If GM Jed Hoyer thinks dugout hugs are awkward, just imagine the Cubs trying to trade Jeff Samardzija in this fast-paced market.
Things stayed relatively quiet on Clark Street in the frenetic final hours leading up to Thursday’s non-waiver deadline.
“We ruined all your Fourth of July,” Hoyer said. “Twenty-seven days ago, we made our big deal.”
That six-player blockbuster trade – with Samardzija and Jason Hammel heading to the Oakland A’s – would have barely registered on this July 31.
Oakland GM Billy Beane, the “Moneyball” star, looked at the A-list and got Boston Red Sox lefty Jon Lester, giving up All-Star outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to get an October hero with two World Series rings.
Detroit Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski responded by getting the Seattle Mariners involved and pulling off a three-team trade that landed Tampa Bay Rays ace David Price.
It gave talk radio and Twitter something to talk about, but it made zero sense for the Cubs to try to trade for Price now, because they essentially did that deal in reverse with Samardzija, who’s also set to become a free agent after next season.
The Rays got Tigers lefty Drew Smyly, Mariners infielder Nick Franklin and Detroit prospect Willy Adames for a Cy Young Award winner.
“I don’t want to compare deals,” Hoyer said. “We’ve always been excited about the return. I don’t think that’s fair. I’ll let other people do that. But I’m glad to see that Jeff’s doing really well for them and I certainly hope Jason starts doing well and turns it around. He’s a really good pitcher and I think both those guys are going to help them win.”
The A’s were already the best team in baseball when they traded for Samardzija (2-1, 3.19 ERA in five Oakland starts) and Hammel (0-4, 9.53 ERA in four starts). They gave up two first-round picks in shortstop Addison Russell – Baseball America’s No. 5 overall midseason prospect – and outfielder Billy McKinney (.832 OPS at advanced Class-A Daytona).
“I will say that we’ve been excited about both Russell and McKinney,” Hoyer said. “They’ve been outstanding for us so far.”
Hoyer compared Dan Straily to Felix Doubront, another change-of-scenery guy they acquired on Wednesday, nine months after he helped the Red Sox win the World Series. Doubront will go on the disabled list with a calf strain before stretching out as a starter, while Straily’s struggling in Triple-A Iowa’s rotation (0-3, 5.85 ERA).
“(Straily) made 27 starts in the big leagues for Oakland a year ago and pitched really well,” Hoyer said. “He’s not having as strong a year and we got a guy that we know can do it in the big leagues. We just need to get him back to that point.”
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But Theo Epstein’s front office knows there’s no parade down Michigan Avenue for building an elite farm system, fixing some broken pitchers and impressing the opinion-makers at Baseball America and ESPN. This is still a 45-62 team heading toward a fifth-place finish for the fifth season in a row.
Ten years ago on the July 31 deadline, Epstein and Hoyer helped engineer the complex four-team Nomar Garciaparra trade with the Cubs, Minnesota Twins and Montreal Expos, setting up the 2004 Red Sox for an unforgettable World Series run.
“That’s awesome to be in that position like Billy Beane, like Dave Dombrowski,” Hoyer said. “To be able to make that kind of move, that’s ultimately where you want to go.”