If we could trade a future superstar, still in the minor leagues and a couple years away from reaching the majors, for a World Series title this year, I’m guessing most Cubs fans would do that trade with no hesitation.
If that is indeed the case, then why are we still debating the Gleyber Torres-Aroldis Chapman trade?
How quickly some of us forget the situation this franchise was in just two years ago: No championship in over a century, with a team that was as close as ever to getting it done. We were desperate.
The bullpen was the one area of the team that the front office could improve via trade. The team already had five solid starting pitchers. The offense, while at times inconsistent, was full of young talent at almost every position. There was no position that needed a clear upgrade, and even if the Cubs did trade for an impact bat big enough to make a difference, it would have cost them at least as much as they gave up for Chapman.
Torres is a middle infielder, so who would he have displaced on the roster? It would have been either fan favorite Javier Báez, who was turning into an impact player on offense and defense, or Addison Russell, who is having a somewhat disappointing season now but was in the middle of a 95 RBI campaign two years ago. The same folks on Twitter who are criticizing the front offense for letting Torres get away could have had another field day watching Báez – at the time considered by many a likely big league trade chip – make dazzling plays at Yankee Stadium instead of Wrigley Field.
Ten years ago, I wouldn’t have given up a player like Torres for bullpen help. But the game has changed so that relief pitching is more important than ever, especially in the playoffs. The Cubs needed bullpen help, and the fact that the Yankees were dangling Chapman provided an opportunity that doesn’t come along every year. Given that this may have been the team’s best chance yet to win it all, it’s a gamble the front office had to take. The fact that Gleyber Torres is off to such a hot start to his career doesn’t change that.
The purpose of this article is not to examine whether the Cubs would have won the World Series in 2016 without Chapman (though I don’t believe they would have). We have already discussed his contributions that year plenty. Here in 2018, the only thing that matters is that they DID win, and any speculation as to what would have happened without Chapman is meaningless. If given the chance, I wouldn’t hop in the time machine, undo the trade, and replay the 2016 postseason just so we could have Torres now.
Both the Cubs and Yankees got what they wanted out of that trade: The Cubs got their title and the Yankees got a building block for their next window of contention. That’s what good trades should be. This isn’t Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio. Cubs fans should have no shame in watching Torres succeed elsewhere.
I will admit it’s a little tough to watch Torres lighting up the world in the Bronx. But our fans should know as well as anyone that championships don’t come easy, and something that great comes at a cost. Giving up great players is an inevitable part of the business. Let’s not forget the lopsided trades the Cubs have benefited from: Anthony Rizzo from the Padres, Addison Russell from the A’s, or Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop from the Orioles.
None of those teams have won a championship since those trades. The Cubs have. Let’s consider ourselves grateful.
Brian R. Johnston is the author of the book, The Art of Being a Baseball Fan, his story of following the 2015 Chicago Cubs. He lives in St. Joseph, MI with his wife and two children.