Looking back on the Cubs' deadline deals

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Looking back on the Cubs' deadline deals

The 2012 Cubs could have had a representative on the AL-pennant-winning Tigers, as utilityman and lefty-masher Jeff Baker was dealt to Detroit at the trading deadline.

The only thing is, Baker was then dealt to the Braves roughly a month after the initial trade, and finished the year in Atlanta.

As it was, none of the Cubs' deals at the deadline had any impact on the MLB postseason landscape and in fact, both teams (Rangers, Braves) that wound up with the five former Cubs lost in their respective Wild Card play-in games.

Let's take a look at how the ex-Cubs fared on their new teams, and how the stable of young talent the Cubs received in return finished out the season:

Ex-Cubs

Ryan Dempster, TEX

Dempster put up a 5.09 ERA and 1.44 WHIP over 12 starts in Texas, but did compile a 7-3 record with 70 strikeouts in 69 innings. He didn't appear in the Rangers' lone playoff game, but he was a big reason why Texas had to participate in the one-game, winner-take-all matchup with the Orioles. Dempster allowed five runs on six hits and a walk in just three innings to the A's on the final day of the season, allowing Oakland to complete their miraculous run and capture the AL West.

What's next: Dempster is a free agent. Don't be surprised if he signs with the Dodgers, the team he originally wanted to be traded to.

Geovany Soto, TEX

Soto struggled during his time with the Cubs to start the season (.199 AVG, .631 OPS) and became expendable with the emergence of Welington Castillo and Steve Clevenger. The change of scenery didn't help the veteran catcher, as he actually hit a little worse in Texas (.196 AVG, .591 OPS). Soto played in 47 games for the Rangers, including the playoff game, in which he went 0-for-2 with a strikeout.

What's next: Soto is entering his third and final year of arbitration. With Mike Napoli currently a free agent, the Rangers may very well have interest in bringing Soto back next season.

Paul Maholm, ATL

The veteran southpaw enjoyed arguably his best pro season in 2012, turning in a 9-6 record and 3.74 ERA while with the Cubs. Maholm was even better with the Braves, posting a 3.54 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. It certainly was not his fault Atlanta didn't advance further in the playoffs.

What's next: Maholm has a 6.5 million team option on his contract, which is very affordable for a quality starting pitcher. It would not be shocking to see the Braves pick that option up.

Reed Johnson, ATL

Johnson, a fan favorite as a fourth outfielder and veteran presence while with the Cubs, held the same role in Atlanta, playing largely against left-handers. He hit .270.305.320, a rather significant drop from the .302.355.444 line he put up with the Cubs in 2012. He did not play in the one-game playoff.

What's next: Johnson is a free agent and provides value for a discounted price. There likely won't be a fit for him with the Cubs in 2013, but that could always change.

Jeff Baker, DETATL

Baker appeared in 15 games for the Tigers (about once every other contest), and struggled to find his groove, hitting just .200 with a .500 OPS. He was even worse in Atlanta, where he was used primarily as a pinch-hitter, posting a .105 AVG and .255 OPS. He also did not appear in the one-game playoff.

What's next: Baker just finished his third and final year of arbitration and is set to become a free agent for the first time in his career. Will sign on somewhere as a utility player, getting at-bats mostly against lefties.

Prospects

Jaye Chapman, RHP

Chapman, 25, is a former 16th-round draft pick coming over in the MaholmJohnson deal. He appeared in 10 games in the minors before making his MLB debut in September. He performed OK in 14 games down the stretch with a 3.75 ERA, 1.50 WHIP and 12 whiffs in 12 innings. Chapman boasts an above-average changeup, but may rely on it a bit too much.

What's next: Chapman has a chance to make the big-league bullpen with a strong showing in spring training, and will head back to Triple-A Iowa if that doesn't work out.

Arodys Vizcaino, RHP

Vizcaino, acquired from the Braves, was sidelined all season with Tommy John surgery, but should be good to go come spring. He turns 22 in November and has been ranked as one of the Top 100 prospects by Baseball America for three straight years. The Cubs have already said they will handle Vizcaino with care next year, and because of that, he may wind up in Triple-A to start the season. But he will surely get some time on the big-league roster at some point in 2013, though it remains to be seen whether it will be as a starter or reliever.

Jacob Brigham, RHP

Acquired in the Soto deal, Brigham made just two starts with the Cubs to end 2012, both for Double-A Tennessee. He got lit up, surrendering nine runs on 11 hits and four walks in just 3.2 innings. Brigham, 24, has never climbed above Double-A and has a 4.49 career ERA, though he provides value as a starting pitching option in a Cubs system that is decidedly shallow in that area.

What's next: Brigham will start 2013 in the minor leagues, pitching at either Tennessee or Iowa.

Kyle Hendricks, RHP

Hendricks came to the Cubs in the Dempster deal and the 22-year-old righty finished the season making five appearances -- four starts -- for High-A Daytona. He was 1-0 with a 4.24 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in those five games and finished the season at 6-8 with a 2.99 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in 25 games (24 starts) overall. Hendricks has not been considered one of the top prospects in the game, but is just two years into his professional career.

What's next: The former 8th-round draft pick may start the season at High-A Daytona in 2013, but should wind up getting some experience in Double-A.

Christian Villanueva, 3B

Villanueva was the main piece in the Dempster trade and the 21-year-old third baseman has impressed some -- he was voted the No. 100 prospect by Baseball America prior to the 2012 season -- despite his size (5-foot-11, 160 pounds). Villanueva hit .250.337.452 in 25 games (95 plate appearances) at High-A Daytona with the Cubs after the trade and finished the season at .279.353.427 overall. He has 53 steals and 33 homers in his minor-league career, but appears to be more of a gap hitter at this stage in his career.

What's next: Villanueva won't turn 22 until the middle of next season and the native of Guadalajara, Mexico may get a promotion to Double-A Tennessee at some point in the 2013 season, though he will likely start in Daytona to get more seasoning.

Marcelo Carreno, RHP

Ah, the good, old PTBNL (player to be named later). Carreno came over to the Cubs in mid-October to conclude the Jeff Baker deal with the Tigers. The 21-year-old righty has 84 career starts with a 3.70 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. He put together a very solid 2012 season for Single-A West Michigan, posting a 9-8 record, 3.23 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 27 starts.

What's next: The Venezuelan righty may start 2013 with the newly-acquired Kane County Cougars (Single-A) or may get a promotion to High-A Daytona. Depending on his development, Carreno could finish next year with Double-A Tennessee, but that seems overly optimistic.

After winter of taking heat, Cubs still have Joe Maddon's back

After winter of taking heat, Cubs still have Joe Maddon's back

MESA, Ariz. — It only took 21 minutes into spring training — or the first press conference on the day pitchers and catchers officially reported to Arizona — before Joe Maddon listened to another question about all the heat he took for his World Series Game 7 decisions.

More than 2,000 miles away at Yankee camp in Florida last week, Aroldis Chapman told the Chicago Sun-Times that he "was just being truthful" when he used the conference call to announce the biggest contract ever for a closer — five years and $86 million — to inform the New York media that Maddon misused him during the playoffs. Nothing lost in translation there.

Miguel Montero finally declared a ceasefire on Monday night, getting the sit-down meeting the Cubs felt should go longer than the standard meet and greet after the veteran catcher's jarringly critical comments on WMVP-AM 1000 (if only because it happened on the same day as the championship parade and Grant Park rally).

"It's such an unusual situation," general manager Jed Hoyer said, "because we won the World Series, and theoretically you think that people would be really happy."

As ex-Cub manager Dale Sveum might say: "Ya think?"

Ending the 108-year drought might lead Maddon's Hall of Fame plaque someday, but it also led to waves and waves of second-guessing and speculation about how it might impact his clubhouse credibility. But with Maddon and Montero declaring their Andreoli Italian Grocer summit a success, gonzo strength and conditioning coordinator Tim Buss cruising onto the field in a Ferrari for the first wacky stunt of 2017 and Cactus League games beginning on Saturday, it's time to remember that the Cubs still have their manager's back.

"Everyone says they don't see or read anything," pitcher Jake Arrieta said. "We see and hear a lot of the stuff. But I just think that critics are going to find holes in something always.

"Joe was our leader all year last year. He obviously set the tone in spring training and gives us all these freedoms that help us play the way we played. So the people that matter — and know what Joe's about — are on the same page with his philosophies.

"The way he expresses himself to us is the most important thing. And we stand behind him. We trust that he's going to do what's in our best interest. And we know that any decision he makes is geared towards trying to help us win."

Within the last two seasons, the Cubs have won 200 games, five playoff rounds and their first World Series title since the Theodore Roosevelt administration. Maddon readily admits that the scouting and development wings of Theo Epstein's front office did most of the heavy lifting and credits the strong coaching staff he largely inherited. Spending more than $475 million on free agents like Jon Lester and Ben Zobrist certainly helped.

But all this doesn't happen without Maddon and the environment he created. The Cubs Way absolutely needed a ringmaster for this circus.

Arrieta developed into a Cy Young Award winner. Kyle Hendricks transformed into an ERA leader. Kris Bryant burst onto the scene as a Rookie of the Year and the National League MVP. Addison Russell became an All-Star shortstop by the age of 22. Maddon didn't prejudge Javier Baez, immediately appreciating the dazzling array of skills and super-utility possibilities.

Surprised by the Maddon backlash?

"Yes and no," All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. "Because there needs to be a story. But what he did — people who are real involved know that since Day 1, he came in and he set the tone.

"He completely flipped the way people think, the way we believe, and everyone has bought into it. The credit he deserves — he gets a lot of it — but I don't think he gets enough of it. Because he lets me be me. He lets Javy be Javy.

"Willson (Contreras), Kris and Addie — everyone has their different personalities. He understands that. And it's not easy to do."

It's such an impossible job, at times, that even Cubs officials and players have acknowledged their frustrations with some of Maddon's in-game decisions and communication gaps. This can't just be written off as a media creation. But imagine the grumbling if the Cubs didn't have a leader with seven 90-win seasons and three Manager of the Year awards on his resume.

"We have a competitive group of guys," Hoyer said. "Every guy wants to be on the field at the right time. Every guy wants to be on the roster. Every guy wants to pitch in winning games.

"That's not realistic sometimes. It comes from a great place. It doesn't come from a place of selfishness. It comes from a place of: 'I want to contribute to winning.'

"The meetings we've had have been awesome. Our camp is unbelievably focused. We are just as focused as last year. I really don't look at it as a negative."

The last word from Maddon, who turned 63 this month and has a $25 million contract, a wide range of off-the-field interests and the championship ring that will make him a legend in Chicago forever, no matter what kind of heat he took this winter.

"Stuff like that doesn't bother me at all," Maddon said. "Regardless of what people may have thought — like any other game that I worked all year long — I had it planned out like that before the game began. So it wasn't anything I tried to do differently game in progress. Had I not done what I thought I was supposed to do — then I would have second-guessed myself.

"So, no, I have no problem with that. I really don't mind the second-guessing from anybody. I kind of encourage it. Please go ahead and do it, because I'll take that kind of second-guessing after winning a World Series on an annual basis. Thank you very much."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Is Jonathan Toews' the Blackhawks' MVP?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Is Jonathan Toews' the Blackhawks' MVP?

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