CINCINNATI — On Saturday, for the first time since the trade that became legendary in Chicago, Reds right-hander Scott Feldman got to see in person the guy who forever made him the answer to a Cubs trivia question.
“I was joking with the guys the other day, calling it the ‘Scott Feldman trade,’ not the ‘Jake Arrieta trade,’ ’’ Feldman said. “He’s pretty tough. Sometimes a change of scenery can really help somebody out, I guess. Look at him now: He’s one of the top pitchers in the league.”
In 2013, Feldman became the definition of one of the trademarks of the rebuilding plan under Theo Epstein: the sign-and-flip starter.
The Cubs used him to pull off the most lopsided trade in the last decade.
A one-year free agent coming off a down year, Feldman got off to a strong start with a bad Cubs team, and he was sent to Baltimore in July with backup catcher Steve Clevenger for Arrieta and reliever Pedro Strop.
Arrieta since then: 57-21 with a 2.57 ERA in 102 starts, an All-Star selection, a 2015 Cy Young Award and a 2016 World Series ring.
“I don’t think we’re competitive in ’15 without him, and we’re not a playoff team without him,” Epstein said recently. “Maybe the whole timetable for the rebuild is different without him.”
Said Feldman: “Kind of funny how that works out. Maybe Theo should send me over a ring. . . . Just kidding.”
The time with the Cubs worked out for Feldman, too. He used the season as a springboard to a three-year, $30 million deal with the Astros, eventually being traded to the Blue Jays for their playoff push last year.
He signed a one-year, $2.3 million deal with the Reds for this year. In fact, he was their Opening Day starter —something Arrieta was not for his team this year.
Feldman, 34, who actually has made three opening starts for three teams, doesn’t spend a lot of time thinking about his place in Cubs lore.
“I just think about how much I enjoyed being over there and playing with those guys,” said Feldman, who especially appreciated pitching coach Chris Bosio, Anthony Rizzo and strength coach Tim Buss.
“I was happy for them to take it all the way. It must’ve been a pretty cool celebration.”
Whether he takes a little private pride in his part of the bigger picture of that historic championship, Feldman would welcome a chance to return at some point in his career.
“Who wouldn’t want to play [there],’’ Feldman said. ‘‘They’re set up to be good for a long time. And I think that’s what a lot of teams are modeling their formulas after, the way Theo rebuilt the Cubs.
“Chicago’s a great spot to live, a great spot to play. It was fun being on that team even when we weren’t very good. It was just a cool place to play, walk to the ballpark and see everybody with their Cubs shirts on, drinking beers at 9 in the morning. It was pretty cool.”
And if his Cubs experience goes full circle?
“You never know,” he said. “It’d be pretty cool.”
NOTES: Reds shortstop Zack Cozart was scratched because of a sore wrist.
† Ben Zobrist returned to the lineup after being sidelined much of the week with a sore lower back. He singled, doubled and scored twice.
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