The Cubs started this year terribly on the field. They were 13-27 on May 16, already 13 games out of first place and their season essentially over.
So they sold off again at the deadline, and wound up going 60-62 the rest of the year, and 28-27 after August 1, perhaps presaging their excellent 2015.
They were quiet on the trade front until midseason.
July 5: Acquired Addison Russell, Billy McKinney and Dan Straily from the Athletics for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel
This trade produced one of the weirdest All-Star appearances ever. Samardzija had been named a National League All-Star only days before the deal after going 7-2 with a 2.83 ERA in 17 starts for the Cubs. But as an AL player when the game happened, he wasn’t allowed to play in the game, and appeared in All-Star garb that looked like this:
The trade was a good one for the Cubs, for a while. Russell played on three Cubs postseason teams and had some key hits in the 2016 World Series before domestic violence issues essentially ended his MLB career. He was still active in KBO in Korea in 2023.
McKinney never really got much of a chance with the Cubs, and has had mixed results as a backup outfielder for the Yankees, Blue Jays, Dodgers, Brewers and A’s.
Samardzija had a decent second half in Oakland but never got into a postseason game for them as they were eliminated in the Wild Card Game. He later signed a five-year deal with the Giants and finished his career with them. Curiously, Shark and Jon Lester were teammates on that 2014 A’s club.
Hammel produced 0.0 bWAR in 13 games (12 starts) for the A’s and then the Cubs re-signed him as a free agent and he had two good years for Cubs playoff teams.
Straily pitched in only seven games (one start) for the Cubs and was pretty bad (11.85 ERA), but brought back value in a trade we’ll cover later on.
The Cubs won this deal.
July 28: Acquired Jonathan Martinez from the Dodgers for Darwin Barney
Barney was an elite defender (Gold Glove winner in 2012) who just couldn’t hit. If he’d have continued to hit even as well as he did in ‘12 (.653 OPS) he could have probably stuck around as a starting second baseman for a while because his glove was that good. But his .569 OPS in 2013 got him negative bWAR value — after a 4.6 bWAR season in ‘12 — and he didn’t hit much better in ‘14, prompting the trade.
Barney played only 24 games in LA, but had 0.8 bWAR from them. Martinez never played in the major leagues. So LA wins this deal, sort of. Barney finished up his MLB career with two years in Toronto.
July 30: Acquired Felix Doubront from the Red Sox for a PTBNL
Doubront had put together two okay years in Boston in ‘12 and ‘13 but was bad there in ‘14. This was a change of scenery deal, the Cubs thought they might get something out of the lefthander, who was only 26 at the time.
It didn’t work. Doubront posted a 3.98 ERA in four starts with the Cubs, for 0.4 bWAR, and was released at the end of Spring Training in 2015. He pitched briefly for the Blue Jays and A’s in 2015, then was done in MLB, but was still active in the Mexican League in 2023.
The PTBNL, not sent until December, was Marco Hernandez, who produced -0.1 bWAR for Boston from 2016-19.
The Cubs got a tiny bit more bWAR from this deal than the Red Sox did, for whatever that’s worth.
July 31: Acquired Victor Caratini from the Braves for Emilio Bonifacio and James Russell
I’ll never forget this day. The Cubs were playing the Rockies at Wrigley Field on July 31, 2014, a day game. Sometime during the middle innings of that game, which the Cubs won 3-1, the bullpen phone rang. Yes, we could hear that from the left field bleachers. (I miss that!) When the call was over, Russell got up, hugged a couple of his teammates and headed to the Cubs dugout.
Obviously, this was notification of the deal.
Caratini was a solid backup catcher for four years with the Cubs, producing 1.1 bWAR, before being sent to the Padres in the Yu Darvish deal. Bonifacio was pretty bad in Atlanta, posting -1.1 bWAR in just 41 games, though Russell had 0.6 bWAR in Atlanta with a 2.22 ERA in 22 games. The Cubs actually brought Russell back in 2015, but he did not have a good year, posting a 5.49 ERA in 49 games, then leaving via free agency. He was still pitching in the Mexican League as recently as 2021.
Truth be told, and deals almost never happen this way, the Cubs should have tried to trade Bonifacio in April. He got off to an unbelievable start. After 19 games he was batting .358/.416/.432 with six doubles and 13 runs, though the Cubs were only 6-13. Maybe he’d have brought more value then.
The Cubs won this deal because of Caratini.
August 8: Acquired Jacob Turner from the Marlins for Jose Arias and Tyler Bremer
Turner was the first-round pick (ninth overall) of the Tigers in 2009. He never fulfilled that promise in either Detroit or Miami.
Or Chicago, where he posted a 6.49 ERA in eight games (six starts) with -0.6 bWAR. He later pitched for the White Sox and Nationals, then had reunions in Miami and Detroit before his MLB career ended after 2018.
Neither Arias nor Bremer ever played in the major leagues.
August 14: Acquired Blake Cooper from the Diamondbacks for Brett Jackson
Jackson was also a first-round pick in 2009, out of Cal. He and Turner were supposed to be “can’t-miss” prospects.
Jackson missed. He batted .175/.303/.342 with four home runs in 44 games for the Cubs in 2012, then played in only seven games for Arizona, going 0-for-4.
He was a Top 100 prospect three years in a row (2010-12). Just shows you how scouting is an inexact science.
Cooper never played in the majors.
November 16: Acquired Tommy La Stella from the Braves for Arodys Vizcaino
TLS had an odd career with the Cubs, at one point being sent home because he didn’t want to report to Triple-A. Later he was involved in a prank war with Theo and Jed at Spring Training.
But the guy was a really good pinch-hitter. In 2018 he set the franchise record for pinch hits in a season (24).
And then the Cubs traded him away for a guy who never came close to the majors (more on that in a later installment). He was having an All-Star season for the Angels in 2019 (.295/.346/.486) with 16 homers in 80 games when he suffered a fractured tibia that kept him out the rest of the season. (He got the All-Star nod anyway.)
He came back and played in 2020 in Anaheim and Oakland and in ‘21 and ‘22 in San Francisco, but was never quite the same. He played 12 games for the Mariners in 2023, but I have to assume he’s done at this point.
TLS had 1.5 bWAR for the Cubs, largely because his defensive numbers were poor. Vizcaino had four good years in Atlanta, posting 3.7 bWAR, so by numbers they won this deal. But I think both teams got what they wanted from this trade, the rare win-win.
December 9: Acquired Miguel Montero from the Diamondbacks for Zack Godley and Jeferson Mejia
Montero was a key part of the 2015 and 2016 Cubs postseason teams. He had just two hits in the 2016 postseason but both were critical — the first, the grand slam at Wrigley that helped beat the Dodgers in Game 1 of the NLCS, the second, the RBI hit in Cleveland in Game 7 that drove in what turned out to be a very important eighth run.
His tenure in Chicago didn’t end well in 2017, but I think we’ll all remember him fondly.
Godley had not pitched above A ball at the time of the trade but the D-backs pushed him to the majors in ‘15 and he had one really good year there (4.2 bWAR in ‘17) before flaming out. He was still pitching in indy ball in 2023.
Both teams got value from this trade, though the D-backs got a bit more bWAR (2.6 to 1.7).
December 17: Acquired Matt Brazis from the Mariners for Justin Ruggiano
Ruggiano played in just 36 games for the Mariners, producing -0.5 bWAR. Brazis played one year in the Cubs organization (2015) and was let go. Fun fact: Brazis is the same age as Drew Smyly.
Not much to see here.
Not much to see in any of these deals, in fact. The Cubs did get some value out of some of them, without giving up too much, and did get guys who helped them in the postseason. I’ll give this one a B-.
Give the Cubs a grade for their 2014 trades.
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