I continue to have an offbeat way of looking at trades. Instead of waiting for six years or so to make it obvious which side got the better end of a swap, I love to check in early and often on trades. What is known? What remains unknown? Is what we thought we knew at the time of the trade still accurate? Has the landscape changed? Today, I assess my three favorite July 2021 Cubs trades, and you can vote for yours below.
I'm starting with the first one. For an opening salvo, the Joc Pederson for Bryce Ball trade served its purpose. Teams were shown, not told, more trades were coming. Not only did the Pederson trade create playing time for Rafael Ortega, it reduced the likelihood of getting to the deadline with Pederson not gone. Keeping Pederson in a season like 2021 has become would have been absurd. He had earned being with a contender, and so it happened.
Ball is the big prototypical slugging first baseman. He's probably not going to be good enough at first to be a first baseman, but with across-the-board DH due soon, possibly, Ball and Tyler Durna can tag-team the two spots in 2022. Durna is better defensively, and Ball has done surprisingly well against lefty pitching. He knows the zone better than High-A umpires, and I'm not concerned about any of his numbers. If he figures out the power, he's a great have whether for a lefty DH, or a trade piece. If it doesn't work, it was Joc Pederson that the Cubs missed getting maximum return on.
At the very end, the Cubs received return value for Jake Marisnick. I know the "but I liked Jake Marisnick" mindset is tough to shake, but it's really tough to justify an outfielder with a lapsing contract with so many options still to assess. Johneshwy Fargas deserved at-bats more than Marisnick, and Fargas was shortly thereafter DFAd. Now, Michael Hermosillo deserves every one of Marisnick's trips. Whether Hermosillo deserves a wintertime roster spot or not, Marisnick didn't. Assessing player for roster-worthiness is what is left when nine key players are dealt from a .500 ball club.
For Marisnick, the Cubs received a prospect (Anderson Espinoza) who has had rough injury concerns. For Marisnick, who I'd been chided for wanting an upright prospect from any team in May.
Espinoza was a valid national prospect name in 2016 before three arm injuries with two Tommy John surgeries. This weekend, he pitched five one-hit innings for South Bend in a game. For Jake Marisnick.
If the over/under on MLB innings for Espinoza is one-sixth of an inning, I'll take under. Possibly way under. However, for the value Marisnick would have provided? I'll take Espinoza and Fargas or Hermosillo over Marisnick, whether Espinoza ever comes in out of the Cubs bullpen threatening 97 and 98 or not.
My favorite of the other trades so far was trading Javier Báez to the Mets. I'd heard the Cubs were scouting the Low-A St. Lucie Mets. I began to listen to St. Lucie games before the Cubs affiliate games would begin. I even got to hear Fargas on rehab. The two names I'd become very familiar with were outfielder Alexander Ramirez, and "up-the-middle" sort Jaylen Palmer. Both were impressive. For a long while, either/or would have been fine.
As the Mets season spun out of control, I began to think the Cubs might exact a larger return. The Mets’ top six prospects had largely been considered off-limits. However, with Trevor Story not being dealt, and Francisco Lindor having injury concerns of his own, the leverage tightened.
When "Baez to the Mets" was announced, as upset as most Cubs fans were, that's how excited I was. As the minutes turned to years, I was mentally turning through their prospect catalogue. The 2021 season was finished for the Cubs. Bring on the future.
I was amazed (positively) when Pete Crow-Armstrong was announced as the return for Javy. I had under-reported on him in his draft year. I'm still not sure how to assess prep bats, and definitely wasn't ready to in June 2020. I had over-sold Armstrong, and it took videos from Mets spring training to do it. He certainly didn't seem "underwater" ripping a triple in MLB spring training. Or in Low-A Ball, splashing a four-figure OPS in Florida.
Are there legitimate questions about his power, and returning from a collarbone injury? Certainly. My "Cubs players traded in July" over-under was 7.5, and with Baez getting dealt with Trevor Williams, it turned into "over." Anyone thinking Jed Hoyer was keeping a name for attendance value was wrong. Bringing future value was in.
I like aspects of all the Cubs’ July trades. That Baez and Williams brought back another valid center field aspect warmed my heart. That the 2021 season's late-year lineups represent Mesa split-squads is by design. Will it work for quality in the future? Should the Cubs have to "rip it down" every decade? Answers: I don't know, and no. If this method gets the Cubs four valid All-Star types on the roster making about league minimum? That's what played last time.
Which was your favorite July 2021 Cubs trade?
This poll is closed
Craig Kimbrel for Codi Hoyer and Nick Madrigal
Kris Bryant for Alexander Canario and Caleb Kilian
Anthony Rizzo for Alexander Vizcaino and Kevin Alcantara
Javier Baez and Trevor Williams for Pete Crow-Armstrong
Jake Marisnick for Anderson Espinoza
Other (leave in comments)
None. Still detest all of them.