Cubs' trade stings a bit, but it was the right move
Now that the shock of the Jeff Samardzija/Jason Hammel deal has worn off, I don't think there should be much question about what the Cubs did and why they did it. Trading Samardzija was inevitable so why wait until next year when you are more likely to be in buy mode?
The Cubs wanted pitching in return, but they couldn't find a trade partner willing to give them prospects with a ceiling as high as Addison Russell's. The fact that he's a shortstop and not a pitcher is not something to worry about. The Cubs were dealing for "want" (as in they want as much talent as they can find regardless of position) as opposed to "need" (as in you might not get the best prospect because you're seeking a position as much as a player). This is the best way to pile up talent in the system. Get the best players period and sort out where they're going to play later.
I have had some interesting conversations with fans in the aftermath who claim to understand what the Cubs are doing but then in the next breath wonder why they couldn't have kept Samardzija and pushed for contention or at least a better record this season.
Look, I completely understand that fans desperately want the team to win and win now. "Waiting" and "patience" and "slow steady progress" aren't fun words and phrases. Die-hard fans are an emotional bunch and view their favorite team through a win-now prism.
But the reality is, most successful organizations operate with a cold, objective, somewhat removed vantage point. Yes, they know their players better than anyone, but they cannot view their roster like fans do.
Were the Cubs playing their best baseball when the Samardzija trade happened? Yes. Did the trade make the team worse? Of course it did. The Cubs' top two pitchers were removed from the equation.
But what fans need to understand (even if they don't agree) is that halfway through the season, even after a solid six-week stretch, the Cubs were still eight games under .500 and in last place in a stacked division. The likelihood of a playoff push was pretty minimal.
Would it have been prudent to operate from a position of "going for it" when it would have been clearly out of desperation and likely to the detriment of the future of the ballclub? If you're being smart about it, the only answer is no.
At the risk of putting words in Theo Epstein's mouth, if this team had been eight games over .500 and a few games out of first a week ago, there is no way he would have made a "sell" trade. But facts are facts and history is history and in the Cubs' position, they were looking at a likely sub-.500 record no matter what they did with the roster. So at that point, you owe it to your organization's future to pull the trigger when offered a prospect you hadn't dreamed would become available.
Epstein and Jed Hoyer aren't paid to make popular decisions. They are paid to make the right ones.
Nobody is required to like their process, but there is a plan and they haven't wavered from it. I have the utmost respect for their steadfast nature over these first three difficult years, especially with all the heat they have endured during this arduous undertaking of getting younger and (ultimately) a lot better.
And now that the ballpark renovations are expected to start soon, the business side is ready to pump cash into the baseball department to accelerate the job at hand, which is to become an annual juggernaut.
It's not as far away as some people think.
• Len Kasper is the TV play-by-play broadcaster for the Chicago Cubs. Follow him on Twitter@LenKasper and check out his baseball-blog with Jim Deshaies at wgntv.com.