Trade season in baseball is a fickle hell-witch who takes no prisoners.
She feeds on the entrails of her victims, often leaving them defaced, deformed and loused – and those who can escape her vile wrath often emerge unscathed and often improved, but the Cubs have felt the full extent of her wrath in the last couple weeks.
Alright… I think I’ve been reading a few too many horror novels lately – lets get down to baseball.
In the weeks leading up to the deadline, the was no surprise that the Cubs would be listening to offers on all players, especially the likes of Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza who were both expected to haul in healthy returns for their services. Both pitchers have been effective this season (Dempster especially) and could easily command a high return price in prospects.
Prospects being the prime focus for the Cubs in their rebuilding process, they’ve done an excellent job ironing out some of their soft spots. Outfielding and pitching were a concern when Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer took over the reins of this team and have since done everything in their power to patch up the holes either through trade acquisition or strategic Rule 4 draft picks.
Things looked good for the Cubs as the deadline drew near. They had valuable players performing at a high level and the market for starting pitching around the league has been hot. Guys like Zack Greinke and Cole Hamels were sure to inflate the market creating almost perfect economic conditions for the Cubs to obtain a maximum return for their 1 and 2 starters.
Theo and Jed were drooling over this, I’m certain. This drooling has now turned to an urgent leap for a bib.
With Ryan Dempster exercising is 10-5 rights to finalize a trade at his whim and Matt Garza injured and unlikely to start before the trade deadline, it seems pretty official that Garza is now untradable due to stagnation and Dempster will be moved for pennies on the dollar, if at all.
As far as worst possible situations go, this ranks up there with the collapse of the Roman Empire and the Mongolian invation of…. well, everyone in the 1200′s.
But not all is bleak for the Cubs: bring in LHP Paul Maholm. Maholm has been silent but devastatingly effective all season long posting a 9-6 record to date and a 3.88 ERA. He’s on pace to hit 200 IP for the Cubs this season, making him a real work horse without too many ups and downs in his play. Throw in a respectable 1.24 WHIP, 76 Ks, 3.96 RA9 (Runs Allowed/9 IP: similar to ERA but includes unearned runs) surrendering only 30 BBs and 12 HRs in 2012, and you’ve got yourself a very dangerous 3-5 position rotation starter on your hands.
While his 2012 numbers are solid, Maholm seems to be the real deal. His three career shut outs (07, 10, 11) and 5 career complete games (2 in 07, 08, 10, 11) show that he can go the distance and hit his spots consistently over 9 innings. His naturally aggressive pitch approach compliment his offspeed skills beautifully as he often gets batters to ground out.
Maholm seems to be very happy to kick back and collect wins, and you never hear much showboating or smack talking coming from him. That attitude is highly sought after in the MLB.
Sure, he’s good for a middle of the rotation type of starter, but what makes the 6 foot 2 inch, 220 lbs Maholm so tradable? The answer always comes down to cash.
Considering effective he is, Maholm can be had on the cheap. Acquired by the Cubs during free agency last winter, he’ll collect $4.75 million this season before heading to arbitration for the 4th time in his career in 2013. The Cubs have a $6.5 million option on him in 2013 which if he is not traded, I can see them accepting and having him return to Wrigley for another season of work. What makes Maholm so easy to shop around is his short, relatively light contract as the Cubs have very little invested in him for long term plans.
The only hurdles the Cubs may need to leap over to get a deal done is that he would rank fairly high on a lot of team’s payrolls, already being the 6th highest paid player on the Cubs (the Cubs have oodles of money so this is of little concern to them) and his mediocre 0.8 WAR. In a system that does not boast too many solid pitching prospects, a 0.8 WAR is far from impressive.
Maholm’s game is consistency, not balls to the walls pitching. He’s gone 6+ innings strong in 7 of his last 10 starts, going 5-2 with a 2.97 ERA in that span. He shows very few quirks in his game having a OAVG of .311 vs LHB and a OAVG of .243 vs RHB.
Did I mention he’s a lefty?
Maholm could easily command 2 low/mid level pitching prospects with high ceilings for his services and I’m certain teams have been taking note of his dominant outings as of late. The Cubs would be more than happy to gain 2 prospects and cut payroll at the same time.
While Maholm’s services would be missed in Chicago (having earned 23% of the Cubs’ wins) he is purely a rental player who has put on a gorgeous display of pitching for the Cubs this season. He’s done his job having won games, and can now be moved for a healthy return from other teams.
Whether he stays in Chicago or not, he’s easily the most stable trade piece the Cubs posses and will earn a pat on the back from the Cubs players and brass alike.
Want more? You can always follow me on twitter @Denny_CubsCrib for Cubs analysis, news, humor and updates.