Since President of Baseball Operations, Theo Epstein, joined the Chicago Cubs they have been known to sign pitchers to one year deals and flip them at the trade deadline for prospects. In 2012 Epstein signed Paul Maholm to a one year deal and after pitching well he was shipped off to the Atlanta Braves. Last season Scott Feldman brought his services to the North Side, and after a hot start he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles. Many believe that this story will repeat itself for starting pitcher Jason Hammel, but if the Cubs want to compete anytime soon they can’t keep trading away all their pitching talent.
These three pitchers were not the most sought after free agents, but they performed adequately for the Cubs. The 6’2″ lefty Maholm went 9-6 with the Cubs in 20 starts. After a rocky start to his career in Pittsburgh it seemed that he had found his grove playing for the Cubs and would have been a reliable number 4 or 5 starter. He along with Reed Johnson were traded to the Atlanta Braves for prospects. History repeated itself last season when Scott Feldman put on a Cubs uniform. He went 7-6 when pitching for the Cubs, and his success warranted a trade to the Baltimore Orioles. Although these two pitchers didn’t have dazzling numbers they brought consistency to a pitching staff that had anything but that.
Minutes after Jason Hammel signed a one year deal with the Cubs this past offseason, rumors of flipping him at the trade deadline for prospects were brought up. Hammel has pitched extremely well in the opening month of the season, and has one been one of the bright spots for the Cubs. He is 4-1 with an ERA of 2.08, striking out 27 batters while only walking 7. Although he most likely will not continue these superb numbers for the rest of the season, the fact of the matter is he is capable of these numbers. Each year the Cubs keep trading away proven talent for prospects that may or may not turn into difference makers in the big leagues a few years down the road.
The fact of the matter is, Cubs fans are starting to get a little antsy, for good reason. They have just witnessed two of the worst seasons in Cubs history, and for a team that is supposed to be competing for a playoff spot next year, they look no where near a playoff team this year. Each time the Cubs trade away a player from the major leagues for young prospects, they push pack their timetable to compete. When Epstein took over many people looked toward 2015 as the first year the Cubs should have a competitive team, but after the last few fire sales that is the trade deadline, it is looking more like 2016 or even 2017.
Keeping Jason Hammel would not necessarily speed up the time table to compete, but it certainly wouldn’t delay it. Hammel could be a very reliable back of the rotation starter for the next 3-5 years at a relatively low price. The back of the rotation gets over looked by many, but it is just as important as the top three starters. Each year the Cubs just keep sitting and waiting for prospects to finally crack the major leagues. Unfortunately, no one will know which prospects will pan out and when, but what we do know is that Hammel is a solid pitcher with post season experience. It could be someone like Hammel who could be the unsung hero of a playoff run.