Cubs ship off 3 players ahead of trade deadline
CHICAGO – The overhaul is officially under way for the Cubs.
Three players are on the move as the Cubs rebuild an organization in need of young talent. Entering the final hours until the 3 p.m. nonwaivers trade deadline, the Cubs pulled off two trades during their 14-4 win Monday against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Catcher Geovany Soto is headed to the Texas Rangers, reportedly for right-hander Jacob Brigham, although the deal is not yet official. The Cubs also traded left-handed pitcher Paul Maholm and outfielder Reed Johnson to the Atlanta Braves for right-handed pitchers Arodys Vizcaino and Jaye Chapman.
“I think we have been really clear all along that we haven’t been contending and we need to take assets that are shorter term and turn them into longer term assets,” general manager Jed Hoyer said Monday. “ … But to be able to turn two guys – one guy with a year and an option and another guy who is a free agent into an arm like Vizcaino, that’s the kind of chance we need to take right now.”
In a unique situation, Johnson and Soto both were pulled during Monday’s game, replaced by pinch hitters in the fifth and sixth innings, respectively. None of the three players was available after the game. Hoyer would not comment on any potential players who are being called up to fill the open roster spots.
“It is strange telling two players in the middle of the game,” Hoyer said. “It started to leak out about Paul and I wanted to make sure he heard from us first. Both guys took it great. They both enjoyed being Cubs. In the case of Paul, he said he grew up a Braves fan so it’s always kind of nice … . It’s never fun trading guys, but it’s nice to be able to trade them to a contender and to trade guys to a place they may have rooted for.”
The deal with Atlanta came together rather quickly the past couple days since the Cubs knew the Braves were in the market for a starting pitcher after failing to acquire Ryan Dempster. There were no hard feelings between the two front offices from the failed Dempster deal, Hoyer said.
“They were aware we certainly didn’t go into that process thinking that deal wasn’t going to happen,” Hoyer said. “We had a lot of dialog and we discussed a lot of players and it probably made revisiting something a little easier.”
Hoyer admitted it was difficult trading Maholm, who has been the Cubs' best starter the past month, because he is under team control for next season. But that extra year of control helped the Cubs get Vizcaino.
Vizcaino was rated the Braves’ second-best prospect last year, and the Cubs are faced with an unusual circumstance. Vizcaino is out for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in March, although he is expected to be ready for 2013 spring training. The medicals for Vizcaino, 21, checked out and the Cubs are confident he can return close to his prior form when he struck out 279 batters and walked only 68 in 268 2/3 innings in the minors.
In 17 relief appearances with the Braves last season, Vizcaino went 1-1 with a 4.67 ERA and 17 strikeouts. Chapman, 25, posted a 3-6 record and 3.52 ERA with seven saves in 40 outings at Triple-A Gwinnett this season.
“I think in the case of Tommy John, of course you're taking a risk because the guy’s injured,” Hoyer said of Vizcaino. “But in the case of Tommy John, the way it sounded from the medical people, generally, they perfected it to the point where people come back pretty strong. I think it's unusual to trade for an injured guy coming off surgery. Having the medical notes and knowing the success rate of Tommy John and knowing the number of guys that have come back strong it makes it a little bit easier.”
The players were surprised to learn of the news, especially that it broke during the game. Pitcher Jeff Samardzija was especially taken aback by Soto’s departure, his teammate for the past five seasons.
“That really hasn't sunk in yet to tell you the truth,” Samardzija said. “It wasn't talked about, it wasn't really on the radar I didn't think. That's going to be tough. When you get a good feel with your catcher, that's hard to replace.”
Steve Clevenger should benefit from Soto’s departure and become the Cubs’ starting catcher. Even so, he was bummed to see his mentor leave.
“A little strange, yeah, a little weird,” Clevenger said. “Geo's always been good to me. I've been with the Cubs since '06, big league camp since '08 and he always treated me really well the whole time. I'm going to miss him. I learned a lot from him and I wish him the best.”