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updated: 7/6/2014 5:49 PM

Did Cubs' Epstein get taken for a ride?

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  • Some bigwigs around baseball believe the Cubs got the short end of the stick in the trade that sent Jeff Samardzija, above, and Jason Hammel to the A's.

    Some bigwigs around baseball believe the Cubs got the short end of the stick in the trade that sent Jeff Samardzija, above, and Jason Hammel to the A's.
    Associated Press


A stunning headline blared on a local website Sunday in the wake of the Jeff Samardzija-Jason Hammel trade.

"Cubs' Epstein sees 'light at end of tunnel.' "

Why was this stunning? Essentially because myriad Cub fans can't even see the tunnel, much less the light.

But that's OK. Theo Epstein, the Cubs' president of baseball operations, doesn't care what anyone else thinks anyway.

All that matters to Epstein is that he is absolutely certain that the three young players he received in exchange for pitchers Samardzija and Hammel comprised the appropriate exchange rate.

The Chicago media and even many previously skeptical fans accepted that assessment as accurate.

What do any of us know anyway? Had more than the upper 1 percent of seam heads ever heard of Addison Russell before the deal with Oakland was announced?

After the trade was announced, word circulated that rating services and baseball publications ranked the A's minor-league shortstop among the game's best prospects.

Yep, the Cubs' sure must have made a bold and beautiful move here. They now have something like 50 of the top 25 young players in the minor leagues, right?

But then Sunday a few troubling clouds emerged amid the Cubs' sunny skies.

While discussing the Cubs-A's blockbuster before the White Sox-Mariners game at Comiskey Park, a veteran baseball writer made an interesting observation:

"Whenever the Cubs and A's make a trade, assume that (Oakland general manager Billy) Beane got the better of it."

Hey, that's not fair. Epstein, no slouch at wheeling and dealing, won two World Series championships in Boston and Beane hasn't won any in Oakland.

In fact, Beane presumably dealt part of the A's future for a piece of the present in an attempt to finally at least reach the World Series.

So it was easy to accept the comment about Epstein and Beane as little more than an amusing quip.

But the giggles stopped shortly thereafter while reading a column by Bill Madden in the New York Daily News.

The headline read, "Cubs' GM Theo Epstein could have gotten more in deal that sent Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to A's."

So while Chicago seemed OK with the trade -- again, what do we know about Addison Russell? -- the sentiment was different in this particular New York outpost.

Two things should be considered before going further.

First, New Yorkers still might have it in for Epstein after dealing with him while he was in Boston.

On the other hand, Bill Madden is one of the most respected and longest tenured baseball writers in the country.

So take what you want from his piece on this issue.

The article's lengthy subhead read, "It is indeed a bit baffling Epstein would take a deal like this for both of his prime trading chips considering what he'd sought for Samardzija alone from contending teams like the Toronto Blue Jays (three top prospects including their No. 1 pitching prospect Aaron Sanchez) and the St. Louis Cardinals (a prospect package that also included either righty Carlos Martinez or outfielder Oscar Tavares.)"

Madden, wired into New York baseball, reported that the Yankees made a couple offers. He added that Epstein said at one point that he would get back to the Yanks and never did.

Then Madden quotes a "rival team executive" as saying he hopes Epstein has a much better deal in the works for one of his shortstops "because he could have gotten a whole lot more if he'd made separate deals for Samardzija and Hammel."

There are two sides to every story ... and to every baseball trade, too.

We won't know which side makes more sense until the Cubs' rebuilt train either roars or limps out of the tunnel.

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