Hugs All Around As Maholm, Johnson, and Soto Are Traded


For much of the past two weeks, the Chicago Cubs have been criticized by their fan-base for the lack trade activity. The belief was always that the team would move starting pitcher Ryan Dempster first, and then that would create a spiral of Cubs moves that improves the team’s pitching depth in the farm system. As we head into the final hours before the non-waiver trade deadline, Dempster remains a Cub. However, the chances are very likely that the veteran starting pitcher will be traded before 3 PM on Tuesday.

But, the Cubs did not let their inability to trade Dempster interfere with the other trades that they had lined. During the Cubs victory against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday, Reed Johnson was lifted from the game and then see gathering hugs and handshakes from his teammates in the dugout. Johnson, referred to most around baseball as “Charlie Hustle” was traded along with starting pitcher Paul Maholm to the Atlanta Braves for two minor league pitchers.

No, the Cubs did not receive Randall Delgado from the Braves but the team did acquire Arodys Vizcaino and Jaye Chapman from the Braves. Vizcaino was the centerpiece of the deal for the Cubs. Vizcaino entered the 2011 season as being one of the top four pitching prospects in the Braves system, though injuries and Tommy John surgery in the Spring have taken away from Vizcaino’s potential. Meanwhile, Chapman was drafted in the 16th round of the the 2005 first year player draft. Chapman was with the Braves in Spring Training, but reports had him looking overmatched. Chapman, who projects as a late-inning reliever, has an ERA of 3.52 in 40 appearances with the Braves triple-A affiliate this season. Vizcaino was ranked as the 40th prospects in all of baseball prior to the 2012 season, but missing the 2012 season due to his surgery will likely impact his ranking. As of this point it is unclear if the Cubs project Vizcaino as a starting pitcher or a relief pitcher, though most scouts consider Vizcaino to be a potential power closer in the future.

There is some to confusion as to who will take Reed Johnson’s spot on the 25 man roster. Top outfielder prospect Brett Jackson was pulled from the Iowa Cubs’ game on Monday night, and it remains unclear whether it was because he is being promoted to the Major League level or is a part of a trade. It has also been reported that Dave Sappelt will be getting the called up to the Cubs. Sappelt is the outfielder the Cubs acquired as part of a package from the Cincinatti Reds. The only way Jackson is promoted is if the Cubs trade one of their starting outfielders. Trade discussions around left fielder Alfonso Soriano have heated up over the past 24 hours, so it is possible that the Cubs have something in the works on that front. If that were the case, Jackson would take Soriano’s spot and Sappelt would take Johnson’s spot. If Soriano is not traded, then it would seem that Sappelt will be the only outfielder to be promoted from Iowa. Casey Coleman, on the other hand, will take Maholm’s spot in the starting rotation.

That was not the only trade that the Cubs made on Monday. In a trade that will be announced on Tuesday, the Cubs have sent starting catcher Geovany Soto to the Texas Rangers for minor league pitcher Jacob Brigham. The writing has been on the wall for Soto over the course of the past two seasons that he was no longer in the Cubs long-term plans. In fact, the Cubs had a deal in place with the Pittsburgh Pirates last season that included Soto before former general manager Jim Hendry backed out at the last second. Welington Castillo and Steve Clevenger will likely split time as the starting catcher for the Cubs during the final two months of the season.

Meanwhile, Brigham was drafted by the Rangers in the sixth round of the 2006 first year player draft. Brigham has yet to pitch beyond the double A level with the Rangers, this season, Brigham has posted an ERA of 4.28 in 21 starts for the Rangers’ double A affiliate. Brigham is more than what most expected the Cubs the get for Soto. If not a back-end starting pitcher, Brigham projects as a middle reliever for a Major League team.

What a rush! Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have proved that they do indeed know what they are doing. They acquired three talented pitching prospects in Vizcaino, Chapman, and Brigham with Vizcaino being high risk, high reward type of player. But, do not think that the Cubs front office is done. Ryan Dempster will almost surely be traded on Tuesday, and the same can probably be said about Matt Garza as well. Even Alfonso Soriano is looking like a true candidate on Tuesday. Get your popcorn ready, because Tuesday is certainly going to be a show.