Cubs Don’t Go Big, But Make Quiet Improvements at the Deadline

Based on the rumors flying about throughout the afternoon, I half expected the Cubs to pull off a giant coup that involved them getting Tyson Ross and Craig Kimbrel and giving up only Starlin Castro and an expired back of sunflower seeds in return. Okay, perhaps I’m exaggerating a bit, but from the sounds of it that is the only way the Cubs’ braintrust was going to allow things to unfold.

From what I understand, both the Padres and Red Sox were very open to making something happen, but the Cubs were unwilling to part with the players it was going to take to make the purported blockbuster happen. By the time the 4pm EST deadline had passed, the Padres had done nothing and the Cubs had made a couple moves that largely flew under the radar. But while San Diego’s inertia may be rooted in false confidence, the Cubs’ were able to improve without giving up anything of tremendous value.

This statement about Preller’s optimism strikes me as a bit more of a positive spin job than anything else, as all the reports had him willing to listen to deals for pretty much anyone. While only a fool would refuse to at least consider offers, it sure sounded as though the Padres were ready to ship off almost everyone. That’s not really an indication of a team that feels ready to compete. But enough about them, let’s talk about the Cubs.

First, it is not insignificant to note that the Cubs were not sellers here. The direction of this team has remained steady and we saw that continuing throughout the day today. Now we look at the fact that the Cubs were actually buyers, albeit it in a Goodwill sort of way. But hey, the moves they made improved the big league roster without significantly depleting the minors and they also helped to maintain flexibility for the future in terms of free agency.

I wrote about the Dan Haren trade earlier, and I think I’m liking it more and more as time goes on. The same seems to be true for most Cubs fans and non-partisan observers as well. What’s not to like about a low-risk move that cost very little in terms of either prospects or money? In the aftermath of that deal, though, there was still a sense that something bigger was in the offing. And there may well have been for all we know.

What we do know is that the only other trade the Cubs ended up making was to ship Junior Lake to Baltimore in exchange for RP Tommy Hunter. I must admit to a little sentimentality here, as I was on hand for Junior Lake’s MLB debut in Colorado and have harbored a soft spot for him ever since. I had always held out hope that the toolsy outfielder would one day put it all together. Maybe he’ll find his way in Charm City.

Seeing Tommy Hunter come back in return helps to make me feel a little better though. He doesn’t really jump off the page when it comes to stats and stuff, but as an Indianapolis resident, I enjoy having the chance to support guys from my hometown. There’s also the thought that the Cubs have had good recent success when it comes to trading for Orioles pitchers, so that’s a potential plus. Regardless, Hunter is a pretty solid option for a bullpen that has battled inconsistency all season.

A hard-throwing righty who averages 96 mph on both fastball grips and who mixes in a curve with regularity, Hunter should immediately be in the mix for the late-inning role occupied somewhat tenuously by the Pedro Strop and Jason Motte. If he can get even a little bit of a Bosio Bump from the change in scenery, his velocity could make him a really formidable option. While I was still really hoping to see the Cubs pick up a proven lock-down closer, this is an understated move that didn’t cost them much.

I’m sure the Cubs would have preferred to acquire young, cost-controlled talent at the deadline, but those guys don’t come cheap. In the end, they picked up a couple veterans to whom they have zero commitment once the season ends. And if the idea of getting a chance with a new team doesn’t move the needle for either, the motivation of playing for that next contract is always a nice incentive.

So the Cubs did come away with a starting pitcher and bullpen arm, just not the names everyone had been thinking of or hoping for. The front office stayed the course and, by so doing, reinforced the faith that has been placed in them by those who understand the process. The Cubs got better through trades, didn’t have to give away any major pieces, and maintained flexibility to be aggressive in free agency.

It wasn’t a flashy set of pick-ups, but I like what the Cubs were able to do. Now, ask me about it after Haren gets shelled or Hunter gives up the lead in the 8th and I might have a different. Seriously though, this was a good day for the Cubs and I’m excited to see how the new additions work out.

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