How Often Do the Cubs Surprise Us with a Trade? Surprisingly Often

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How Often Do the Cubs Surprise Us with a Trade? Surprisingly Often

Chicago Cubs

Some Thursday night fodder to muse, as we close in on five days before the Trade Deadline.

Listening to Jed Hoyer’s interview on The Score earlier, I started thinking about his remarks on the nature of rumors this time of year, versus the reality of what teams are actually working on. Many rumors, he feels (and we know), are being spread with some kind of intention behind them, not necessarily because they are actually reflecting the underlying discussions. Indeed, when teams are really intent on getting something done, Hoyer said, they’re pretty aggressive in keeping it quiet.

His comments made me think of a Jesse Rogers report, via an anonymous exec, that the Cubs are currently casting a “wide net” in their efforts to improve the roster. Reasonable to surmise in any case (and, hey, it could be bogus, too!), but when you pair it with Hoyer’s comments, it makes you think about just how clandestine the Cubs could or could not be in their efforts this year. Obviously we’ve heard plenty of rumors and some specific names, but could they actually be engaged on a number of fronts we’ve heard absolutely nothing about? A wide net, but aggressively keeping it quiet?

Well sure!

Here are the Cubs’ trades from the past four buying seasons, offered through the lens of “did we have any idea that was going on?”:

  • Clayton Richard – an early July 2015 pick-up for cash, he was definitely not on our radars at the time of the trade. And he did well! The Cubs have been great at this type of trade.
  • Tommy Hunter – was among many rumored relief targets very late in the 2015 trade cycle. As I recall, he was never really called out super specifically as *the* guy.
  • Dan Haren – was among a few rumored starting pitcher targets, again, very late in the 2015 trade cycle. The rumors on him were fairly serious the final day or two before the deadline, and we kinda knew he was a fallback option.
  • Fernando Rodney/Austin Jackson – these were post-non-waiver-trade-deadline acquisitions, but they are the same kind of deals the Cubs would have to make now if they wanted (because the waiver trade period in August is no more). There were no serious rumors about these guys before they were dealt to the Cubs.
  • Mike Montgomery – there were definitely some reports of him being a potential target, given his ability as a left swing man. Moreover, everyone knew Dan Vogelbach was trade bait at that point. There wasn’t a ton of rumor mongering build-up, though.
  • Aroldis Chapman – although he was talked about heavily in rumor circles leading up to the trade, the vast majority was simply people connecting obvious dots. Most of the rumors at the time focused on his teammate, Andrew Miller. I still remember when word broke from Jon Heyman that things were getting serious on Chapman and the Cubs – a day before the trade – and it was pretty surprising.
  • Joe Smith – the Cubs’ other 2016 reliever pick-up came very much entirely out of nowhere at the deadline.
  • Jose Quintana – I was driving to Chicago with the family when this trade went down in July 2017. Although there had been some stray, mostly wish-casting rumors about Quintana being dealt, I did not feel like we knew the Cubs were seriously going to make a run at him (much less pull it off). I was so surprised when The Wife read me my phone messages that I had her read it to me several times. And then we pulled off so we could switch seats and I could frantically get to writing. To say this trade was not expected to *actually* happen is an understatement.
  • Justin Wilson/Alex Avila – the Cubs’ 2017 deadline acquisition combo started getting some heat about a day before the deadline. Before that, it was mostly dot-connecting by informed speculators, seeing a fit with the Cubs’ needs.
  • Jesse Chavez – what a fantastic pick-up he was in 2018, and there was absolutely zero rumor build-up whatsoever.
  • Cole Hamels – there were a couple vague rumors before he was acquired, but most of the discussion was some of us fighting the battle, saying he wouldn’t be such a bad option on the cheap for the Cubs (I was right for once!). The trade was not a huge surprise by the time it actually went down, though it never felt like a certainty.
  • Brandon Kintzler – the Cubs’ obligatory deadline reliever was not rumored to the Cubs in any way that I can remember in the run-up to the deal itself. Heck, the big question was whether the Nationals would trade anyone at all.
  • Terrance Gore – he came to the Cubs after the non-waiver deadline in 2018, and it was a surprise trade. Clearly a fit, and he made sense for most teams, but he was not rumored to be a Cubs target.
  • Daniel Murphy – obviously his trade was also after the non-waiver deadline. Once he was put on waivers, folks wondered openly about the fit, but there were no rumors connecting him to the Cubs until the deal was done.

All told, that’s actually quite a bit of surprise trading, or at least mostly kept under wraps until a deal was just about done. Indeed, when you look at the way previous trade season trades have gone down for this front office, it would be the exception rather than the rule if we knew for a week just how aggressively the Cubs were targeting someone and then they actually traded for that player.

So … no Nick Castellanos?

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Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.