up the direction that the Cubs will need to go in to add a top arm to a system that has some interesting names, but nothing (at the moment) that wows you. Epstein turned two intriguing young pitchers and a solid bullpen arm into a 36-year old pitcher coming off recent all-star seasons to pair with Pedro Martinez. As with any trade, you have to wait a few years to find out the impact and this one turned out to be a steal. Former top prospect Fossum never was able to live up to his promise and bounced around to a number of teams, finally retiring in 2009. Lyon who signed with the team as a free agent the year prior has made a nice living as a middle bullpen arm pitching to 4.16 career ERA over 12 seasons. De La Rosa had a rough start to his Major League career always having the stuff but never the results, but finally put it together the past couple of season for the Rockies. As we know trades are all about risks, but the bet paid off and the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 and 2007 and compiled winning records in the four seasons Schilling pitched for them. He compiled a 17.8 WAR, 53-29 record and 3.99 ERA in the regular season and a 6-1 record and 3.28 ERA in the postseason when it counted.

Jed Hoyer – Boston Red Sox
  • Traded with: Florida Marlins – November 24, 2005
  • Sent: RHP Jesus Delgado, RHP Harvey Garcia, RHP Anibal Sanchez, SS Hanley Ramirez
  • Received: RHP Josh Beckett, 3B Mike Lowell, RHP Guillermo Mota

Granted, the Red Sox had won a World Series in 2004, the team was in a much different place than the Cubs are now. The reason to look at this trade is that it shows that Hoyer is willing to give up a lot to make a team better. Hoyer made the trade in Epstein’s place as he was in the midst of a contract dispute. Ramirez was ranked as high as the #10 prospect by Baseball America and lived up to that billing in spades becoming one of the top shortstops in all of baseball the past few seasons. Shortstop has also been a position that the Red Sox haven’t really been able to fill since. Sanchez was a top 10 prospect for the Red Sox at the time and has been somewhat inconsistent in his career, but has really turned it on the past couple of years with the Tigers. Garcia and Delgado ended up being throw-ins as Delgado hurt his arm and never recovered and Garcia managed to pitch just 12.1 innings in the majors. On the Red Sox side, Josh Beckett won 20 games in 2007 enroute to the Red Sox second World Series championship in three years as well as compiling an 89-58 record with a 4.17 ERA and a 8.0 K/9 in his career with the team. Lowell filled a hole at third and in the middle of the lineup and hit .290/.346/.468 in five seasons. Mota did not throw a pitch for the team and was instead flipped three months later to the Indians with others for C Josh Bard, OF Coco Crisp and RHP David Riske. It’s hard to believe, this trade is almost a push, but it can be argued that the Red Sox may have been just as successful with Ramirez slugging in the lineup and Sanchez pitching as Beckett and Lowell were.

Theo Epstein – Boston Red Sox
  • Traded with: Cleveland Indians – July 31, 2009
  • Sent: RHP Bryan Price, LHP Nick Hagadone, RHP Justin Masterson
  • Received: C Victor Martinez

As we’ve seen with the Matt Garza deal the Cubs made last season, teams can be desperate at the deadline when a potential championship on the line and Epstein was no different giving up three young pitchers for a middle of the order bat. Martinez played a season and half for the Sox and put up nice numbers with a slash line of .313/.368/.497 with 28 home runs and 120 RBI, but it didn’t move the needle much as the Red Sox were swept in the ALDS in 2009 and failed to make the playoffs the next year. Price and Hagadone have shown good stuff in the minors, but haven’t really made the impact that Justin Masterson has for Cleveland. Masterson is one of the better young arms in the AL and arrived last season with 195 strikeouts, three shutouts and a 3.45 ERA. Although the Red Sox boast impressive starting pitching depth, he would look great on a staff with Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz.

Theo Epstein – Boston Red Sox
  • Traded with: San Diego Padres – December 6, 2010
  • Sent: OF Eric Patterson, OF Reymond Fuentes, RHP Casey Kelly, 1B Anthony Rizzo
  • Received: 1B Adrian Gonzalez

This trade is a unique one as Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer ended up trading with each other to get this deal done. Being familiar with the system, Hoyer tried to make the best of a bad situation that saw San Diego without the money to sign Gonzalez long term. Epstein jumped at the opportunity to get one of the game’s premier sluggers and gave up some quality young players in return. Gonzalez only lasted a season in a half with the team and was shipped out in a salary dump trade with the Dodgers. Nevertheless, Gonzalez was a solid bat who never hit below .300. At the time, Kelly was deemed an untouchable asset in the Red Sox system and was the headline prospect in this deal. Unfortunately, Kelly underwent Tommy John surgery last season, but is still considered a top five prospect in the Padres’ system. Fuentes, a speedy outfielder has also yet to make it to the big leagues, but profiles to be a fourth outfielder if he ever does. Rizzo was a slugging prospect and Gonzalez’s likely replacement, but he struggled during a call-up and was also shipped out. This trade is still to be determined depending on how the Padres’ return fares in the majors, but it could turn out to be a win.

Jed Hoyer – Chicago Cubs
  • Traded with: San Diego Padres, January 6, 2012
  • Sent: RHP Andrew Cashner, OF Kyung Min-Na
  • Received: 1B Anthony Rizzo, RHP Zach Cates

I included this trade because it stands to be a defining one for the organization. Hoyer went to his former team and traded one of the Cubs’ few young players for one of theirs. Cashner was an exciting young arm for a pitching starved organization, but had frustrated fans and team brass alike with his inability to stay healthy. By the same token, Rizzo had done the same for the Padres as he put up great numbers in the minors, but flopped on his face in his first call to the majors. Both guys had questions and therefore made the perfect trade. Since then, Cashner has still struggled to stay healthy, but produced a 10-9 season with a 3.09 ERA, and 128 strikeouts in 175 innings last year. Rizzo similarly struggled through last season showing an early penchant for not being able to hit lefties, but he still managed 23 home runs and 80 RBI for an awful team last season and has shown the ability to hit better in the past. Whichever player makes the greatest leap this season may determine who was the winner in this trade, but right now it seems like a wash.

As you can see from the above trades, Epstein and Hoyer are not afraid to trade young players for established ones. Although each trade showed varying results, it can be argued that Epstein and Hoyer did what they thought were best for the team and were willing to give up top guys to get the best possible return. With the Cubs still building up their farm system, it’s likely that many of the young guys we hear about and are excited to see at the Major League level could find themselves like Hanley Ramirez and shipped out for the best established talent available. If that’s the case, it stands to be an exciting couple seasons as Cubs fans moving forward.

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