When the Chicago Cubs traded their two top starting pitchers, Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, to the Oakland Athletic’s on July 5 for two top prospects and a fringe MLB starter, the trade was accepted by experts as one that gave both teams a lot of what they were looking for. But there was a small section of Cubs fans who blasted the front office for the deal, only looking at 2014 and not considering what Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are trying to build for the future.
And while a 19-26 record since that trade doesn’t seem that impressive and is a good deal off the pace set by the Cubs prior to the deal (.452 before; .422 after), recent play by Chicago would suggest the damage hasn’t been as bad as some would have suggested. Yes, the Cubs are probably going to finish last in the National League Central, but that’s where they would have finished had they not made the trades and not picked up any prospects. And the most optimistic of Cubs fans can look at Cincinnati Reds’ current struggles and think, hey, maybe fourth place is a possibility.
But one big thing the trade with Oakland did was make room for Kyle Hendricks, and he hasn’t disappointed. While he struggled a bit today in Chicago’s 7-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles, he also only got to throw two innings because of a long rain delay. Hendricks got a no-decision today, keeping him at 5-1 on the season and despite two runs allowed in two innings, his ERA still stands at a sweet 1.78. His WHIP of 1.01 would put him as one of the National League’s top starters if he had worked enough.
Hendricks and Tsuyoshi Wada (3-1, 2.75 in seven starts) have stepped into the place of Samardzija and Hammel and combined to go 8-2 in 15 starts. Before they left Chicago, Samardzija (the victim of a lack of run support) was 2-7, 2.83 and Hammel was 8-5, 2.98, each in 17 starts. But consider that since the trade, Hammel is 1-5 with a 6.75 ERA for Oakland in seven starts. Samardzija is 3-3, 4.07, in nine starts. Oakland is also now one game out in the American League West, no longer leading the division as they were when the trade is made. So far, the deal has produced a rather pedestrian 22-19 record for the A’s in 41 games.
You could, while it’d be a longshot, even suggest Chicago got the better end of the deal this year, by getting the prospects and making space for Hendricks and Wada. Oakland is certainly in better position even if the A’s don’t win the AL West, they will almost certainly be a wild card, while finishing fourth would be a major upset for Chicago. But in Hendricks, Wada and Jake Arrieta, who beat the Orioles (his former team) Friday afternoon, the Cubs have three solid guys who could complement Oakland’s Jon Lester should he come to Chicago as a free agent, or a David Price later — or, given the Cubs’ money, both.
For all the valid talk of Javier Baez (he hit his seventh homer today) and Arismendy Alcantara (three hits today and an outfield assist), Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, etc., on the offensive side, what the Samardzija/Hammel trade has done has opened a spot to Hendricks and Wada and to their credit, they have taken advantage of it. And for fans with the proper view of the future, it’s another very good sign for the Chicago Cubs.