Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein put the odds at 50-50 that the organization would become sellers before the All-Star break.
Let the trade frenzy commence.
In what is expected to be an active trade season for the Cubs, they made their first move by unloading right-handed Scott Feldman.
Feldman, who signed with the Cubs in the offseason, was traded to the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday along with catcher Steve Clevenger for right-handers Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop, plus international bonus pool money.
“It was hard to let him go,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said of Feldman. “I hope we’re adding players like him someday in the same vein.
“To Scott’s credit, he was really focused on a one-year deal. He made a big bet on himself and believed in himself.”
While replacing Feldman in the rotation will be difficult – Chris Rusin started in his place Tuesday at Oakland – the trade was a great deal for the Cubs. Feldman, making $6 million on a one-year deal, would have been gone after the season anyway having proved he’s capable of being a consistent starting pitcher.
The Cubs continue to replenish a system lacking power arms with the addition of Arrieta and Strop. Just as important is the addition of international pool money. On top of the draft slot bonus the Cubs got from Baltimore, they also received two draft slot bonuses from the Astros for minor league infielder Ronald Torreyes. Hoyer said that combined, the Cubs acquired $963,000 for their international allotment.
“This is an international class with a lot of talent,” Hoyer said. “Adding pool money was important, and adding big arms was most important.”
At 27 years old, Arrieta, a former fifth-round pick of Baltimore, has struggled. In parts of four big league seasons, he is 20-25 with a 5.46 ERA. Hoyer hopes Arrieta can turn around his career similar to Travis Wood. Arrieta will report to Triple-A Iowa.
“Both guys have big arms, but it’s never easy to give up a guy that’s performed well for you,” Hoyer said.
Strop, 27, is coming off a career year but has struggled this season, posting a 7.25 ERA in 29 appearances, he gives the Cubs’ bullpen another power arm. The key for Strop will be limiting his walks (15 in 221/3 this year). Adding younger arms is vital for the Cubs because of a farm system that is void of impact pitchers in the higher levels.
“I’m not sure if the fact there was a trade, it will open up trades for other teams,” Hoyer said.
In a separate move Tuesday, the Cubs traded reliever Carlos Marmol and international pool money to the Los Angeles Dodgers for right-hander Matt Guerrier. Both pitchers had been designated for assignment by their respective ballclub.
The Cubs’ willingness to part with international pool money so they could move Marmol without outright releasing him suggests they desperately wanted the Marmol era to end while also getting a serviceable player in return.
Should the Cubs secure more potential for players such as Matt Garza, Kevin Gregg, Nate Schierholtz and others, their rebuilding plan gets a significant boost. So far Epstein and Hoyer have a knack for flipping offseason free-agent acquisitions for young talent.
“The way we budget, we were able to get significant financial savings,” Hoyer said of the Marmol trade. “[Guerrier] is a guy that with a change of scenery gets him back to where he was before.”