The Cubs transaction news continues to come flying in. Starting pitcher Scott Feldman has been dealt to the Baltimore Orioles for a pair of pitchers and international bonus pool money. The trade represents a pair of firsts, with the swap representing the first major deal of the July trade season, as well as the involvement of pool money as part of the trade being the first in MLB history. Included in the deal is Maryland native Steve Clevenger. In return the Cubs get right hander Jake Arrieta and reliever Pedro Strop.
Cubs fans are well familiar with Feldman as being a trade candidate by now. After being signed to a one year deal this past off season, Feldman shook off a poor Spring and a slow start in April before turning his season around to the point of being in consideration as the Cubs representative for the 2013 All Star game. The right hander featured a 3.46 ERA with a 6.6 strikeout per nine innings ratio in 91 innings of work so far this season. Feldman’s 7-6 record is misleading as he had several quality starts for the sub .500 Cubs.
The inclusion of Clevenger is interesting, as current back up catcher Dioner Navarro is only signed to a one year deal. Navarro has been playing well enough himself to be considered a trade candidate in my book, with his former team the Reds as a possible fit for his services. Clevenger had been neck and neck with Welington Castillo to start the 2012 season and had made the team as a third catcher before an oblique injury put him on the 60 day DL. While many Cubbies Crib readers had him pegged as the next Koyie Hill, Clevenger did show the ability to hit in the minor leagues unlike Hill. With the ability to hit from both sides of the plate, Clevenger would have been a reasonable and affordable back up back stop option behind Castillo. The trade of Clevenger also signals that the Cubs are confident that Castillo is the man going forward. The young catcher has shown the ability to hit while gaining game calling experience with each passing day to compliment his canon of an arm.
The Cubs appear to be getting back a pair of project arms as opposed to top prospects for Feldman. Arrieta is a former Top 100 Baseball America prospect that has a power arm that has maxed out at 95 mph, but like many power pitchers he has struggled with his control. Arrieta made the Orioles starting rotation out of Spring Training but was sent down before the end of April. On a non contender like the Cubs, the right hander figures to get a chance to iron the control issues out without the pressures of being in a playoff chase. Here is hoping Arrieta turns things around the way Travis Wood did when Theo Epstein and Company acquired the lefty from the Reds over a year ago.
Strop will immediately join the Cubs struggling bullpen. With a 7.25 ERA with six walks per nine innings over 22 1/3 innings so far this season with the Orioles, he seems to fit right in with the current North Side pen. Strop is another power arm with a fastball clocked at 96 mph. Fortunately for Strop, he will get a clean slate with the Cubs and trades the deeply competitive AL East for the top heavy NL Central.
The pool money being received by the Cubs figures to boost their budget by $388,100 according to MLB Trade Rumors. Epstein was known to have maximized international signing with the Red Sox prior to the new collective bargaining agreement that brought on the spending limits, and he is now working with Jed Hoyer to pull together as much funds as possible via trade.