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updated: 7/31/2014 7:18 PM

Cubs swap Russell, Bonifacio for catching prospect

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  • Emilio Bonifacio, who hit .279 and drove in 42 RBI for the Cubs, was traded to the Atlanta Braves on Thursday along with reliever James Russell. The Cubs will get catcher Victor Caratini in return.

      Emilio Bonifacio, who hit .279 and drove in 42 RBI for the Cubs, was traded to the Atlanta Braves on Thursday along with reliever James Russell. The Cubs will get catcher Victor Caratini in return.
    Associated Press

 
 

Assumptions always run rampant anytime a team makes a trade or reaches a milestone moment.

The Cubs traded off some of their past again Thursday with an eye toward the future. They sent veteran left-handed reliever James Russell, speedy infielder-outfielder Emilio Bonifacio and a cash consideration to the Atlanta Braves for catching prospect Victor Caratini.

The 20-year-old Caratini, a midseason all-star in the South Atlantic League with Class A Rome, will report to the Kane County Cougars. He had a hitting line of .279/.352/.406 with 5 homers and 42 RBI.

Bonifacio was a preseason pickup by the Cubs, but Russell came up in 2010 under the previous baseball regime. He is gone, as are Jeff Samardzija and Darwin Barney, other longtime Cubs who were traded this season.

Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer, however, said the new regime isn't putting its "stamp" on the organization.

"As far as health of the organization, we feel very good," Hoyer said. "We have a lot of good young players. I feel we're in a position where we're becoming very talented. That was certainly the goal. The goal was not to have one guy (from the past regime) left. That's not something that we talk about or pay attention to. It's not because we didn't inherit good players. It's more of service (time) needs than anything else. We extended Starlin (shortstop Castro) and we talked to some of these other guys about extensions.

"But ultimately, it's more a product of where we were with the arbitration clock and free agency than not wanting or liking those players. That stuff's overrated. The idea of putting a stamp on it, we never sought to do that. James Russell can be a big part of a very good team."

One player the Cubs did inherit was shortstop prospect Javier Baez, who has been moved to second base at Class AAA Iowa. The question came up as to whether the trade of Bonifacio means that Baez is coming up or that his development schedule has been sped up. Hoyer shot that one down, too.

"We're not going to change our timetable on any of our prospects based on the moves we made at the big-league level," he said. "When we feel like those guys are ready and can contribute … with (infielder Arismendy) Alcantara, he came up and showed he belongs. Certainly a deal like this doesn't speed that (Baez timetable) along."

Another assumption fans and media make is that teams make trades to "win" them at the expense of the other team. While some trades turn out benefiting one team more than the other, most teams go into them looking to fill needs while giving up as little as possible to fill them.

"I think that the teams that try to 'win' deals don't make a lot of deals," Hoyer said. "Ultimately, you have to look at a deal from both sides. If we're going to trade a player like Bonifacio or a player like Russell, we need to get something back that we feel is going to help us in the future.

"There are a lot of smart people running teams. Generally, you make deals that make sense for both sides. When you look at our track record, I think we've done that. We have been sellers at the deadline. Teams that are trying win come after our players, but I think that the deals make sense for the teams that are selling at the time, and they make sense for us.

"We try not to think about it that way. If you're happy with your return and you feel good about it, you sleep well at night."

With this deal, the Cubs feel they helped fill a weakness in their system at catcher. Hoyer said they still need to right an "imbalance" in a system that has good position-player prospects but not enough pitchers.

"He was a guy that we liked in the draft a lot," Hoyer said of Caratini. "We've said all along catching is a weakness in our system. We don't have enough of it. To get a guy who's a switch-hitting catcher who controls the strike zone well, he's performed well. We know it's a weakness in the organization so we're excited to get him."

Follow Bruce on Twitter@BruceMiles2112.

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