To get the kind of young starter the Cubs covet, the San Francisco Giants gave up the third baseman who finished second to Kris Bryant in last season’s National League Rookie of the Year race (Matt Duffy), a $6 million international prospect (Lucius Fox) and a pitching project (Class-A right-hander Michael Santos).
The Tampa Bay Rays had so much leverage leading up to Monday afternoon’s non-waiver trade deadline and sold high on Matt Moore, a 27-year-old lefty who has never come close to throwing 200 innings in a single season, underwent Tommy John surgery in 2014 and put up a 5.43 ERA in 12 starts last year.
Still, Moore would have looked pretty good in a Cubs uniform on Opening Day 2018, when Jake Arrieta could be enjoying his free-agent payday, John Lackey might have retired to Austin, Texas, and Jon Lester will be 34 years old and have more than 2,000 innings on his pitching odometer.
“That was a really significant area that we tried to focus on over the whole deadline period,” general manager Jed Hoyer said before Kyle Hendricks painted a complete-game masterpiece during a 5-0 win over the Miami Marlins at Wrigley Field. “We know that controllable starting pitching is something that is really important to us now – and important to us going forward.
“There’s no question, the prices were exceptionally high on those guys.”
Here’s why the Cubs swung and missed and will have to keep thinking big:
• Ex-Cubs Rich Hill and Andrew Cashner might be the best options for teams looking to throw money at their rotation after this season. The late-blooming Hill – who got packaged with outfielder Josh Reddick on Monday and shipped from the Oakland A’s to the Los Angeles Dodgers – will be 37 years old next season. Cashner has never quite lived up to all that potential and will try to rebrand himself with the Marlins after being a headliner in last week’s trade with the San Diego Padres.
“That was a huge impact on this trade deadline,” Hoyer said. “You didn’t see a lot of starting pitching get moved at this deadline, (in part because) people that had starting pitching to sell know they can also sell that starting pitching this winter, (when) it’s a really weak free-agent market.”
• Forget about Chris Sale or Jose Quintana and the White Sox stomaching the idea of one of their pitchers wearing a Cubs uniform and performing in front of 40,000 fans in Wrigleyville. Hoyer talked about the degree of difficulty when the Cubs “had two active sellers in our division (and) one active seller in our city.”
“There’s probably a tax you have to pay,” Hoyer said, summing up The Chicago Way. “There’s going to be a lot more focus or scrutiny on a deal that’s made between those two teams.
“At some level, I think both teams are aware of that. I know that when we were sellers, we had some awareness. And I’m sure that on the other side of town, there’s some awareness of that as well.
“I wouldn’t say: ‘Never.’ There might be a deal that just makes sense someday. But it’s certainly not a team we look at as a likely trade partner.”
[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]
• The Cubs have such a strong belief in pitching coach Chris Bosio and the staff’s scouting edges and game-planning infrastructure that they won’t overreact to the shortage of legitimate pitching prospects in their organization or easily rationalize the sticker shock.
“It’s an ongoing search,” Hoyer said. “Finding those controllable, young starting pitchers is an easier thing to do when you’re a seller. That’s how we acquired a guy like Jake Arrieta. That’s how we acquired Kyle Hendricks. When you’re a seller, it’s easier to acquire those kind of young arms. But it’s a focus of ours – and something that we’re going to really try to do over the next 18-24 months.”
• The Cubs didn’t want to deal someone like Duffy off their major-league roster, or overpay for a left-handed hitting outfielder, holding onto their trade chips for the winter meetings. Maybe Jorge Soler will be healthy by then and coming off another good playoff performance and the Cubs can try to bundle some combination of Jeimer Candelario (22-year-old, Triple-A switch-hitter blocked by All-Star corner infielders), Ian Happ (last year’s first-round pick) and Victor Caratini (an advanced defensive Double-A catcher).
“How you deploy your assets is always something that you’re thinking about,” Hoyer said. “You have a finite amount of money. You have a finite amount of prospects. (So) you have to think about how much you can afford to sort of trade