Trade analysis: Cubs land Grabow, Gorzelanny

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Cubs acquire LHP John Grabow and LHP Tom Gorzelanny from the Pirates for RHP Kevin Hart, RHP Jose Ascanio and INF-OF Josh Harrison.
In Grabow, the Cubs get the lefty reliever they craved, but it will up to Lou Piniella to use him correctly. Grabow is no specialist, and he didn’t become a quality pitcher until the Pirates figured that out. Lefties have actually hit .270 off him in his career, compared to .254 for righties. His ERA is up this year, but that’s entirely due to a rough stretch in early May. He’s been rock solid for 2 1/2 months now, and he should be a fine sixth- and seventh-inning guy for the Cubs.
The Pirates soured on Gorzelanny a year ago and refused to give him another opportunity this year, even though he had a 2.48 ERA and an 85/30 K/BB ratio in 87 innings for Triple-A Indianapolis. He was actually up for a time in May, but it was to pitch in relief, even though he had never done that before. They didn’t even give him a few appearances in Triple-A to see how it would work out. It was a bizarre experiment, and he went right back down after allowing five runs in 8 2/3 innings. Since then, he had a 1.17 ERA in eight starts for Indianapolis. The Cubs figure to bring him to the majors as Hart’s replacement in the rotation, though that will only last until Ted Lilly returns. Perhaps he’ll be tried again as a reliever then.
Money isn’t a major issue in the deal. Grabow is making $2.3 million and will be a free agent at season’s end. He’ll likely be a Type B free agent, and the Cubs figure to offer him arbitration, allowing them to gain a supplemental first-round pick if he leaves. Because of all of the time Gorzelanny has spent in the minors, he still won’t be eligible for arbitration at season’s end, meaning the Cubs will control his rights for four more years.
Hart’s Cubs career was interesting, if nothing else. Upon debuting in Sept. 2007, he pitched so well that he claimed a spot on the postseason roster. That made him close to a lock for the 2008 roster and he earned his spot with a strong spring, only to struggle in April and spend most of the rest of the year in the minors. He seemed like a forgotten man in the system only a couple of months ago, yet injuries gave him another chance and he had gone 3-1 with a 2.86 ERA in four starts since entering the rotation. He learned of the trade just a few minutes after beating the Astros today. I’m not sure the changeup is there to make him a quality starter for the long term, but he should be pretty useful, even if it’s just in middle relief. The Pirates will likely give him Virgil Vasquez’s spot in the rotation.
Ascanio was a reliever for almost his entire career until the Cubs tried him as a starter in Triple-A this year. He proved to be one of the PCL’s best starters early on, though his ERA faded to 3.16 before he was called up. He had a 3.52 ERA in 14 relief appearances for the Cubs. He has the pure stuff to close in the majors, but his command has always held him back. The Pirates should be happy if he turns into a useful seventh-inning guy.
Harrison was a sixth-round pick out of Cincinnati last year. He was hitting .327/.372/.464 with five homers and 26 steals in 373 at-bats for low Single-A Peoria and high-A Dayton. As a second baseman, he’d be interesting. The Cubs, though, had been using him more in left field and at third base lately. He’s not going to be a starting outfielder, and he’ll probably need to show he can handle infield chores if he’s going to make it as a utilityman.
I liked the Jack Wilson and the Freddy Sanchez deals, but the Pirates don’t seem to make out as well here. Besides giving up the one established major leaguer, their also parting with the player with the most upside in Gorzelanny. Hart fits into the same class as Ross Ohlendorf and Charlie Morton, leaving me wondering just how many No. 4 starters they think they’re going to need next year.

Reds sign Ryan Raburn to minor league deal

DENVER, COLORADO - APRIL 10:  Ryan Raburn #6 of the Colorado Rockies rounds the bases on his solo home run off of James Shields #33 of the San Diego Padres to take a 4-2 lead in the seventh inning on April 10, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockies defeated the Padres 6-3.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Veteran infielder/outfielder Ryan Raburn has a minor league contract with the Reds, the club announced on Sunday. The deal was reported last week, but had been pending a physical. It includes an invitation to spring training, where Raburn is expected to compete against Desmond Jennings for a major league utility role. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer’s C. Trent Rosecrans, there’s a $900,000 base salary waiting for him if he makes the big league roster by Opening Day.

Raburn, 35, is coming off of a down year with the Rockies in 2016. He slashed .220/.309/.404 for the team last season, clubbing nine home runs as he struggled to stay above the Mendoza line. Raburn was stationed in left field for much of the season, but also saw some time at DH, first base and right field toward the end of the year. Assuming he can turn out a production rate that skews closer to the .301 average and .936 OPS he put up with the Indians in 2015, however, the Reds should have little trouble finding a place for him off the bench or as a platoon option with Scott Schebler in right field.

Dexter Fowler unhappy with President Trump’s attempts to institute a travel ban

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 01:  Dexter Fowler #24 of the Chicago Cubs looks on during the first inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game Six of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 1, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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ESPN’s Mark Saxon reports that new Cardinals outfielder Dexter Fowler isn’t a fan of President Trump’s ongoing effort to institute a travel ban. Trump signed Executive Order 13769 on January 27, 2017, which limited incoming travelers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. However, a temporary restraining order was placed by Judge James L. Robart following Washington v. Trump.

Fowler’s wife was born in Iran. Fowler said that her sister delayed her return from a business trip to Qatar to avoid potentially being detained. Fowler and his wife have also delayed traveling to visit her relatives in Iran.

Fowler said, “It’s huge. Especially any time you’re not able to see family, it’s unfortunate.”

The response by Cardinals fans was predictably terrible. Via the BestFansStLouis Twitter account:

One of the commenters wrote, “He signed a contract with the Cardinals so that makes him property of stl cardinals and mlb so he needs to keep his mouth shut. His personal opinions, problems, beliefs and political views should be kept to himself as long as he’s under a mlb contract…” He continued, “It’s not our fault he married someone from another country.”

Fowler caught wind of this and other responses to his statement, so he tweeted:

Fowler, of course, is one thousand percent correct.

These same “stick to sports,” “keep your politics out of my sports” people either said nothing or cheered when athletes and coaches espoused political views from the other side of the spectrum. Like when Patriots quarterback Tom Brady hung a “Make America Great Again” hat in his locker. Or when reliever Jonathan Papelbon played a pro-Trump song in the clubhouse. Or when former NFL head coach and ESPN commentator Mike Ditka said last year, “Obama’s the worst president we’ve ever had.”

Even Saxon and Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch have received myriad “stick to sports” comments simply for acknowledging that Fowler made a comment on the matter.

As we’ve pointed out here countless times, it is impossible to separate sports from politics. It is irresponsible to pretend like it’s even possible. Sports and politics intersect in so many ways, including race, religion, gender, sexuality, and class. This particular situation with Trump’s executive order impacts baseball quite a bit as Fowler’s individual situation shows. He’s certainly not the only player to have a loved one who came from one of the seven aforementioned countries. Non-white players are also much more likely to have a bad experience at the airport — consider how often players are at the airport during the season — and their family and friends may be subject to one of the many ugly ICE raids that have taken place over the last three weeks.

Kudos to Fowler for speaking up and kudos for Saxon and others for reporting on it. This is certainly not a time during which we should pretend we can keep sports and politics separate.