Coming off the World Series title in 2016, the Cubs had a rough first half and were under .500 at the All-Star break. Then they won 14 of 17 after the break and became buyers, after rumors they might have traded Jake Arrieta and Wade Davis if that hadn’t happened.
The Cubs made the postseason, but were eliminated in the NLCS.
February 1: Acquired Eddie Butler from the Rockies for James Farris and some international bonus slot money
The Cubs thought they had seen something in Butler despite his posting a 6.50 ERA in 36 games (28 starts) for them. Butler had his moments and gave the Cubs 0.6 bWAR in parts of two seasons, but in the end this was kind of a nothing deal. Farris never played in the major leagues, in fact, was out of baseball after 2017.
February 8: Acquired Alec Mills from the Royals for Donnie Dewees
The Cubs were looking, apparently, at starters they thought were undervalued. Mills, like Butler, had his moments, a few more of them, in fact. including this:
Overall, for the Cubs: 4.84 ERA in 66 games (39 starts) with two saves... and that no-hitter, all good for 0.3 bWAR. Not too bad, actually, for a 22nd-round pick from Tennessee-Martin.
Dewees was the Cubs’ second-round pick out of the University of North Florida in 2015, but never hit much in either the Cubs or Royals system. The Cubs eventually reacquired him but he was done after 2022.
May 8: Acquired Justin Hancock from the Padres for Matt Szczur
Szczur had been a useful spare-part outfielder for the Cubs in 2016 and got himself a World Series ring, though he did not play in the postseason. His bat did, though, when Anthony Rizzo used it.
Hancock pitched in 10 games for the Cubs in 2018 with a 1.46 ERA. but the team let him go after the season so he could pitch in Japan. He only lasted one year there, though.
June 26: Acquired Matt Carasiti from the Rockies for Zac Rosscup
Carasiti never played for the Cubs, except for 19 games at Triple-A Iowa. Later he, too, pitched in Japan and re-surfaced in the majors with 16 games (6.29 ERA) for the Rockies in 2023.
Rosscup was the definition of a replacement player in 2017 when he had 0.0 bWAR for both the Cubs and Rockies. Later he had a decent year in Seattle and also pitched for the Dodgers and Blue Jays.
Kinda nothing to see here, either.
July 13: Acquired Jose Quintana from the White Sox for Dylan Cease, Eloy Jimenez, Matt Rose and Bryant Flete
This is the one that so many of you still like to complain about, so let’s take a deep dive.
First, this is not really a four-for-one deal, as Rose and Flete were pretty much throw-ins and never played in the majors. It’s Cease and Jimenez for Quintana.
This is exactly the kind of deal teams in a position like the Cubs were in at the time make: Get a solid MLB starter who was on a team-friendly contract for the next three and a half seasons. From 2012-16 Quintana was a 4 WAR pitcher who had a 3.46 ERA in 156 games (151 starts) for the Sox. He’d made the AL All-Star team and finished 10th in Cy Young voting.
What could possibly...
Well, basically everything. There was zero indication when this deal was made that Quintana would be as bad as he was as a Cub. And in fact, in 2017 he was decent enough, posting a 3.74 ERA in 18 starts, a couple of which were really good outings. 2018 was mediocre (4.03 ERA, 1.5 bWAR) and in 2019, Q looked like he was at least going to have a halfway decent season, with a 3.90 ERA in 27 games (26 starts) through the end of August.
Then he, along with the rest of the Cubs, collapsed in September. He posted an 11.09 ERA and 2.250 WHIP in five September starts, and then in 2020’s pandemic season he pitched in only four games (10 innings), injured (and with a finger injured during a kitchen accident).
Jimenez has been about a 1.5 bWAR player on the South Side. He’s a DH, terrible in the field, so he wouldn’t have been any use to the Cubs until 2022. Plus, he’s had 500+ PA once in five MLB seasons, he can’t stay healthy.
Cease, of course, has had some really good years for the Sox and a couple of rough ones, including last year. He’s currently available by trade and if the Cubs can get him back — I’m all for it.
This deal obviously was lopsided in favor of the Sox, but that could not have been known at the time and if the Cubs had gotten back to the World Series with Quintana, it would have been worth it.
July 31: Acquired Alex Avila and Justin Wilson from the Tigers for Jeimer Candelario and Isaac Paredes
Here’s another “win now” trade, and again, if those two had helped the Cubs back to the World Series it would have been worth it.
They didn’t. Avila was a pending free agent and didn’t do much with the Cubs (.239/.369/.380 in 35 games), though he did have this one magic game-winning hit against the Blue Jays [VIDEO].
Wilson was just bad with the Cubs in 2017 (5.09 ERA in 23 games, -0.1 bWAR) but a bit better in 2018 before leaving as a free agent.
Candelario, of course, had some good years in Detroit and Washington before the Cubs reacquired him for the stretch run in 2023. Paredes, who was at Low-A South Bend at the time of the deal and just 18 years old, has had two really good years for the Rays in 2022 and 2023, finishing 18th in AL MVP voting in ‘23. There’s the guy that got away.
This deal was not good for the Cubs.
Gotta give these deals a D, and that’s only because the Mills no-hitter brings them above complete failure.
Give the Cubs a grade for their 2018 trades.
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