Since he got to Chicago near the end of 2011, Cubs President of Baseball Operations and/or Protector of the Realm Theo Epstein has made a lot of good decisions.
“Making moves” is what Epstein is known for. It’s what defines any front office star in professional sports. In baseball, those moves can be broken down into three categories: Draft picks, free agent signings, and trades.
The latter tends to be the most sexy for an exec of Epstein’s mold – the genius that essentially hustles other lesser GM’s around the league – and he’s proven that to the point where Cubs fans rarely second-guess any Theo Epstein trades.
Shit, since the beginning of 2012, he’s acquired Anthony Rizzo, Jake Arrieta, Addison Russell, Miguel Montero, Dexter Fowler, Kyle Hendricks, Pedro Strop, Neil Ramirez and Justin Grimm via trade.
That’s half of the Cubs’ starting infield, two-fifths of the starting rotation, the starting catcher, starting center fielder and two of the bullpen’s top arms — all for the grand price of Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel (who’s back on the Cubs) and a bunch of guys you haven’t heard of.
But when you’re an exec who makes moves, you’re bound to miss on a few too. So instead of continuing to quantify his genius, I thought it beneficial to look at the short list of bad Theo Epstein trades since he began his Presidency of the North Side.
Well, to remind everyone that Theo is in fact human. And in the process, to point out his success in a different way than the typical man crush conversation (which I enjoy having as much as anybody).
After all, the list of bad Theo Epstein trades in Chicago is the shortest a list can possibly be.
The Short List of Bad Theo Epstein Trades as Cubs President
1) DECEMBER 8, 2011: Sent DJ LeMahieu and Tyler Colvin to Colorado for Ian Stewart and Casey Weathers
I’ll be honest, the initial inspiration for this post came from a conversation about DJ LeMahieu’s hot start in 2016 on the heels of his All-Star campaign in 2015.
Of course, the fact he plays for the “we don’t give a damn about pitching” Colorado Rockies – and thus their status as one of the league’s worst teams – is primarily why LeMahieu has been given a ripe opportunity to show what he can do.
That peaked last season when he hit over .300, stole 23 bases and played Gold Glove-caliber defense for an atrocious Rockies team in his first full season as a starter.
Meanwhile, the other three players involved in the deal aren’t currently doing anything in the major leagues. So, while the Cubs’ group of position players is loaded – there’s no doubt LeMahieu’s versatile skill set would be welcomed on Joe Maddon’s bench.
On that note…
2) NOVEMBER 6, 2014: Sent Arodys Vizcaino to Atlanta for Tommy La Stella
Depending on your opinion of Tommy LaStella — which seems to range between “why is this guy taking Jorge Soler and Javier Baez’s at bats?!” and “yeah, this pinch hitter guy is chill” — this one could seem quite puzzling.
Almost always, Theo Epstein trades end up with him receiving the higher amount of upside in the deal. Which, in hindsight, is what’s odd about him sending Vizcaino to Atlanta for La Stella – who ironically seems to be a left-handed and less athletic version of LeMahieu.
The deal seems even more odd considering Epstein acquired Vizcaino from Atlanta at the trade deadline back in 2012 when the Cubs were still in tank-and-build mode.
He hasn’t proven that he can stay healthy yet, but Vizcaino was one of the league’s better setup men last season for the Braves. La Stella became an effective pinch-hitter for Joe Maddon down the stretch in 2015, and it appears he’ll be in that role again this season.