Let’s be honest: The Cubs shot themselves in the foot when they let everybody and their mothers know they were going to trade Ryan Dempster. In doing so, they lost all trade leverage and put the ball in somebody else’s court.
Every other team knew they did not need to offer an initial deal securing package to acquire Dempster because they knew he was going to be dealt. For the Cubs, there was no turning back. And it seems every team knew that except for the Cubs.
Which leads us to the Atlanta Braves trade conundrum. By not informing Ryan Dempster the club was in serious talks with the Braves about sending the veteran pitcher down to Atlanta, they SNAFU’d a potential trade.
If they would have shown Dempster the respect a 10-5 player deserves, what they could have received in return for Dempster would have put the stamp on the new administration’s first season running the Cubs.
Instead, what they did by not keeping Dempster abreast of the trade talks by letting him first hear about being traded the same time the rest of us did, was bush league and disrespectful.
But did this cost the Cubs?
Instead of receiving highly regarded prospect Randall Delgado from the Atlanta Braves due to their own incompetence, and not realizing the Dodgers knew what every baseball observer knew—that they would have to trade Dempster before the July 31 deadline—the Cubs instead were forced to deal him to the Texas Rangers for minor leaguers Christian Villanueva and Kyle Hendricks.
Christian Villanueva is a third baseman roughly the size of Tony Campana, with his speed to boot. Add in a little power and defense, and you got a decent left-side prospect.
He is not in the list of top 100 prospects on ESPN.com, MiLB.com, and Scout.com, or with The Sporting News and Baseball Prospectus. But he does crack the century mark on Baseball America’s list at No. 100
However, Villanueva could be considered a sleeper in the deal. Baseball Prospect Nation scouts him to become an average hitter with some pop. But defense as his most outstanding tool. If he can bulk up a little and hit for average, his defense at the hot corner could push him up the Cubs’ minor league ranks and propel him to the ML roster—especially on the same side of the diamond as the error-prone, attention-losing Starlin Castro.
But the gem of this deal could turn out to be RHP, Kyle Hendricks. He’s not a pitcher who is going to wow you with a hard-throwing style, and he’s not likely to light up a radar gun.
His fastball sits at the Greg Maddux range, and like Mad-Dog he comes with a complete array of pitches which he able to control.
(I am in no way, shape, or form intimating his skills mirror that of Maddux; just a comparison.)
He has a four- and two-seamer, a changeup, curve, and slider. But it is his developing “out pitch,” the cutter, that can give hitters the most fits.
"I just started throwing a cutter and it’s been a big part of the repertoire lately,” Hendricks said. “If I fall behind in the count or something, I use it as a contact pitch to get out of the count and go to the next hitter."
In 2011, his first season in the minors after being drafted by the Texas Rangers in the eighth round of the 2011 MLB draft out of Dartmouth—he was originally plucked in the thirty-ninth round of the 2008 draft out of high school by the Anaheim Angels—he put some very impressive numbers.
In 21 appearances and 35.2 innings, including one start, Hendricks posted a 2-2 record with a 2.02 ERA, .841 WHIP, and 38 Ks to 6 BBs.
Although Hendricks struggled in his one outing with Double-A Frisco in 2011, it is what he has done thus far at Single-A Myrtle Beach in 2012 that had made him appealing to the Cubs.
Never mind his record of 5-8, he still maintains a low ERA at 2.82 and his WHIP is up considerably to 1.056. He has 112 strikeouts and 15 free-passes in 130.2 innings. He averages 1.06 BB+H\inning which would currently place him at ninth in the league, and a K\BB ratio of 7.47 that would place him head and shoulders above any other pitcher in the MLB.
It is a receiving a pitcher like this that can compensate for the previous debacles Epstein and Hoyer made in trying to trade away Dempster.
If Hendricks blossoms in to the pitcher the organization believes he can be, as all Cubs fans hope he does, not only will we forget about the Dempster trade fiasco, but some time down the road we can all look back on this trade and realize, for once, we were not on the “business end” of a bad deal.
To use Tony Campana once more in an analogy, this deal is like a hit to the first base side, careening off the wall with error-prone fielder chasing the ball: You do not know if it will be an inside the park HR, but you know it’s a possibility.