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.

Henderson Alvarez signs with Tigres de Quintana Roo

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Free agent right-hander Henderson Alvarez signed a deal with the Tigres de Quintana Roo of the Mexican Baseball League earlier this week, FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Friday. The righty wasn’t necessarily too fringey a player to hack it in the big leagues, but there were no MLB takers in attendance during his showcase in Venezuela last month and he clearly felt it best to try his luck elsewhere.

The 27-year-old’s last major league gig came with the Phillies, for whom he delivered a 4.30 ERA, 6.8 BB/9 and 3.7 SO/9 over 14 2/3 innings in 2017. While he’s not too far removed from his first and only All-Star bid in 2014, he was besieged by shoulder issues in 2015 and 2016 and underwent season-ending surgeries as a result.

That added injury risk, coupled with the fact that he hasn’t pitched more than 22 innings in a single season since 2014, may have been too much for major league teams to take on this spring. Assuming he steers clear of further injuries, however, a return to the majors may not be entirely out of the question in years to come.