It’s no secret that the Chicago Cubs won the 2016 World Series – the team’s first in 108 years – and did so in dramatic fashion.
BUT, it’s also no secret that a fairly lopsided, not universally popular, mid-season trade helped them there.
Near the July trade deadline, the Chicago Cubs sent, among several others, their top overall prospect, Gleyber Torres, to the New York Yankees in exchange for closer Aroldis Chapman.
Since then, Torres (already a top 20 prospect in baseball) has been improving faster than expected. In fact, he just became the Arizona Fall League’s youngest MVP in league history and only looks like he’ll improve from there. Further, Chapman is a free agent who may very well return to the Yankees, drudging back up a lot about the trade.
But Yankees GM Brian Cashman credits Theo Epstein for having the guts to step up and make the move that helped bring the Cubs – and the city of Chicago – the World Series trophy. Easy, perhaps, for him to say, since he now has Torres, but that doesn’t mean he’s wrong.
Although there seems to be some disagreement, I’m not quite sure the Cubs would have wound up where they did without Chapman’s help at the back of the bullpen (especially considering the immediate and dramatic fall off of both Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon after the trade thanks to injuries). Of course, the Cubs could have gone out and gotten another, cheaper option, but as we saw with Kenley Jansen, Andrew Miller, and Chapman, elite, high-leverage relievers seem to be exceptionally important in the postseason – and it’s not like they are exactly a dime a dozen. Think of what Chapman did in Game 5 of the World Series.
One of the single most important lessons about the game of baseball, your favorite team, or any transaction, lineup, or pitching decision made, is that the result should not define the process. The only strategy from a roster-construction standpoint is to put your team in the best position to succeed, and hope the odds and performances follow suit. If they don’t, but your process was correct, you did everything you could. If they do, but you pulled a wild card in your decision-making process, then maybe you just got lucky.
In short, you will almost never catch me defending an improper decision after the fact just because the result was favorable.
Even though I can admit that Gleyber Torres, together with three other pieces, was probably too much to give up for three months of Aroldis Chapman* … the Cubs won the World Series, and that matters (but before you start pounding away on your keyboard in the comment section, give me a moment).
The 2016 Chicago Cubs, as we know, were not just any old team and that wasn’t just any old World Series.
I have no way of quantifying it, but having the Cubs win that first World Series since 1908 might have been worth ANY one player. Full stop. Of course, from here on out, I wouldn’t necessarily like to see the Cubs make that same trade over again (and you’re not supposed to allow the results to define the process), but that first one was simply too important. The scale has to be tipped a bit, and they did what they had to do.
It doesn’t always work out (that’s why Addison Russell is on the Cubs and the Oakland A’s haven’t won a World Series since 1989), but this time it did, and I’m giving you a pass. Enjoy it. Forget about Torres. Forget about trying to balance the values of the trade. Forget about what might have been, this one time. The Cubs did the thing for which you’ve waited your entire life. Don’t let one prospect spoil that.
I know I won’t.
*[Brett: For me, for what it’s worth, I still think it was a balanced trade at the time. The disproportionate impact of arms like Chapman’s for a team that already knows it is playoff bound is so enormous (and the need so great) that the price tag was going to be really significant. That the Cubs also had to send Adam Warren and a couple lottery tickets in Billy McKinney and Rashad Crawford suggests that a Torres-Chapman swap wasn’t going to be acceptable to the Yankees. Which isn’t, on its own, proof that the trade was fair, of course, but it does say something about the relative perceived value of Chapman and Torres to the Cubs, at least.]