In our last couple of articles we went over the two big trade chips for the Cubs this season, Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. These two have been dominating the trade rumors for the team, but sneaking into the picture are James Russell and Wesley Wright. The two left-handed relievers could prove valuable to a contending team in need of a reliever with their ability to get same handed hitters out. Either has the potential to be dealt and is almost interchangeable as both are under team control until 2016. Their numbers are also similar as both hold a 0-1 record, but James Russell sports a 2.33 ERA with 17 strikeouts in 19.1 IP and Wesley Wright has a 2.57 ERA with 16 strikeouts in 21 IP. The only difference between the two is that Russell has been a little more effective this season against righties. Whichever choice teams go after there are two kinds of deals to be made for either player. They could be stand-alone deals or they could be throw-ins with a bigger trade to gain more value. Let’s look at some deals to see what kind of return we can expect.
In order to get a good gauge of the market for left handers this season, we will look at the only trade of its kind made this season that sent Troy Patton of the Orioles to the Padres for Nick Hundley. Patton struggled early for the Orioles and lost his place in the bullpen. The Orioles also lost starting catcher Matt Wieters to injury and needed a replacement, so the deal made sense on both sides. Patton had been reliable in the past (although now injured) and is under team control until 2017 while Hundley’s star had fallen with the Padres and was going to be a free agent at the end of the season. Essentially both squads attempted to fill holes with players who were in the same boat and out of options. Neither Wright or Russell are in this situation, but the hope is the Cubs can get back a player of similar value who has some team control and is a spare part that can be helpful.
Two other good examples of trades both involve Marc Rzepczynski, but show two different outcomes. In the first deal Rzepczynski was sent to the Indians from the Cardinals for minor league infielder Juan Herrera. Rzepczynski had struggled some at the Major League level last season, but held a career .224 average against lefties. Herrera was not among Cleveland’s top 30 prospects, but has managed to hit .281 in A-ball for the Cardinals this season. This kind of trade is more likely where the Cubs will pick up an intriguing young player who is not close to the majors, but adds depth to the farm system.
The other example involved Rzepczynski that sent him, fellow reliever Octavio Dotel, starter Edwin Jackson and outfielder Corey Patterson from the Blue Jays to the Cardinals for outfielder Colby Rasmus, relievers Trever Miller and Brian Tallet and starter P.J. Walters. The deal gave the Cardinals a solid starter, some stability to their bullpen and some depth to their bench, while the Blue Jays received an up and coming bat and some replacements for their bullpen. In this deal, Rzepczynski was essentially traded for Trever Miller who at 38 didn’t have a lot left in the tank, so the Cardinals gained a younger, fresher arm in Rzepczynski. Generally, giving up a 38-year old for a 25-year old with some control is not a fair trade, but when you give up a headlining piece like Rasmus with five-tool potential, you can get away with a throw in pitcher like Rzepczynski. With that being said, if Wright and Russell are to be included in a multi-player deal involving Jeff Samardzija, its likely to sweeten the pot to get back a young controllable player with a ton of talent that a team might not consider with just Samardzija involved.
In either instance, Russell and Wright don’t have a lot of value by themselves. They are not elite set up relievers, but rather effective ones that can give a team more balance. Thanks to an emerging group of younger relievers in more prominent roles, it makes some sense for the Cubs to trade one of them for perhaps a player of equal value that can contribute offensively on the bench, for a minor leaguer with some flaws, but some potential or as a throw in to raise the value in a larger deal. But because both have been helpful to a pretty stellar bullpen this season, it also might make sense to hold onto both. It will really all depend on what a team will be willing to give up around the deadline for two of the best lefty relievers on the market.