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The Cubs don't did a trade
Congratulations, you are now the Rockies
The Cubs did make a couple of trades on deadline day, so it’s likely they remembered that today was the deadline, but after five years of refusing to negotiate a contract extension with the best catcher they’ve had since before World War II, they didn’t trade Willson Contreras.
The dumbest among us will now cape for the Cubs and claim that this means they’ll either sign him (they won’t) or that they’re doing it because they can give him the qualifying offer and get a compensation pick for him.
The problem with that is that they had all offseason (at least the post-lockout part of it) and all this season to get a package more valuable than a single draft pick in the late 30s, and they didn’t do it. Even with the steep historic curve of Cubs ineptitude this one grades way up there.
There will be a lot of speculation that the Cubs plans were foiled when the Padres stopped talking about a package of Willson and Happ and at least one of the relief pitchers, so they could make a much better trade for Juan Soto. But even if that is the case, how was there no plan b?
It is impossible to exaggerate just how bad it is that the Cubs let Willson get to the brink of free agency because they were just going to trade him. And they thought “why why would we bother to care about that?” Only to not be able to trade him. For the second straight season the Cubs had one of the top trade pieces at the deadline and what do they have to show for it?
Tiny little Nick Madrigal, Tommy John sufferer Codi Heuer and nothing. That’s it. If your goal is to rebuild or restock their roster, whatever semantic word choice du jour they are hung up on, turning Craig Kimbrel1 and Willson Contreras into an overmatched infielder, a middle reliever and a pick between the first and second rounds of next year’s draft should get everybody fired.
Contreras likes playing for the Cubs, so he’ll be fine the rest of the way, but he’ll be gone soon enough. The Cubs made up their minds long ago they didn’t want him long term. They haven’t talked to him about a contract extension since 2017. They aren’t just going to turn around and throw $180 million at him now.
As for Happ, it’s just a wasted opportunity. We’re all supposed to think of him as this dangerous switch hitter and all this defensive versatility. Defensive metrics over a half season are pretty meaningless, and Happ’s sudden surge in alleged defensive value sure seems like proof of that. He’s passable in left, he’s never been able to handle center and he was never anything but a prop at second base.
At his best (which, sadly is right now) he’s pretty good at a few things, but really good at none. I’m sure the Cubs valued him much more than other teams did, because shopping a corner outfielder with nine homers and a .436 slugging isn’t going to get you a haul in return. But when will his value ever be higher? His career has been one of bursts of competence followed by long stretches of bad. The Cubs got lucky and he served up four months of pretty good, and with the rest of this season and all of next under contract whatever they got offered for him today is more than they’ll ever get offered for him again. Congrats on doing absolutely nothing with that.
But hey, at least a guy who you can’t seriously have in your long term plans can take at bats away from younger players that you really need to evaluate in the big leagues these last two months.
We know the Cubs are not a well run team. If they were they would have released Jason Heyward two years ago, they wouldn’t have signed David Bote through two thousand twenty fucking five, and they wouldn’t be wasting DH at bats on Yan Gomes.
A real team would DFA guys who are in the way the rest of this season like Frank Schwindel, Rafael Ortega, Andrelton Simmons, and Bote and would give consistent at bats to Nelson Velazquez, Narciso Crook, Jackson Frazier, Matt Mervis and, oh why the the hell not, Zach McKinstry. But they won’t. And god forbid Heyward comes back this season to waste even more time.
They’ll go into the offseason without a good idea of whether any of those guys are actually any good, and they will have literally nothing to show for this entire season.
The two trades the Cubs did do today were reliever David Robertson to the Phillies for minor league pitcher Ben Brown, and reliever Mychal Givens to the Mets for minor league pitcher Saul Gonzalez.
So let’s look at these trades on our scientific scale of trade impact that goes from Kenny Lofton/E-ramis Ramirez (10 pts) all the way down to Matt Karchner/Felix Heredia (1 point).
David Robertson to the Phillies for Ben Brown
Trade grade: 6.6
Comp - 2009 Aaron Heilman to Arizona for Ryne White and Scott Maine
Heilman had been a surprisingly serviceable reliever for the awful 2009 Cubs and had postseason experience with the Mets, which apparently is what appealed to the D’bags who traded two players for him. One of them was Scott Maine, a sixth round draft pick who had posted a 2.90 ERA in two stops (AA and AAA) that year, and the Diamondbacks threw in Ryne White for good measure. White had been a fourth rounder out of baseball powerhouse Purdue just a year before.
Neither of them ended up being worth a damn for the Cubs.
Brown is a legit prospect who will slot somewhere in the top 12 of the Cubs perved up system. He’s a “projectable” righthanded starting pitcher. Yesterday when the Cubs traded Scott Effross to get a top Yankees prospect it looked like the Cubs had an actual plan. After today? Who the fuck knows?
Robertson returns to the Phillies, who paid him $23 million from 2017 to 2019 to pitch seven times and catch Tommy John disease. He was very good for the Cubs this year, but he’s 37 and there’s always a chance that his arm will fall off on any given pitch.
Mychal Givens to the Mets for Saul Gonzalez
Givens was mostly really good for the Cubs, but let’s face it, all we’ll remember about him is that he became the only pitcher in big league history to lose both ends of a doubleheader without giving up an earned run.
Trade grade: 5.0
Comp: 1987 Dickie Noles traded to the Tigers for a player to be named later…which just happened to be Dickie Noles
So it’s not a perfect comparison, since Saul Gonzalez is not actually Mychal Givens, but he’s a 22 year old class-A middle reliever without as much chance of giving the Cubs value as the return of Dickie Noles did. Which was nothing.
And that’s…it. This 2022 roster which sure as hell wasn’t put together to win games, was supposed to do things. Give opportunities to young players to play, which it has…to Christopher Morel and basically nobody else, and for them to flip some veterans to get even more prospects. The total sum of that turned out to be five veterans traded (if you include Dixon Machado, which really, you shouldn’t) and three young players in return, plus whatever the hell Zach McKinstry is supposed to be, and the old guy they got for Machado.
It’s fair to wonder just what the hell is going on around here.
Unlike Jed, you can get something out of this trade deadline, with a 20% offer to subscribe to the Pointless Exercise newsletter.
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Kimbrel’s post-trade struggles could fool you into forgetting that at the deadline last year he was one of the best closers in the game, maybe the best. When he was traded to the White Sox he had an 0.49 ERA and 63 strikeouts (against just 13 hits and 13 walks) in 36.1 innings. Getting just Madrigal and Heuer for him was super bad. But not as bad as getting nothing for Willson.