The Mailbag: So How About That Cubs Trade?

samardzijatrade

Welcome to The Chicago Homer’s Mailbag. It runs once a week unless it doesn’t, and in it I answer questions from readers via Twitter or email. The questions can be about any damn thing you please, and there likely isn’t a question I won’t answer. There may be questions I can’t answer, but I’ll try.

If you’d like to submit a question for the next edition of the mailbag it’s pretty simple. Either ask the question on Twitter using the #AskTCH hashtag — as long as you use the hashtag I will see it — or send an email to TCHMailbag@gmail.com.

And now that you know how to do it, let’s get to the this week’s questions.

Received a lot of questions this week, and that was before the Cubs went ahead and pulled off a huge trade late on a Friday night that also happened to be a national holiday, so let’s just dive right in.

What do you think of the Samardzija trade? – Will in Plainfield

First off, like I mentioned above, the timing of the trade was just fucking awesome. Imagine for a second that you’re a Cubs beat reporter, or just a columnist in Chicago. It’s the Fourth of July. The Cubs played early in the morning, allowing you to have the rest of the day to yourself. You’ve been eating, drinking, spending time with friends and family, just kicking back and watching the fireworks.

It’s 11pm. You’re pretty drunk right now. You’re as content as content can be, as grilled meat and cold beer occupy your stomach. Then your phone goes off.

Guess what! The biggest moment of the Cubs season just happened! The one you’ve spent just about all year speculating about, trying to get stories and quotes on, building up some sources to possibly be the one to break the deal.

Now your drunk ass just needs to write at least 1,500 words on the trade. In the next hour, please. Happy Independence Day!

As for the trade itself, yeah, that was not expected. I fully expected that Jason Hammel would get dealt. I thought that Samardzija likely would, as there hadn’t been any progress on his contract extension, and he was one of the biggest prizes on the market, so the Cubs front office was going to try and strike while the iron was hot.

I did not expect them to be traded together, and I did not expect the package the Cubs got in return.

We now live in a strange world where the small-market Athletics are sending their top prospects to the large-market Cubs for two veteran rental pitchers.  It’s crazy.

Before the season started Addison Russell and Billy McKinney — Oakland’s first round draft picks in 2012 and 2013 respectively — were considered the two best prospects in the organization. Now they’re just two more promising bats in a Cubs farm system currently overflowing with such players.

Do you realize that, with Russell and McKinney now in the fold, the Cubs have eight prospects that were ranked in Baseball America’s Top 100 before the season began? Three of them (Russell, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez) in the top 15. That’s nuts. The Cubs have more offensive talent in their farm system right now than just about any team I can think of in recent memory.

The present blows, but for once there actually is some hope about the future.

Russell has been hampered by hamstring troubles this year, but is hitting .333/.439/.500 in 13 games in Double-A this season. I also saw a scout refer to him as “Barry Larkin, but with power.” Now, granted, scouts are a bit hyperbolic when it comes to projecting players — I mean, this scout literally just said that Russell is like a Hall of Famer, but will hit more homers — but that’s never a bad thing to hear about a prospect your team just traded for is it?

McKinney was Oakland’s first round pick in 2013, and while he hasn’t progressed past High-A ball yet (he’s only 19), he’s put up a slash line of .277/.354/.416 in 130 minor league games.

And I haven’t even mentioned Dan Straily. He isn’t the centerpiece of this trade (maybe it’s the player yet to be named?) or anything, but he’s not just some throw-in, either. Straily has spent parts of three seasons in the Majors, pitching 230 innings with an ERA of 4.11. He’s only 25, and I guess a good way to think of him would kind of be like this year’s version of Jake Arrieta. He could turn out to be a valuable return as well.

As for Hammel and Samardzija, well, I’m happy for them. They’ve now left the Cubs to go to the team with the best record in baseball and pitch in what is most definitely a pitcher friendly park. Hammel was only a rental to begin with, signed for this specific purpose, so it’s hard to worry about his departure.

Samardzija is the only part of this deal that could come back to haunt the Cubs, and there’s certainly a possibility that will happen. Should he develop into the ace he’s shown flashes of being this season while the prospects the Cubs got should flame out, this’ll be one deal Cubs fans talk about a decade from now while drinking away another ten years of losing. But right now, this is an awesome trade for both sides.

And it’s an awesome deal for Samardzija as well.

Listen, there’s no way in hell Oakland is going to sign Samardzija to a new deal. That means he’s not only still pitching for a big free agent contract after the 2015 season, but now he’s going to get the chance to do so in a playoff race.

Can you imagine the kind of money Samardzija could get should he help lead the Athletics to a World Series?

You know that’s what Oakland and Billy Beane are hoping for, not just because they’ll be in the World Series, but because maybe then they can recoup some of those prospect losses by flipping Samardzija over the winter or next July!

Who knows? Maybe Samardzija is a Cub again next year.

You know, I don’t really consider myself a stadium food connoisseur, so I’m not sure I can give a truly accurate response here. The truth is that I don’t eat food as much at baseball games as much as I eat peanuts and drink beer. That being said, I do like hot dogs, I do like nachos, and I do like mac and cheese burgers at The Cell.

But I will say that the most “overrated” food I’ve ever had at a ballpark was the “jumbo” hot dog at Wrigley Field. I remember ordering one of those “jumbo” hot dogs only to be served a typical Oscar Meyer wiener. Seriously, it was the same size as any regular ass hot dog you can get at Jewel.

It was bullshit.

It tasted fine, but if you’re going to call it “jumbo” and charge me over $5 for the fucking thing, it better be fucking JUMBO. Doesn’t have to be a footlong, but come on you greedy bastards.

It would be sad, and also very confusing. The thing I truly don’t get about the Bulls going after Pau Gasol is why they’d be so interested in him if he’s not supposed to be a compliment to Carmelo Anthony.

Let’s say the Bulls miss out on Anthony and Kevin Love and bring in Pau Gasol. Why? Why do you make this move?

You still have Taj Gibson, who is now ready to move into a starting role, but will remain on the bench because you’ve signed a 34-year old Pau Gasol to be your starting power forward. Don’t get me wrong, Gasol doesn’t suck. He’s not the same player he was a few years ago, but he’s still a useful guy if healthy. He’ll improve the Bulls offense.

It’s just I feel like you’d just be replacing Carlos Boozer with a taller, quieter Carlos Boozer. One whose a bit more efficient on offense, mind you, but really not all that different.

The good news is I don’t think Pau Gasol ends up in Chicago unless Carmelo gets here first, even if the Bulls want him. He has enough suitors at the moment and seems inclined on making another title run or two. If Carmelo isn’t in Chicago he isn’t going to see the Bulls as a team he can do that on.

Also, if you think Pau Gasol being the big signing would be depressing, just wait until the only players the Bulls sign this summer are Nick Young and Kirk Hinrich.

With both Brandon Bollig and Michal Handzus gone who will step into the role of Blackhawk you hate the most? – Eric Stone

Kris Versteeg. And to be clear, I never actually hated Michal Handzus. I knew he was useful on the penalty kill and he served a purpose. I just hated the way Joel Quenneville insisted on putting him on the second line with Patrick Kane because it was really hard for Patrick Kane to score goals while dragging an old ass man in a wheelchair behind him for 15 minutes a night.

But, yeah, Versteeg is my new most-hated Blackhawk. I’m hoping he’s the next guy traded. If he is traded then I have no idea who I’ll hate, but trust me, I’ll find somebody. I always do.

Ha, not at all. Why don’t you do it?

Yes, but not because of the World Cup itself, I just believe the league will generally grow in popularity on its own. The fact is that soccer is becoming more popular with the youth in this country lately. I can’t find the study — I Googled so hard but failed — but I remember one from no more than a year ago that showed MLS was just as popular with men from 18-34 years of age right now as MLB.

Seriously. MLS was trending up while MLB has been treading water with younger fans.

I’m certain there will be a short-term spike in MLS popularity due to the World Cup, but not one that’s sustainable. Still, all MLS has to do besides from improving the product itself — which it is doing — is keep waiting for its current fan base to grow up. It’s not going to be overnight, but I expect that in the next 20 years MLS could become what’s considered a major sports league in this country.

And when that happens the money will come, and when the money comes MLS will start attracting the world’s best players. And not just after they’re washed up.

What am I? A scientist?

I’m not, but I suppose it’s possible that Jose Abreu hit a ball so hard that it traveled through time and went back to 1986 and impregnated your mother. I won’t get into the details as this is a family site, but Neil DeGrasse Tyson told me this could totally happen.

Well it should be Nate Jones, but things haven’t worked out that way thanks to his injury.

As for guys who are actually healthy and can pitch, I don’t really know. I think that’s part of the problem for Robin Ventura because looking at the collection of arms in the bullpen, there is no real answer. Javy Guerra has closing experience, but while he hasn’t been horrible with the White Sox since joining the team, he’s also unintentionally walked 10 guys in 16 innings of work. And that’s the biggest problem with just about any option in the Sox pen right now, which isn’t a secret to anybody who has been watching.

Too many damn walks.

Of your regular Sox relievers who have been here for a while, only Zach Putnam is walking less than four batters per nine innings, and he’s at 3.3. Daniel Webb has “closing stuff” but no control of it, as he’s walking 6.3 per nine. Seriously, if you include intentional walks and hit batters, Webb has walked 28 guys while striking out 32. That’s not a good ratio for a closer!

While I’m not comfortable with any of the actual options, the two I’d feel most comfortable with right now are Putnam and Jake Petricka.

The good news is that, except maybe for fantasy baseball purposes, it really doesn’t matter who the White Sox closer is. This isn’t a team that’s going to be winning anything this season, so a good closer would basically just be lipstick on a turd.

Oh, and before any of you go down that “THEY SHOULDA KEPT ADDISON REED” path, did you know that Addison has pitched so well for the Diamondbacks that he’s getting the dreaded vote of confidence from the GM? Yep, while Addison is still striking out a lot of hitters, and limiting walks, he’s also giving up a lot of hits and has an FIP of 4.58 on the season. He’s also allowed eight home runs this season after giving up a total of 12 in his two seasons as White Sox closer.

So, yeah, when you only look at the saves statistic when it comes to closers, Addison Reed was pretty great. However, when you look at all the other stats that actually matter, Reed was basically just an average reliever. So even if he was still in Chicago, he’d be the closer, but how many leads would the Sox bullpen in front of him preserved for him to close out?

This is a very tough question for me to answer, because I don’t know that the Bears have made a real mistake with anything they’ve actually done. I suppose it could be proven down the line that taking Ego Ferguson in the second round of the draft was a mistake, but as far as the free agent signings, I really don’t have any complaints.

I think if there’s a mistake that was made it will be in what the team didn’t do. I’d have really liked to see them address the problem at safety with a signing that was more impressive than Ryan Mundy or M.D. Jennings. The signing I did like was that of Adrian Wilson, though I’d have preferred to buy that lottery ticket if there were better options in front of him.

Wilson turns 35 in October and age has definitely caught up to him in recent years — he missed all of last season with a hamstring injury — but before that he was a good enough player to go to five Pro Bowls.

I’d also liked to have seen the Bears do a bit more at linebacker, but there’s only so much you can do in one offseason when you play in a league with a salary cap and you needed to give Jay Cutler a contract extension.

I do think the moves Phil Emery made on the defensive line will improve the defense overall — it’d be hard to get worse — but I just can’t help but feel the secondary is still going to be a sore spot in 2014. One that could once again keep the Bears out of the playoffs and waste another stellar offensive performance.

In last week’s mailbag you said answering a question about which Chicago baseball team was better was like trying to decide whether you’d rather get punched in the face or kicked in the balls so I want to know whether you’d rather get punched in the face or kicked in the balls? – Krieger

Are you kidding? Punch me in the damn face. I’ve been punched in the face before, and it certainly hurts, but it’s not debilitating. You do so little as flick my balls with your finger and I’m going to need a minute or two.

I mean, think about it. When you watch a UFC fight you can punch a guy in the face a million times, but unless you knock him out cold, the ref isn’t going to stop the fight.

But if you accidentally kick him in the balls? The ref stops the fight and gives your opponent as much time as he needs to get himself together to continue fighting.

I think that tells you just about everything you need to know about the two options.

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