It is entirely possible that this is the lone big trade of the 2014 season. With so many teams vying for a playoff spot, due to the great parody this season and the additional wild card spot, it is unlikely that several more trades of significance will happen. However, the one that did occur while most of us were on our third brat and fourth PBR was the biggest firework of the night. The Cubs sent their top two starters, both with sub 3.00 ERAs to the Athletics for prospects and an MLB ready pitcher. This was a great move for both teams.
The ideology of this trade is eerily similar between the two teams as a trade completed nearly six years ago – except reverse. The Cubs acquired a front line starter in Rich Harden and sent a slew of prospects to Oakland, which included a potential MVP candidate this season in third basement Josh Donaldson. The Cubs were on the cusp of a playoff birth, and Harden did not prove to be a missing piece as they were ousted in the first round, yet Oakland was able to acquire a player that will be a cornerstone (until they have to pay him) for seasons to come.
Currently, the A’s are the best team in baseball, and the Cubs are rebuilding. Billy Beane’s willingness to part with a top prospect in SS Addison Russell shows his commitment to winning now. Epstein/Hoyer’s willingness to part with two starters shows a commitment to a plan. Each of those commitments can take each team to the Promised Land – just one probably sooner than the other.
The impact that Samardzija and Hammel make is obvious. Bolster a starting rotation that was already among the best in baseball. Prevent American League competitors (Blue Jays, Yankees) from acquiring one or both. Forcing the hands of those competitors to make a move. And, send a message to your team that you have all of the tools to win the World Series this year. There is no delaying the ambition of the Athletic’s. Beane is cracking his whip and managing his thoroughbred to the final furlong. The only question of this A’s team is, can they reach the finish line?
Baseball insiders had no idea thata prospect of Russell’s caliber would be available at this year’s deadline. He was, and the Cubs achieved a great feat by acquiring him. Russell has a smooth, effortless swing that produces line drives to all parts of the field. He shows great hands while batting. What that means is that he can change his bat speed to hit different pitches consistently meeting the ball with the barrel of his bat. And of course, those great hands translate to infield combining with his silky smooth footwork to produce highlight reel plays and efficiency on all plays. Associate Scout for the Cubs, Mac McClarrinon said of Russel, “Russell is a 20-20 type guy at SS.” Now, the Cubs have another problem to add to their World Series drought — but this is a good problem. What will the organization do with the logjam of infield prospects, not to mention an All-Star incumbent, to put a winning team on the field as soon as possible? Read here for The Cleat Sheet’s Take on the Cubs’ Infield.
In conclusion, Beane beats everyone to it again. His hope is to put a ring on his finger this year, and he is doing his job to give the Athletics that opportunity. For the Cubs, they get another hitter which could provide them with two great situations: A stingy, young lineup to fear, and the opportunity to move one of the infielders to fill a void at young pitching. Two different teams, two different timelines, one great trade.