Monday, July 7, 2014

Tricks of the Trade

The Chicago Cubs and the Oakland A’s pulled off the biggest trade in Major League Baseball to this point in the season. The Cubs sent Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the A’s in return for Addison Russell, Billy McKinney and Dan Straily. While on paper the trade seems to make sense for both sides, there are some aspects of the trade that make one a bit curious of Theo Epstein and Billy Beane, two of the greatest baseball minds when it comes to MLB front offices.

Let’s start off with the Cubs’ side of the deal. The average baseball fan would look at the Cubs record and would automatically think that they were a bad baseball team this year saying to themselves "what are they playing for this year?" However, being the optimistic Cubs fan that I am, it is quite evident that the team does not share my opinion.
The fact is the Cubs have the third best record in the MLB since May 16 at 25-22. This was a club who had crawled their way to only 6 back in the wild card and 9 back in the NL Central. They also featured a dominant 1-2-3 punch in the pitching rotation that no team wanted to face. Then, what has seemed inevitable for the past 4 Cubs seasons happened, they traded away their core.

Nevertheless, I firmly believe that because of the confidence they have played with the past month and a half, the loss of Jeff and Jason should not hurt them as much as one would think. But, do I believe the Cubs still have a chance this season? Absolutely not. As a player on the ball club, nothing could be a bigger blow than seeing the organization giving up on you. Even when you as a team are playing fantastic baseball, asserting yourselves as a legitimate ball club, a trade such as this drains all the momentum you have. 2014 has officially been deemed another rebuilding year for the Cubbies, and I wonder with all my fellow Cub fans, when will this miserable construction project be over?

When you get past the pain of throwing away the 2014 season, the trade does strengthen the Cubs’ future quite a bit. With the addition of Shortstop Addison Russell, the Cubs now have five of the top twenty prospects in the MLB. That is something worth writing home about. Of course, there is a slight problem. Two of these prospects are shortstops, which is one of two solidified positions at the major league level, with All-Star Starlin Castro putting together another standout year. 

The Cubs will be forced to try some of these guys out at different positions, or else this rebuilding project will be for nothing. As a baseball player myself, moving from one position to another is not an easy transition at all. Theo Epstein definitely has something going on the minor league level, and as Cubs fans, all we can do is bestow our trust unto him because the reality is, what other option do we have?

Let’s travel to the west now and talk about the A’s perspective in this trade. I have discussed before my love for the A’s and how incredible it is that Billy Beane has been able to produce first place teams with a minimal salary and somewhat unknown players. Billy’s philosophy is bringing up players through the farm system and molding them into players who simply become winners. They cannot afford to go after the superstar every year in free-agency, but they go after guys who fit into what they are trying to do every year.

However, the Athletics have never been able to construct a legitimate playoff run, and Billy knows that consistently reaching the ALDS is now not enough to satisfy the Oakland faithful. Even though it meant straying away from his philosophy in a sense, Beane wanted to make sure that his team was set to make the World Series Run this year. When you add Samardzija and Hammel to an already fantastic staff headed by Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir, it is increasingly difficult to find a flaw in this A’s team. They have the hitting, the pitching, and now, they also have experience. When October rolls around this year, do not be surprised to see Oakland finally reaching the promise land and holding up the trophy every team strives for.

As is the case with all trades in all sports, it is nearly impossible to see who will benefit more from this trade until more time elapses. The Cubs are trying to build toward something that could truly result in greatness, but it's not in the cards this season. Meanwhile, the A’s realize that their time has come. They are ready for greatness at this moment in time, and I firmly believe this trade solidifies them as the best team in baseball. For now, the A’s are the winners of this trade, and it might take a few years before the Cubbies see the fruits of this transaction. Cubs fans, while you may give up on the 2014 season, don’t give up on Theo, Rick Renteria, Starlin, Anthony, or anyone in this organization. Times may be tough as of now, but the end of the path may come to an end sooner than you think. -Ben Greer

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