Jed Hoyer will soon complete his first full year as Chicago’s president of baseball operations and he’s basically stripped the house he was given down to the studs. Cubs fans are still getting over the shock of his moves and, though we’ve been able to somewhat massage the pain away, watching the postseason exploits of Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber stings a little.
It’s going to take years before we can accurately grade all the deals made since last December, but we can assess the short-term success or failure of each. On the plus side, the Cubs have added legitimate depth, moved expiring contracts for a whole bunch of long-term assets, and pared payroll to the point that this winter should be the most exciting since 2014 and ’15. Sure, the Cubs finished 20 games below .500, but they never had the starting pitching to get to the postseason and they weren’t going to get it at the deadline.
Anderson Espinoza had his best outing in the Cubs system with 5 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 7 K for South Bend.
Espinoza's mid-90s FB, "gyro" slider, and his CB led the way last night.
Here's a clip of all his strikeouts and a few other of my favorite pitches from his outing. pic.twitter.com/wjPB8ZqBFl
— Greg Zumach (@IvyFutures) August 22, 2021
Now that the sting has somewhat subsided, let’s recap each of Hoyer’s moves:
- Non-Tendering Schwarber – The Cubs made their burly left fielder a free agent by opting not to tender him a contract. Schwarber got $10 million guaranteed from the Nationals with an $11.5 million mutual option for ’22 and was on his way to the best season of his career before getting injured. He was traded to the Red Sox, where he’s had a couple of mammoth postseason home runs. Schwarber had a 148 OPS+ this season and made Hoyer look silly for cutting him. Grade: F
- Yu Darvish and Victor Caratini to the Padres – Though this wasn’t a straight-up trade for Zach Davies that’s precisely what it will be if none of Owen Caissie, Ismael Mena, Reginald Preciado, or Yeison Santana pan out. Darvish is 35 and regressed a great deal this season. The 2020 Cy Young runner-up saw his ERA double and his FIP wasn’t much better. His walk rate jumped from 1.7 to 2.4 per 9, and his home run rate jumped as well. There’s too much awfulness to detail Davies’ season and he won’t return, but the value in this trade is the $50 million-plus Hoyer saved and the grade could go up depending on how those savings are spent. Preciado and Caissie are ranked 8 and 9 in Chicago’s system. Grade: B
- Joc Pederson to the Braves – The left fielder started poorly but recovered nicely, giving Hoyer an opportunity to trade him to Atlanta when the Braves lost Ronald Acuña Jr. to injury. Pederson probably wasn’t coming back in 2022 (mutual options are rarely exercised) and the return was just about what you’d expect for an underperforming, league-average outfielder. Bryce Ball is a decent enough depth piece who hits towering home runs, and he looked like a bona fide prospect until this year. Maybe the organization’s hitting instructors can get him back on the path to the bigs. Grade: B
- Andrew Chafin to the A’s – The most popular of the non-core Cubs was shipped to Oakland on July 26 for Daniel Palencia and Gregg Deichmann. Palencia could turn out to be a steal. The righty was named the team’s minor league Pitcher of the Month in September after making three starts for Low-A Myrtle Beach. In 14.2 innings, he posted an ERA of 1.23 and struck out 20 batters. Chafin will likely be a free agent this winter and could be a nice, low-cost addition to the Cubs’ bullpen. Grade: A-
- Ryan Tepera to the White Sox – Tepera is one of the most unloved relievers in baseball, but he’s genuinely good at his craft. The righty finished the year with a 0.88 WHIP and a 2.79 ERA with 74 punchouts in 61.1 innings. The Cubs got Bailey Horn in the deal, a left-handed pitcher who was ranked No. 30 in the White Sox system at the time of the trade. Hoyer basically gave Tepera away, though it probably helped grease the skids for his next transaction with the crosstown rivals. Grade: D+
- Craig Kimbrel to the White Sox – Dirty Craig was arguably the best closer in the game at the time of the trade. He hasn’t fared well in a setup role since being dealt and imploded against the Astros in Game 2 of the ALDS, to the ire of all ChiSox fans. The Cubs got Codi Heuer and Nick Madrigal in the deal and they have Rowan Wick to close out games next season with Heuer setting him up. Wick makes the league minimum and the South Siders hold a $16 million option on Kimbrel with a $1 million buyout. Grade: A+
- Anthony Rizzo to the Yankees – Hoyer paid off Rizzo’s salary to maximize the return, but the net gain was adding Frank Schwindel to the everyday lineup. Schwindel (.342/.389/.613 13 HR 40 RBI), a waiver wire pickup, completely outplayed Rizzo (.249/.340/.428 8 HR 21 RBI) down the stretch and the Cubs netted outfielder Kevin Alcantara (No. 16) and reliever Alexander Vizcaino (No. 19) in the trade. Both could find their way to Wrigley Field in the next 2-3 seasons. In fairness, I shouldn’t let Schwindel’s performance skew the grade but it can’t be ignored either, especially if Hoyer can wait a year or two to sign a stud first baseman. Grade: B
- Javier Báez and Trevor Williams to the Mets – A lot of scouts are high on Pete Crow-Armstrong, though I don’t agree with that sentiment. Báez was New York’s best player down the stretch and, though Hoyer netted an outfielder who is now the team’s No. 5 prospect, Crow-Armstrong has puny 40-grade power. If he can get to double-digit home runs, he could be the next Dexter Fowler. He’ll compare to Jerome Walton (ceiling) or Albert Almora Jr. (floor) if the power doesn’t come. Grade: D
- Jake Marisnick to the Padres – The centerfielder was a shell of his former self in San Diego, hitting just .188 with two RBI in 54 plate appearances. Hoyer was able to poach Anderson Espinoza, a former top prospect who has been hampered by arm trouble. Espinoza made 11 starts between High-A South Bend and Double-A Tennessee. He was lights-out for the Smokies, pitching to a 1.35 ERA across 13.1 innings in three starts with 16 strikeouts. He could be a sleeper candidate for the rotation next season if he can limit the free passes and the Cubs may have found an internal replacement for No. 4 outfielder Marisnick in Michael Hermosillo, Rafael Ortega, or Trayce Thompson. Grade: A+
- Bryant to the Giants – Did the Cubs get maximum value for Bryant? Probably not, though they did get some intriguing prospects in outfielder Alexander Canario (No. 12) and right-handed pitcher Caleb Kilian (No. 14). Canario has shown tremendous power and Kilian has a ceiling as a No. 3 starter. But Bryant is one of the best players in baseball, one of San Francisco’s leaders, and looks like he’s thoroughly enjoying himself. He’ll earn one of the top contracts in free agency this winter, while the Cubs will make do with Patrick Wisdom until the next Bryant comes along. Though Wisdom is everything Mike Olt was supposed to be, this one still stings. Grade: B-
Cubs News & Notes
- Though Alec Mills is better statistically as a starter, Hoyer isn’t quite ready to give him a spot in next year’s rotation.
- The president of baseball operations could name his new GM as early as this week.
- Per Ryan Dempster and Sean Marshall of the Marquee Network, Justin Verlander and Trevor Story might be players the front office may want to target this winter (video).
- If the Cubs decide to trade Willson Contreras, there are five teams in need of a starting catcher that could provide the type of return Hoyer would want.
Odds & Sods
Umpire Tom Hallion made the most of his time in the spotlight.
TOM HALLION STRIKEOUT CALL + THIS CROWD = 🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/MzlpMHGGxA
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) October 11, 2021
Postseason News & Notes
The White Sox busted out the lumber and staved off elimination with a 12-6 win over the Astros at Guaranteed Rate Field.
With Grandal at the plate, a pivotal baserunning call went against the Astros and helped Chicago earn the victory.
The Red Sox parlayed a lucky bounce into an extra-innings walk-off win in Game 3 of their series against the Rays.
Schwarber knows he’s no first baseman, which is why he celebrated his assisted putout like he just threw a no-hitter.
While his team is trying to advance to its second straight ALCS, Tampa Bay owner Stuart Sternberg continues to fight to move the Rays to Montreal.
- Leury García – The outfielder was 2-for-5 with a huge home run and four RBI in leading the White Sox to their win.
- Tim Anderson – With three hits in six at-bats, the White Sox shortstop has now tallied 16 knocks in six career playoff games, a league record.
- Schwarber – Despite struggling at first base, Schwarber had three hits and an opposite-field home run over the Green Monster
How About That!
Jerry Reinsdorf said the latest CBA offer from the owners is very fair. The White Sox chairman said his fellow owners are very motivated to strike a deal.
Pete Rose has some thoughts on the modern game, strikeout rates, and baseball’s new rules. “If Nolan Ryan was pitching today, he’d have another 1,000 strikeouts,” said the game’s all-time hits leader.
Just keep twisting that dagger.
— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) October 11, 2021
They Said It
- “I think Alec [Mills] has a big role on our team [next] year. I think he’s best when he does start. I expect him to play a big role; I’m just reluctant to sit here and tick off one rotation spot after another because I think as we saw this year, it’s gonna take a lot more than five guys to get through this.” – Hoyer
Monday Walk-Up Song
Brand New Day by Sting – Will the Cubs compete in 2022? I think they will.