Geovany Soto was the longest-tenured of the three Cubs dealt tonight. Credit: Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE
The Cubs tonight announced that they traded two players from their 97 win 2008 team, Geovany Soto and Reed Johnson. Additionally, Paul Maholm was dealt alongside Johnson to the Atlanta Braves. Soto was traded to the Rangers for RHP Jacob Brigham.
Although he had cups of coffee with the big leagues in 2005 and 2006, Geovany Soto burst onto the scene in 2007, when he went from being a backup catching prospect to the Pacific Coast League MVP after hitting .353 with 26 home runs in Iowa. He came up in September and quickly won the starting job from Jason Kendall. He started both games one and two of the NLDS against Arizona and homered in game two.
Soto was made the Cubs starting catcher in 2008, and responded by winning the Rookie of the Year Award after hitting .285 with 23 home runs. He's been a fan favorite since then, although he's also been a whipping boy in certain quarters as well.
Since then, everyone reading this knows that Soto has struggled with injuries and inconsistency. Certainly the two things might have been related. We can argue all we want about luck and babip, but Soto struggled a lot this season before July. He has looked closer to his old self this month, but that's a small sample size.
After pitching six years with Pittsburgh, the Pirates decided they didn't want left-hander Paul Maholm anymore, and the Cubs signed him to a one-year deal with a team option for next year. He may be having the best season of his career. A solid starting pitcher the rest of the season, he's been practically unhittable in July, going 4-0 with a 1.23 ERA in six starts. This is a great example of buying low and selling high.
Reed Johnson has been a great role-player in the four (non-consecutive) seasons that he's played with the Cubs. He came to Chicago in that semi-magical 2008 season, hitting .303/.358/.420 in 109 games for a team that I still insist was the best Cubs team of my lifetime. For a guy that the Cubs picked up after he was released by Toronto in spring training, that's pretty awesome. His 2009 season was injury-plagued and not as good. He signed with Los Angeles for the 2009 season where he struggled and it looked like his career was over. He came back to Chicago last season and has played almost exclusively against left-handers, and at 35 he's been as good as he's ever been.
Johnson has also been, from all reports, a great teammate and a positive force in the clubhouse.
As far as the players coming back, Jacob Brigham isn't much, but you honestly weren't expecting a ton for Soto, were you? He's holding his own in the Texas League as a 24 year old starting pitcher repeating Double-A. He was not on Baseball America's Top 30 Rangers prospects coming into the season, but the Rangers probably had the best system in baseball, so that's not terrible. He's got a good K ratio and a good K/BB ratio. He's a starter now, but he's probably got a better chance to end up as a solid pen arm.
The Cubs are getting two minor league pitchers from the Braves for Maholm and Johnson. They are not expected to be top prospects, and we've been told that Mike Minor, Randall Delgado and Sean Gilmartin are not involved. We'll update this post when we get the names of the players involved.
UPDATE: The two pitchers the Cubs got from the Braves were Arodys Vizcaino and Jaye Chapman. I don't know a lot about Chapman, but he seems to be a right-handed bullpen arm who strikes out a lot of batters and walks too many. He's pitching for Triple-A Gwinnett this season.
The interesting player is Vizcaino, who was the Braves #2 prospect (and a Baseball America Top 100 prospect) before going down with Tommy John Surgery in spring training. Vizcaino has a mid-90s fastball and a plus-plus curve. His change up is considered solid, giving him the arsenal to be a #2 pitcher if he bounces back from his surgery. However, health concerns (and the TJ Surgery wasn't his first injury problem) may relegate him to the bullpen, much like former Cub Andrew Cashner.