Trade Deadline Week: Friday Edition

Posted by Lionel on July 31, 2009.

With things being all quiet on the North Side front (I haven't even heard a peep about another move involving the Cubs, except Bruce Miles saying if they did, they'd be looking for a bat off the bench), I thought I would give the Cubs trade another look now that I've slept on it.

I know there are a lot of people out there who didn't like the trade because they thought the Cubs gave up too much in Kevin Hart. Hart, rated as the 6th best Cubs prospect by BA, was not in the top 14 by Baseball Prospectus. He is the ultimate 'tweener; he struggled this year in the Iowa 'pen, pitched better as a AAA starter, and pitched well in both roles for the Cubs. But I think long-term he's a better reliever than starter. That's not to say that the Pirates won't use him as a starter, I just think his stuff would work better out of the 'pen.

But what I think is lost in this is that the Cubs had to give up something to get something. And when you look at the Cubs long-term, they didn't need Hart. They have a stockpile of reliever arms. You could argue that they could've kept him in the rotation, but again, I just don't see him a member of the starting 5 any time soon for the Cubs. The Cubs will have a rotation opening this offseason with Rich Harden's free agency, but with a new owner in place (hopefully) and few other offseason needs, the Cubs will either try to make a big splash or annoint Jeff Samardzija as their 5th starter.

Both Jose Ascanio and Josh Harrison were nice prospects ranked in the 30-50 range of the Cubs top prospects. Harrison's on field performance this year could've potentially put him in the top 30 next year. But again, the Cubs have a logjam of right-handed, MLB-ready relievers, so the need to keep Ascanio was reduced. Harrison played some 2-sack and some 3-sack this year, and projects long-term as a utility-infielder. While he was getting PT, the Cubs are overflowing with infielders, especially middle infielders, in the lower levels. This move could help the Cubs develop some of their higher-ranked prospects.

There is value in both the players the Cubs got in return. While it appears on the surface that they are renting John Grabow for 3 months, he currently projects as a Type A free agent. That means that if the Cubs offered him arbitration and he turned it down, they would get a first round compensation pick in next year's draft. I think that would change the minds of some Cubs fans. Whether he'd do that or not would be interesting; if he accepts arbitration, he'll probably get a bump up from the $2.3M he's making this year. If he turns it down (assuming he's successful during the stretch for the Cubs), he's looking at a multi-year deal (always a plus for relievers). I'd assume that unless the Cubs see some other lefty that absolutely have to have, they'd offer him arbitration.
The Cubs are also getting Tom Gorzelanny. Gorzelanny was a 14 game winner two years ago and in 2006 was ranked among the top 100 prospects in baseball. Gorzelanny struggled to a 6-9, 6.66 ERA last year, in large part to the number of walks he issued. That trend has reversed course this year, where he's only walked 30 in 87 innings of work at AAA. When the Pirates needed another lefty in the 'pen, they called him up without much success (a 5.19 ERA in 9 appearances, but he somehow managed 3 W's). He will be arbitration-eligible, so the Cubs will continue to have control over him. If he performs well, he could fight for the fifth starter's spot next year.

So, I look at it as a situation where the Cubs spent some of their excess (right-handed relievers and lower-level middle infielders) to address specific needs (left-handed relief and left-handed pitching depth). The Pirates were reportedly asking for Jay Jackson, the Cubs 9th ranked prospect. While some believe Jackson has already peaked and doesn't project to be successful long-term, I think the Cubs were better off sending Hart than Jackson.

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