Zack’s Sack: A Wrigleyville Mailbag, Vol 7., ALL-STAR EDITION

Hey now, and welcome to the special All-Star edition of Zack’s Sack! The Cubs made a huge trade this week, and Wade Davis blew the All-Star game for the National League. So, don’t delay, act now—let’s dive into the sack. As always, Twitter replies have been left unedited to capture the immediate nature of the medium, and to embarrass those who don’t know how to spell.

“Please provide your thoughts on the 1980 trade with the Cardinals that sent Leon Durham and Ken Reitz to the Cubs for Bruce Sutter” — @MikeGianella

This is one trade that really gets a bad reputation among Cubs fans of a certain age, and for no real reason. Bruce Sutter entered the league in 1976, unleashed his deadly splitter on the league, and turned in five of the best seasons of relief pitching in the game’s history until that point. He set a Cubs relief record for strikeouts in a season, he led the league in saves twice, and he posted a 2.39 ERA in almost 500 innings. He won the Cy Young in 1979, and should have won in 1977 when he totaled a 1.34 ERA in 107.1 innings (good for an astounding 6.5 bWAR and 3.4 WARP, if you’re into that sort of thing), and generally made waste of the league.

So, it would be natural to be a little bent out of shape if the Cubs traded Sutter. However, the players the Cardinals sent in return probably impacted the Cubs’ early-’80s teams more than keeping Sutter would have. Kevin Reitz was unceremoniously bad, but Leon Durham was the Cubs’ best hitter for the next seven years. With the Cubs, Durham hit .279/.363/.484, and three times slugged better than .500. Durham was a cog in the celebrated 1984 club, bolstering a formidable lineup featuring MVP Ryne Sandberg, Ron Cey, and Gary Matthews. That year, he socked 23 homers and even swiped 16 bags. Much like Bill Madlock and Bill Buckner before him, Durham was underappreciated by Cubs fans, especially in retrospect. Unlike those two players, Durham ended up traded by the Cubs at just the right time: Jim Frey, Dallas Green’s successor as general manager, shipped Durham off to Cincinnati, and Durham was out of the majors within a year and a half.

The void at the back end of the bullpen didn’t last long after Sutter’s departure, either. Some guy by the name of Lee Smith all but equaled Sutter’s performance in his eight seasons in pinstripes, three times topping 100 innings, striking out just under 100 batters most seasons, and saving 180 games.

“whats the most fun you ever had at a base ball game. :)” — @ultimatehungry

I attended Carlos Zambrano’s 2008 no-hitter of the Houston Astros at Miller Park, and that was probably the most fun I’ve had watching a game in person. I did recently get to see the Cubs play at Fenway Park, and I was able to take a picture with the Cubs and Red Sox drought-breaking World Series trophies. That was pretty cool.

“Which young Cub (27 & under) is the most unlikeable?” — @GregLicked

Kris Bryant is too straight laced, Anthony Rizzo is a little too fratty, Ian Happ is boring. Jason Heyward is very likeable with his stoic leadership and great defense, Javier Báez is exuberant and also possesses an outstanding glove, and Willson Contreras is a joy to watch go hard at every moment of the game. I won’t make a final call here (so sue me) but those are my assessments.

“how will the cubs’ lack of a prospect list championship impact clubhouse morale” — @StelliniTweets

It’s difficult to watch a team rebuild like this Cubs organization, but it’s also difficult to complain after the Cubs’ unprecedented run of championships from 2012-2015. Sure, the minor league teams will be less fun to watch, but just imagine it: one day, these good major leaguers will once again be turned into prospects who are exciting.

As for the clubhouse, I imagine they’re taking this quite hard. Losing good clubhouse guys like Jiménez and Cease is tough—thinking about the guys in the organization who are destined to take your job is always good for one’s confidence. Frankly, I think the lack of high-ceiling prospects in the system is what has caused the Cubs to falter this year.

“How will you react when CHW snap the Cubs’ 3-World Series streak by beating them in the WS in ’19 and ’20 with Eloy back to back WSMVP?” — @Nick_BPSS

I’ll probably still be hungover from the Cubs’ three-peat. Then they’ll three-peat again after they sign Jiménez in free agency.

“zac[hk] are any of the players involved beefy and/or do any have future beef potential” — @jlwoj

First off, Woj, you know how to spell my name now.

Second, we have different definitions of beefy, if I recall. Using the incredible powers of “search function,” I was able to return 36 separate messages in our chat about “beefy” and beefiness. You, Woj, think that Justin Bour, Ray King, and Johnny Cueto are all beefy boys. The Quintana deal doesn’t feature any currently beefy players, but Jiménez has a shot at becoming beefy. A small shot, though.

“Could you please narrate the trade conversation between Theo and Hahn?” — @MaryMCraig

RICK HAHN, from behind a “Billy Marlin through the Years” exhibit: Psst. Theo. Theo-meister. Theo-dog. Theo theo bo beo banana fanna fo feo.

THEO: Hey Rick, what’s up? Remember what we talked about before the break?

RICK: Theo! Not out here, everyone can see us, geez.

THEO: Wouldn’t you want more people to know to drive up… you know, never mind. You’re right.

RICK: Here, duck behind this exhibit with me.

[THEO sidles up next to RICK, who is standing behind a statue of Billy the Marlin dousing Jeffrey Loria in champagne]

THEO: Ok, so you wanna talk Quintana? My offer stands, you get Eloy and Cease and a couple low-A guys. Jed can fill you in, if you wanna call him.

RICK: Yeah, yeah, that sounds good. You know, Quintana’s been pretty good in his last few starts. Maybe throw in Candelario? We need some major-league talent, man.

THEO: Buddy, you’re getting our top prospect. And our second-best prospect. Quintana is walking almost twice his career average, you’re not getting any more. How do you feel about Bryant.

RICK, incredulously: BRYANT?! Don’t you need him?

THEO: He’s getting kinda old for us, actually. Not sure he’ll get too many opportunities going forward, I think he’ll fill out your org nicely.

RICK: Well, [shucks], all right. Quintana for Bryant, Jiménez, Cease, and Rose?

THEO: Deal. I’ll follow up soon.

[Two days later…]

RICK, to no one in particular: [Shucks].

“In all seriousness, what is next?  Heard rumors on SP Gausman (what would it take? Candy ++++++++?), “fresh bullpen arms” etc” — @SchwarBear

The front office is going to continue to kick the tires on starters, if only because it’s due diligence. I would be surprised if they make another major move, since it would probably require trading a major leaguer—if they didn’t ship one off for Quintana, they won’t ship one off for someone inferior. Gausman, Verlander, Gray, etc. will continue to be on their radar, but most likely they will wait for the offseason when they can expend fewer players, or just pay for a starter in free agency.

They’ll also likely look to add in the bullpen, if only to bolster an already formidable outfit. Can’t have too many strong arms for the playoffs, and the Cubs have an opportunity for one of the best ‘pens in recent memory. A corner outfielder might be in the mix, too, but that’s unlikely with Schwarber back and Zobrist and Heyward healthy.

“Who will you hug now that all the prospects are gone” — @rschultzy20

Smash Mouth.

Lead photo courtesy Dylan Zobel

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