Two rumors have dominated most of the headlines in recent weeks – the Baltimore Orioles were fast on the hunt for a starting pitcher and the Miami Marlins were anxious to move Ricky Nolasco. It would almost seem to be too logical of a move for the two teams to make, no? Baltimore made the first move of the trading season earlier today, acquiring the starter they’ve been coveting but it wasn’t Nolasco. The Orioles picked up Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger from the Chicago Cubs. In return, the Cubs will receive Jake Arrieta, Pedro Strop, and a significant portion of the Orioles’ international signing bonus cap.
Feldman will immediately step into Baltimore’s rotation and could make his first start as early as tomorrow at the Chicago White Sox. The veteran right-hander has had a solid season for the Cubs after joining the organization on a one year, $6 Million deal last November. He’s made 15 starts totaling 91.0 IP while posting a 7-6 record, 3.46 ERA, and 1.143 WHIP. If he can sustain it that ERA would mark a career-best by nearly half a run. The bulk of that career was with the Texas Rangers, as Feldman made 21 or more starts for the team four out of the past five seasons before joining the Cubs. Nagging injuries limited him to under 155.0 IP all but one year. Aside from his 17 win 2009 campaign, however, Feldman was hardly more than a replacement level option. Most importantly for Chicago, he’s been healthy which has kept him in the Cubs rotation all season. For a team that has disappointed, Feldman was one of a few bright spots which ultimately led to reasons why he was likely to be traded.
Chicago will be aggressive in dealing off assets in the coming weeks and they got off to a hot start with today’s moves (the team also traded Carlos Marmol to the Los Angeles Dodgers, but more on that later today). Despite Feldman being relatively affordable for the remainder of the 2013 season the Cubs knew that they wouldn’t be extending a qualifying offer (expected to be in the neighborhood of $14 Million) to Feldman this winter. He’d become a free agent and the team would get nothing in return.
Chicago did receive a pair of interesting arms in the deal in Arrieta and Strop, who both appeared to need a change of scenery.
Arrieta was once viewed as one of Baltimore’s top pitching prospects, but he’s never been able to maintain any consistency in 358.0 IP across the past four seasons. A career 1.472 WHIP, 9.3 H/9, and 4.0 BB/9 have been a concern and he’s been unable to limit the damage when he gets himself into trouble, resulting in a 5.46 ERA. He’s bounced back and forth between Baltimore’s rotation and their Triple-A affiliate. He’s put up better results in the minor leagues (3.47 ERA and 1.279 WHIP in 269.2 IP at Triple-A) Arrieta is just 27 and not yet arbitration eligible, so he certainly appeals to a team like the Cubs as they’d have control over him for a number of years.
There’d been some rumored interest by the San Diego Padres with regards to Arrieta, so numerous people have already speculated about the possibility of an additional move given the relationship between the two clubs. Chicago now has a pair of arms that the Padres are believed to covet in Arrieta and Matt Garza. Cubs GM Jed Hoyer has an intimate knowledge of San Diego’s minor league system from his time in their GM role and the two sides have repeatedly been linked together.
As for Strop, he’s another hard throwing right-hander who could help balance a Cubs bullpen in flux. He just turned 28 and like Arrieta is not yet arbitration eligible. Strop has dealt with some command issues up to this point in his career (128.1 IP over parts of the past five seasons), with 5.4 BB/9, but has shown a propensity to still strike batters out (8.6 K/9 – with a 10.8 K/9 mark in the upper minors). He broke out last season, posting a 2.44 ERA in a career high 70 appearances for Buck Showalter. This year he hasn’t been able to replicate that same success (up to a 7.25 ERA and 1.701 WHIP in 22.1 IP). He’s expected to step right into the Cubs bullpen upon joining the team. Arrieta appears ticketed for Triple-A Iowa initially.
Baltimore also gave up part of their international signing bonus cap in this deal. According to the team, the Cubs received their 3rd and 4th slots. Reports have put the value of those two slots at $388,100 which, coupled with other moves the team made today gives them extra flexibility to be aggressive on the international signing period which began today. This wiggle room may have actually been the primary goal of Chicago’s efforts when you consider the team’s needs to restock a somewhat barren farm system.
Clevenger’s inclusion in the deal came as somewhat a surprise to some. The catcher is a Baltimore native who’s seem some sparse playing time with the Cubs over the past three seasons, batting .199/.262/.275 in 229 PA in the Majors. He’s hit well in the minor leagues – .312/.367/.436 in 424 PA at Triple-A – but has been overtaken on the team’s depth charts and doesn’t look to be anything more than a backup in Chicago. Clevenger’s availability was a recent development, according to details passed along by Chris Cotilo at MLB Daily Dish. Clevenger was recently activated from the 60-day DL but he asked the team for a second opinion regarding the oblique strain that’s kept him on the shelf most of the season. The two sides couldn’t see eye-to-eye on the matter and he was dealt just over 24 hours later. Clevenger has been optioned to Triple-A Norfolk and will serve as depth behind Matt Wieters.