Reflecting on the Ryan Tepera Trade Because Reasons, Top Franchises, and Other Cubs Bullets

On the one hand, the Bulls game last night was a great experience because I was with friends, the UC is fun, and live basketball makes for a really different viewing than on TV. On the other hand, the Bulls got absolutely stomped and Zach LaVine left hurt almost immediately. So … mixed evening?

•   Doing another circuit of all the reporting in the wake of MLB’s first offer of the lockout to the players, you can synthesize a pretty clear set of industry expectations at this point: it remains likely that a deal gets done before regular season games are lost (though not a guarantee), but Spring Training is a near lock to get shrunk down to the bare minimum for season preparation. Probably something like a week of pre-game ramping up, and then three weeks of games. So basically just March. That would allow for another month from here for a deal to get done, and then two weeks of “offseason.” It’s not even that it would necessarily *take* a month to get a deal done from here, it’s just that everyone seems to agree that it’s the pain of the regular season that will force action, so you have to work backwards from the March 31 Opening Day to figure out when the sides will actually feel sufficiently pressured to get a deal done. So, plan for at least another month of trying to while away the days. I can’t believe we’ve made it through 45 days of this …

•   Something extremely random that I think about often – since I think about Cubs prospects quite a lot these days – is the Ryan Tepera trade. Random, like I said. But it’s true, and there’s also chronological connection today. I’ll get there.

•   The more we look back at the Cubs’ 2021 Trade Deadline, the more we see how well the Cubs did in their sell trades. I don’t mean in terms of how things work out – that’s still to be seen in the coming years – but I mean in terms of the expected value you could get in rental trades in the current era. Teams just don’t part with really significant prospects in rental trades anymore, and yet the Cubs landed several who could conceivably wind up top 100 types by this time next year, particularly the young, high-upside types on whom they seemed to focus.

•   Which takes me back to the Tepera trade, which sticks out a bit among the rest of them. Although Tepera was seen around baseball as one of the best right-handed pure rental relievers available (complete with a tiny salary expense), the Cubs’ return was viewed as very light, and also a very different type from most of the other trade returns: 2020 fifth rounder Bailey Horn, who was approaching 24, was a mixed-results guy at High-A, and who did not necessarily project to remain a starting pitcher in the years ahead. We haven’t discussed Horn much since the trade, in large part because his results at High-A with the Cubs were mediocre, especially for a college arm.

•   But Horn and that trade were on my mind again today because I happened to see that Horn turned 24 today. Happy birthday to the lefty. And the more I think about the Cubs targeting him in that trade, knowing that Tepera absolutely had quality trade value, the more I think Horn had to be a guy the Cubs loved in the very short 2020 draft (and didn’t get a chance to land him), and whose pro debut in 2021 with the White Sox must’ve confirmed for them – in the underlying data – that he was a unique guy they thought they could get more out of, even if as a power reliever down the road. As I understand it, the spin/stuff metrics were always really good on Horn even if the results weren’t, and he has the ability to crank it up to 98 mph. None of that means the Cubs were *right* in their choice of Horn as the return in a deal for Tepera (maybe they could’ve landed another high-risk 19-year-old), but Horn stood as such an outlier in a trade season that was otherwise loaded with very young, very high upside prospects, that it just makes me think the Cubs thought they could steal one. And it makes me more excited to see what Horn looks like coming out of his first half season and full offseason in the Cubs organization, which has made significant strides in seeing pitchers develop a great deal during these offseason periods. I think we’ll know by midseason whether the Cubs were right to target Horn or not.

•   Also, Tepera, 34, wound up fantastic for the White Sox after the trade, and should be a pretty hot reliever on the market coming out of the lockout. Maybe the Cubs can sign him again and then trade him again for another scouting-specific target.

•   Had you asked me where the Cubs fit in this particular pantheon in baseball history before I’d seen it, I think I actually would’ve been pretty darn close to the right range. Although the Cubs of our lifetimes have generally been disappointing, the Cubs were among the class of the sport for a half-century many moons ago. Not that it helps us much today, but that’s how you wind up with this:

•   If you are looking to do any sports betting this weekend for the NFL Wild Card games, make sure to check out the DraftKings promos here, and the FanDuel promos here.

•   A little fun looking back at a part of the post-World Series victory lap:

•   Are you KIDDING ME:

•   Winter gear, trash cans, and more are your Deals of the Day at Amazon. #ad

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Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

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