Cubs’ fans need to take a deep breath and realize the team did the right thing at the non-waiver deadline
There’s a certain perception among Chicago Cubs’ fans that by not getting a Cole Hamels, David Price or Tyson Ross that they don’t really care about winning this season and that the talk of “resources being available” was a lie. If you’re one of those fans, I have bad news. You’re wrong on both accounts. The media can spin the deadline deals either way. That the Cubs were inactive and “losers” at the deadline, or that they stuck with the plan and didn’t do anything they shouldn’t have. The latter would be correct.
To get Dan Haren from the Miami Marlins, the Cubs gave up two prospects that, outside of die-hard fans and baseball people–probably didn’t have a clue who they were. And the Marlins sent back cash considerations on top of that. While the cries of many were for another ace in the rotation, the Cubs did indeed improve the rotation without sacrificing top prospects, taking on a large contract or simply renting a player for a few months at a ridiculous cost.
Although six years removed from his last All-Star campaign, Haren has still provided consistency as a reliable starter. He’s started at least 30 games every season since 2005, eclipsing 200 innings pitched seven times. In recent years, it’s down a bit. But he’s a 13-year veteran, he isn’t going to pitch as many innings as he once did. And although it’s been a while since he pitched in the postseason, he’s another guy that has been there and knows what it takes. With this young Cubs team, every bit of that will help.
In acquiring Tommy Hunter from the Baltimore Orioles, the Cubs were able to make a one-on-one swap for Junior Lake. I like Lake, I always have. And while he has the tools, the change of scenery will be the best thing that could happen. He struggled to catch on in Chicago, and right now there really isn’t a place for him–as I would envision Arismendy Alcantara to be the “next man up” in the outfield.
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Hunter was once a starter, going 13-4 in 2010 with the Texas Rangers. After a few seasons of failing to repeat that success, the Orioles moved him to the bullpen in 2012. Since 2013 as strictly a reliever, Hunter has posted a 3.05 ERA in 191 2/3 innings. He’s saved 15 games, but in that time has also blown nine, so he’ll fill in as a “replacement” for Neil Ramirez who is returning to the DL with an oblique issue. After being slowly worked back in after shoulder issues, the oblique setback is disappointing for a guy who many expected to be a big part of this bullpen.
Hunter is a guy who hasn’t made an All-Star team, led the league in any statistical categories or made his name well-known. The thing is, outside of the starters and the closers, if you don’t hear much about the middle guys in the bullpen, that’s a good thing. It means they’re doing their job and that’s all you ask.
The objective at the trade deadline is to make your team better or to help build it to be better in the future. For once the Cubs were buyers, and what moves they did make indeed should improve this team. But by not making the “blockbuster” move that so many wanted to see they kept the farm system intact, and the checkbook will still be ready to go this winter. They improved for the “now”, while still protecting for the future.
Fighting for the second Wild Card spot is not the time to “go big”. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer will eventually make everyone happy with a big signing or trade. But until then, like Joe Maddon has alluded to, this team has so much more in the tank. Several players have underperformed and it’s made people call for the Cubs to add more–when in reality they need what they have to do what’s expected.