Theo: Cubs tried for more at deadline; ‘live to fight another day’
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MILWAUKEE – The Cubs front office got an aging rent-a-starter and a low-cost bullpen piece at Friday’s trade deadline after falling short in efforts to make bigger deals to help its teetering wild-card contender.
At the end of a frenzied final week of trades around game, the Cubs settled for finesse starter Dan Haren from the Marlins and right-handed setup man Tommy Hunter from the Orioles – eliciting mixed reviews from guys in the clubhouse, some of whom privately talked of expecting more.
Whether it was for lack of interest in their players or lack of overall resources, in the end it wasn’t for lack of effort, team president Theo Epstein said.
“We certainly were very aggressive in my mind packaging our prospects, especially for controllable, impact, major-league talent,” Epstein said, “including deals both in volume and impact – volume in big numbers of impactful prospects going the other direction.
“The two main players we focused on late ended up not getting moved. There’s only so much you can do about that. We’ll definitely live to fight another day.”
Haren, 34, is a three-time All-Star whose fastball runs about 88 mph these days and who was 7-7 with a 3.42 ERA for the Marlins. The Cubs sent nondescript prospects Ivan Pineyro, a pitcher, and infielder Elliot Soto to Miami.
The Marlins included $500,000 cash in the deal to offset some of the $3.66 million remaining on Haren’s deal. Haren also can earn up to $3 million more in performance bonuses – with the Cubs on the hook for a prorated share of those.
Hunter, a 6-foot-3 right-hander with a big fastball, has a 3.63 ERA in 39 appearances this season. The Cubs traded AAA outfielder Junior Lake – most famous for his June 3 bat flip in Miami that triggered a bench-clearing incident – to Baltimore in the deal.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon said he likes the veteran presence and playoff history both bring and what they do to lengthen his pitching staff.
Haren, who started Thursday night for the Marlins, is expected to debut for the Cubs in the upcoming series at Pittsburgh, probably Wednesday. Hunter is expected to join the bullpen this weekend – with recently added Ben Rowen designated for assignment Friday to make room.
Did the brass do enough?
“It’s not `Do we have enough?’ We definitely have enough. We just need the guys that we have to step up,” starter Jake Arrieta said. “The Blue Jays kind of stand out as the team that made the most noise [acquiring David Price and Troy Tulowitzki], but I think even some subtle additions here and there can help us in a big way – and not that I or anybody here believes the guys we added are subtle. But maybe not one of the big-name guys that was possibly expected to move here.
“It wouldn’t have surprised me either way, if we made a huge move or not.”
According to sources, the bigger deals Epstein hoped to make in the final day were for Cleveland right-hander Carlos Carrasco, 28, who’s in the first year of a four-year $22-million deal, and Padres right-hander Tyson Ross, 28, a 2014 All-Star with two more years of arbitration eligibility.
He said it’s not out of the question the Cubs could add a hitter during the waiver period in August, but the payroll is close to tapped at this point. They had just under $5 million of payroll left before the moves, according to sources.
While nobody has denied the front office was limited in the size of contract it could accept into its limited payroll space, Epstein said that didn’t come into play with the starting pitchers the Cubs targeted.
“I don’t think finances played a big part of what we were able to do or weren’t able to do,” he said. “You see some teams out there that were just absolutely leveraging their massive resources, taking on bad contracts left and right in order to acquire young players. In their situation it’s smart and creative.
“But every team has to find what’s appropriate for their situation.”
Along the way, the Cubs shopped Starlin Castro continually with few takers. The Indians had interest in AAA shortstop Javy Baez during the Carrasco talks, and the Atlanta Braves expressed interest in rookie right fielder Jorge Soler during discussions about pitching, including young starter Julio Teheran.
Whether history will suggest the Cubs held too tightly for too long to some of their young players, Epstein emphasized that he was not unwilling to consider trades involving ranked prospects from the system.
“We’re clearly in the phase of what’s happening at the major league level is the most important thing in the organization, as it should be,” he said. “And you have to take an aggressive mindset in trades and use your prospects, especially ones that aren’t already here at the major league level – use them as currency to acquire impact major league players who can help our team make the most of what we’re beginning here.’’
Epstein said he didn’t necessarily expect to pull off a bigger deal for more long-term pitching talent, only that he hoped to.
“We explored everything very thoroughly, very aggressively,” he said. “We came close. But we still have that talent in the organization; some of them will go on to play up here and others we’ll probably use in trades another day.”