Levine: Staying Active In Trade Market, Cubs Add Bullpen Arm On Deadline Day
By Bruce Levine--
CHICAGO (CBS) -- The Cubs have set up their team for a pennant run.
Making a move on the edges of the 25-man roster Monday just before the 3 p.m. trade deadline, the Cubs added righty reliever Joe Smith in a deal with the Angels, sending Class-A right-hander Jesus Castillo back to Los Angeles. The minor move was Chicago's only trade on deadline day and only deal since acquiring closer Aroldis Chapman from the Yankees on July 25.
The side-arming Smith (3.82 ERA, 1.30 WHIP in 38 appearances) is the fourth new bullpen piece to be added to the Cubs in the last 12 days, joining Chapman, right-hander Joe Nathan and left-hander Mike Montgomery. Those additions dovetailed with president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer saying since spring training that they wanted to add inventory to the pitching staff and particularly in the bullpen. With manager Joe Maddon loving versatility and having it in a group of everyday players who can play multiple positions, the Cubs should have the luxury of eight bullpen arms each nights.
Of course, keeping those arms fresh and healthy are another matter.
"The right combination is what you look for," Hoyer said Monday after the non-waiver trade deadline passed. "You certainly assess your bullpen over the first half of the season. If there are areas you want to improve, you do that. When we first looked at this team, we thought that was an area we could make some changes. Adding a closer, left- and right-handed guys like Smith, we felt would improve our team, improve the mix of our bullpen. You kind of know going into the season not everyone will perform as you hoped. You kind of know that will be an area you might have to tweak going into it. I will tell you the majority of contenders did something (in the last week) to address their bullpen."
The Cubs were interested in starting pitching and had discussions with the Rays over the weekend for 27-year-old left-hander Matt Moore, who has a 4.08 ERA, 1.27 WHIP and is under team control through 2019. Tampa Bay asked for Chicago infielder Javier Baez, 23, and two top minor league players in exchange for Moore, according to a major league source. Asking for Baez was a non-starter, as the Cubs highly value his versatility and he's arguably the most improved player in the organization.
Moore ended up being traded to the Giants.
The Cubs also kicked the tires on a left-handed bat for the outfield. At one point, they were in on Josh Reddick but passed on a deal. The Athletics ended up dealing him to the Dodgers.
Another attempt at a starting pitcher and outfielder may come over the next month for the Cubs. Players have to pass through waivers to be dealt in August.
"We will continue to look for pitching," Hoyer said. "We know that controllable starting pitching is something that is really important. That, of course, would be important to us now and important going forward. We will keep looking for it."
The free-agent pitching pool in offseason is weak. A trade will be the most direct route to improving the rotation depth, and the Cubs are keeping in mind that Jake Arrieta and John Lackey are set to be free agents after 2017.
"Finding young controllable pitchers is an easier thing to do when you are a seller," Hoyer said. "That is how we acquired Jake Arrieta. That is how we acquired Kyle Hendricks. When you are a seller, it is much easier to find those kinds of arms. This is a main focus of ours that we really want to do over the next 18, 24 months."
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.
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