WARR baseball writer Kevin Luchansky writes about the Cubs and the White Sox weekly for WARR.com.
Check out Kevin’s daily baseball betting picks on NorthSideWire.
News first broke last night that the Chicago Cubs were sending Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to Oakland for Addison Russell, right-hander Dan Straily, Billy McKinney and perhaps a player-to-be-named-later, that news has become fact over the course of Saturday.
Outside of the maybe unprecedented pitching duo being shifted from Chicago to Oakland, Russell is the star name here and this trade is, without a doubt, the biggest move baseball has seen since Prince Fielder and Ian Kinsler traded places in Detroit and Texas this past offseason. Russell, a 20 year old shortstop, isn’t just the Oakland A’s top prospect, he’s one of the top 15 prospects in all of baseball and he becomes the fourth player in the Cub farm system who ranks in the top 20.
There’s no doubt the Cubs starting rotation will look a lot weaker and should suffer a bit performance wise moving forward (how about 13-0 bad?), but overall I really like the move. The team isn’t going to contend this year, so why wouldn’t it make sense to get the absolute max value out of two pitchers pitching the best they have in their entire careers? Timing-wise, it couldn’t have been executed more perfectly by the Cubs front office, for a few reasons.
First, both Samardzija and Hammel have sharp resumes this season — so sharp in fact that I think both will regress a bit for the rest of the season, even if that’s only because they’ve been pitching so much above their typical performance/peak levels. Wait a few more weeks and you leave open the chance that one or both of those pitchers suffer a few bad starts in a row, and suddenly their value drops.
Second, getting the trade done ahead of deadline time and the All-Star games allowed Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein to dictate the market price of their pitchers, and not the other way around. The prospect return from Oakland was a significant one, especially when you consider McKinney is just 19 and already playing High-A ball. Russell isn’t the only one whose name you might hear the public address announcer introduce at Wrigley someday.
Third, the Cubs are getting one of the top prospects in baseball in Russell. What’s more important than that, though, if the fact that Chicago is stock piling assets at the game’s most important and talent scarce position — shortstop. Common claims that shortstop is the game’s most important position and the most talent scarce are certainly arguable, but the minors seem to lack truly elite level shortstops at the moment, and its certainly one of the most important positions, if not the most important. Yes, the team does have perhaps one too many shortstops than they have room for eventually at the major league level, but I do believe in adding talented hitters and worrying about the positional details later.
Aside from the big news of the trade, I have to take a look at the week outfielder Justin Ruggiano is having. The former Marlin has two home runs and seven runs batted in over his past 18 plate appearances, that’s good for a .412 average and a ridiculous .882 slugging percentage. A great week, and what a welcome time for a reserve/fourth outfielder to step up big, as Nate Schierholtz and Ryan Sweeney have certainly been eye sores at the plate this season. Of course, I say this at a time when Schierholtz also had an above average week, but overall its been pretty pathetic for him. If Ruggiano continues to swing a hot bat, he’ll continually find his way into the lineup.
Three Cheers for Boston Sweep
Cub fans have long waited to hear it: the club finally swept an inter-league series on the road by taking three games at Boston this week, this is their first time accomplishing that feat since taking three from the White Sox in 2007.
No, its not winning the World Series, but it was still a lengthy drought nonetheless, and the wins came against the defending World Series champion Red Sox. This isn’t the same Red Sox team that pulled it all together last year, but it was an impressive sweep against a solid opponent and certainly something to build off of, especially for the offense. Anchored by a 16-9 victory to cap off the sweep, the team averaged over six runs and 10 hits a game at Fenway.
The team seemed to have carried that momentum into its big weekend series against the National League East division leader Washington Nationals, where they took the first contest 7-2 behind another big start from Hammel, but whatever forward movement that could be gained had to have been drained by the trade, the Cubs rotation is turned over and their two prohibitive stoppers are now on the West Coast.
If the Cubs hope to continue this momentum and not lose a bunch more games by a bakers’ dozen they’ll have to do so without their two best pitchers this season and with the also surprising Jake Arrieta as their first line of pitching defense. Jed, Theo and the front office made their fireworks last night, could any residual bang exist within the Cubs that are still around?