8:44 PM CDT, July 2, 2013
Buck Showalter is happy to have Scott Feldman in his rotation but wants it known the Orioles didn't steal him.
"I know the Cubs made a good deal,'' he said. "This could work out real well for them. It was tough to say goodbye to Pete. Good man, good heart. Things have a way of coming around. The Cubs are getting two good arms that have real good upside.''
Pete would be Pedro Strop, a 28-year-old reliever with an eye-popping fastball/slider combination when it's on, which hasn't been often in 2013. He and 27-year-old right-hander Jake Arrieta, who had regressed while making 63 career starts for the Orioles, weren't helping their upwardly mobile team, so they were sent packing to the north side of Seller City.
Like 34-year-old right-hander Matt Guerrier, acquired from the Dodgers for Carlos Marmol, Arrieta and Strop don't fit the mold of guys the Cubs are targeting in their rebuilding project. But Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer basically turned nothing into something when they dealt Feldman seven months after signing him to a one-year contract.
The two new guys from Baltimore could settle in and have significant runs at Wrigley Field, with Strop becoming an important piece in building a bullpen. But you have to look way beyond the familiar names to find the most intriguing part of Tuesday's transactions.
The names that matter the most are Eloy Jimenez and Gleyber Torres. Some experts consider them the two best players available in the Latin American signing period that just opened, and the Cubs were working furiously to sign both without exceeding the signing limit.
Because the Cubs had the second-worst record in 2012, they had the second-highest pool to sign international teenagers — $4,557,200. Teams are allowed to add to that total through trades, and the Cubs increased their working total to $5,520,300 while moving slot space in a series of trades, including one that sent Double-A second baseman Ronald Torreyes to the Astros.
Torres, a Venezuelan shortstop, agreed to a deal for $1.7 million with the Cubs. They also signed pitchers Jefferson Mejia and Erling Moreno for $850,000 and $800,000, respectively. That leaves a little over $2 million for Jimenez, a Dominican outfielder who draws comparisons to Jermaine Dye, and the Cubs might have to get more from somewhere else to get his name on the line.
And of course, since these are kids who would be high school juniors or sophomores, it will be years before we'll know if they — like outfielder Micker Adolfo Zapata, signed by the White Sox for $1.6 million — were worth any of the trouble.
A best-case scenario would be the development path Twins third baseman Miguel Sano is on. He was signed for $3.15 million in 2009 and should reach Target Field late this season. That pace would put Torres (and Jimenez, if he's signed) at Wrigley in 2017, although 2019 is probably a more realistic target.
Or, if the Cubs succeed in becoming trade-deadline buyers by then, guys like Torres and Jimenez could be the chips to get a deal done. It's all about inventory.
Feldman was a nice signing last winter, and his pitching (and hitting) made the first three months of 2013 better than they have been otherwise. But 30-year-old pitchers need to be on competitive teams. Locking him up to a long-term contract would have been a mistake.
Showalter will start Feldman on Wednesday against the Sox, the first day he'll put on a Baltimore uniform. He figures to be the No. 4 starter in a rotation built around Jason Hammel, Chris Tillman and Miguel Gonzalez.
More trades are coming in the next few weeks on both sides of Chicago.
Like the late Al Davis never said, sell, baby, sell.
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