By Shane Nicholson
As expected, the Cubs were active at baseball’s trade deadline, though the results were perhaps less spectacular than many fans would have liked.
After missing out on starters Cole Hamels and David Price the Northsiders moved for Miami’s Dan Haren, sending mid-level prospects Elliott Soto and Ivan Pineyro in return. The Marlins also tossed cash into the deal, although they weren’t on the hook for Haren’s contract in the first place with the Los Angeles Dodgers having picked up the tab for the 34-year-old starter this season.
The 13-year veteran Haren is 7-7 this season with a 3.42 ERA in 129.0 innings. He’s expected to slot in as the Cubs number-5 starter, allowing Travis Wood to remain in the bullpen.
Thursday it was reported that the Cubs, Padres and Red Sox were working on a 3-team blockbuster deal which would have seen Tyson Ross move from San Diego to Chicago. However, reports say that the Padres have simply over asked in nearly every trade package floated over the past two weeks and the Cubs were unwilling to part with their top-level prospects, including infielder Javier Baez, unless the Padres were willing to take on Starlin Castro’s contract.
The Cubs also acquired Orioles reliever Tommy Hunter, sending Junior Lake to Baltimore. Hunter has worked 44.2 innings this season with a 3.63 ERA. He will help bolster the back end of the Cubs bullpen, which has been shakey for much of the campaign.
The 25-year-old Lake had fallen out of favor under Joe Maddon this year, managing only 62 plate appearances in 21 games. He posted a .224/.274/.345 slashline coupled with below-average defense at both corner outfield positions.
The White Sox meanwhile held tight. While various moves were entertained over the past week none made sense for GM Rick Hahn to pull the trigger on, as the Sox have suddenly found themselves in the midst of a wild card race having won seven of their last 10.
Long term, the Sox will likely allow starter Jeff Samardzija to leave via free agency in the offseason and collect the compensatory pick from whatever club acquires his services. Price, who has made clear his want to play for former manager Maddon again, is still on the Cubs’ radar for the winter. The net benefit at Wrigley is two fold: 1) the Cubs didn’t move any of their prospects to the Tigers for Price whereas the Blue Jays sold the farm; and 2) signing him this offseason now won’t result in the loss of a 2016 first round pick following his trade this week.
Overall, the Sox have to hope their bats continue to progress back to their projected levels and that the slew of AL East teams fighting them for the final wild card slot cool off. The Blue Jays however look the likely favorite to pull away from the pack given their +103 run difference, the best in baseball.
The Cubs meanwhile added a couple solid arms and gave up very little, leaving them to make the more exciting moves this winter. Castro could still possibly be involved in a waiver deal should the right option come available, and their chances of reaching the one-game wild card playoff has gotten a small boost with the additions of Haren and Hunter.
Fans on both sides could count today as a win. Now it’s down to each team to put together a push for a postseason spot.
Billy Pierce: 1927-2015
In other news, former White Sox left-hander Billy Pierce has died at the age of 88 following a battle with gall bladder cancer.
Pierce pitched 13 years for the Southsiders as part of the Go-Go White Sox, racking up a 186-152 record in 2931 innings. He appeared in two World Series with the White Sox and Giants, posting a 1.89 ERA in 19 innings.