Trades happen all the time in baseball but their impact is deeper than just putting on a different uniform. Trades can have a tremendous impact on a team’s chemistry and their clubhouse atmosphere. Last week the Chicago Cubs traded away Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, two guys who were veterans and clubhouse leaders, and it has been announced that Dallas Beeler and Kyle Hendricks, both rookies, will replace them. The Cubs dramatically improved their future with the trade but in the present they became even younger at the big league level. However, given the leadership shown by Anthony Rizzo and others, all guesses are that the team will be just fine.
Trades usually have one of two impacts on a ball club: 1) the departed player(s) fades away seamlessly and its like they were never even there, or 2) the team struggles to find a new identity. Normally teams experience the former when the player traded away is a bad influence on the team (ex. Milton Bradley) or is replaced by someone who can do their job better. These are the best type of trades because, especially when a team has had a tough go of it, it puts the past in the rearview mirror and draws the team’s collective focus towards the now and the future.
Although the Cubs seem as though they will be fine, teams often struggle when they lose veteran members, especially when it is a young team. Often young teams can struggle to find new leaders and, more importantly, new mentors. For example, Starlin Castro was devastated last year when Alfonso Soriano was traded because Soriano had taken Castro under his wing. There is no question that some members of the Cubs pitching staff are going through the same thing right now. The good news, however, is that teams that are forced to go through this type of transition always come out of it stronger. When the right young players are thrust into leadership roles they are forced to mature quickly and take control of their team.
The Cubs have weathered the first wave of many, in terms of changes to their clubhouse dynamic. It will be interesting to see what is left when the dust settles after the July 31st trade deadline.Alfonso Soriano, Anthony Rizzo, Baseball, Chicago, Chicago Cubs, Dallas Beeler, Jason Hammel, Jeff Samardzija, Kyle Hendricks, Milton Bradley, MLB, Starlin Castro, trade deadline