Cubs are making progress in rebuilding team
The White Sox did nothing on the day of MLB's trade deadline, but they'd already secured their place on the "Deadline Winners" lists in many columns and blogs.
Try as they might, the Cubs hadn't accomplished much of anything with 18 or so hours remaining before Tuesday's deadline. If nothing else, their new front office ultimately demonstrated that they can work on a tight deadline.
Last Monday, the Cubs had reportedly traded Ryan Dempster to the Braves for young hurler Randall Delgado. Dempster awoke from an afternoon nap to news of the trade being all over Twitter. He used his 10-and-5 rights to block it, drawing the wrath of many Cubs fans and leaving the Cubs scrambling to work out a deal with his preferred team, the Dodgers.
The rumors flew as the days leading up to the deadline passed. It initially seemed that Dempster was sure to wind up in Los Angeles. Then, as talks between the Cubs and Dodgers stalled, the word was that the Cubs would keep him, tender him a one-year contract in the offseason and cross their fingers he'd reject it and they'd get a draft pick.
What actually happened was a topsy-turvy Tuesday resulted in Dempster going to the Rangers, who were said to have no real interest in him several days ago. In return, they got a pair of Class A players. Third baseman Christian Villanueva, who Baseball Prospectus rated as the seventh-best prospect in the Rangers' system prior to the season, actually seems to be a decent prospect. Pitcher Kyle Hendricks does not, but you never know.
The haul was much more impressive, given what the Cubs gave up, in their Monday trade with the Braves — the one that Dempster didn't screw up. Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson were sent to Atlanta. In return, the Cubs received Arodys Vizcaino, whom Prospectus rated as the 62nd-best prospect in all of baseball in February. That was roughly two months before Vizcaino underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery, which certainly doesn't help his value, but in this day and age, it doesn't kill it either.
I've praised most of what the Cubs front office has done since Theo Epstein was hired last October. I love the direction they've taken. But with all of that praise, I've stressed that successful moves before and at the trading deadline would be key to their first year being a true success.
I think the Cubs did OK at the trading deadline. They didn't do great, but it wasn't a disaster. They didn't do as well as they would have had Dempster fetched Delgado — and while the leak of the trade to the media came from Atlanta's end, maybe the Cubs should've cleared the Braves with Dempster earlier in the process.
The Cubs didn't trade Matt Garza, and while it's not their fault he got hurt, they ran the risk of him getting hurt and/or his value dropping when they opted not to deal him earlier. They also failed to move Alfonso Soriano, though an August trade involving him is a very real possibility since he's a lock to clear waivers.
But the Cubs got excellent value on Maholm — who has pitched very well lately but is really a decent No. 4 starter and nothing more — and Garza. They didn't get much for Geovany Soto, but moving him opens a spot for Welington Castillo, whose future is significantly brighter. And they did a pretty good job of salvaging a difficult situation with Dempster.
You won't see the Cubs' latest acquisitions making an impact the way Williams' are for a contending White Sox team. Make no mistake about it — of Chicago's two leading baseball executives, Williams outshone Epstein for a change during these last few weeks, turning spare parts into a number of useful players. But the Cubs made further progress in their rebuild in the past couple of days. They're on pace for around a 70-win season, but this year is shaping up to be a very successful one for the Cubs.