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Cubs trade Emilio Bonifacio, James Russell to Braves

SELLER’S MARKET FOR CUBS

The Cubs might not be done trading this summer. GM Jed Hoyer said they’ll be ready to make waiver deals in August. But the Cubs were among the more active teams in the July trade market, landing seven players in four deals:

SS Addison Russell (Class AA), Athletics (for Samardzija/Hammel), July 5

OF Billy McKinney (Class A), Athletics (for Samardzija/Hammel), July 5

RHP Dan Straily (Class AAA-majors), Athletics (for Samardzija/Hammel), July 5

Player to be named later, Athletics (for Samardzija/Hammel), July 5

RHP Jonathan Martinez (Class A), Dodgers (for Darwin Barney), Monday

LHP Felix Doubront (majors), Red Sox (for player to be named), Wednesday

C Victor Caratini (Class A), Braves (for Bonifacio/J. Russell), Thursday

Updated: July 31, 2014 11:12PM



In their two big deals of the July trading season, the Cubs added one of the top shortstop prospects in baseball, a well-regarded outfield prospect and — just before the non-waiver deadline Thursday — a catching prospect who helps address one of the biggest position deficits in the system.

Now comes the hard part: turning it all into a formidable big-league lineup and, tougher yet, finding enough pitching to make it a big-league champion.

Impact hitters have become relatively scarce because of steroid testing. So the Cubs are pleased to have some of the top hitting prospects in the game on the verge of joining All-Stars Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo.

“But that said, we know we’re not close on pitching,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “We know we have to add a lot more depth. We have to add a lot more talent. And really our next 18 to 24 months is going to be largely spent on doing just that.”

On Thursday, the Cubs sent reliever James Russell and utility man Emilio Bonifacio to the Braves for Class A catching prospect Victor Caratini, a switch-hitter whose .377 on-base percentage is nearly 100 points higher than his batting average in 145 career professional games. The Cubs also included $1 million in the deal to get the prospect they wanted.

But as they look ahead for ways to acquire pitching — and with more payroll flexibility than this front office has had since taking charge three years ago — the trades of Red Sox ace John Lester to the Athletics and the Indians’ Justin Masterson to the Cardinals could loom large.

The Cubs have had internal discussions regarding both pending free agents, according to sources. And the trades assure a more open market because the starters no longer are eligible to receive qualifying offers from their team that would cost any team signing them a compensation draft pick.

Hoyer didn’t want to talk about other teams’ trades in the context of his team. But it’s one more potential gain the Cubs made on a day they acquired a prospect Hoyer said they eyed in the draft last year and has had strong scouting reports since.

They liked Caratini, 20, enough to include Russell and the cash because a rent-a-player utility guy such as Bonifacio wouldn’t get the deal done. The pair has roughly a combined $1.4 million left on their contracts.

“Sometimes when you start talking about rentals, the other team isn’t excited to give up a lot of value,” Hoyer said. “So in order to get a player that we liked, obviously we had to include Russell. He certainly wasn’t a guy we came into today feeling like we had to move.”

Bonifacio’s departure was a foregone conclusion as soon as the Cubs decided to hold him out of the lineup Wednesday night as they negotiated with multiple teams. Hoyer said “about a half-dozen” teams had some level of interest in Bonifacio.

“It’s still kind of weird,” said Russell, who learned of the deal during the Cubs’ 3-1 victory over the Rockies, then shared public hugs and goodbyes in the bullpen and dugout as the game continued. “I don’t know how to feel. There’s a lot of excitement and a lot of mixed emotions. It’s going to be a good thing.”

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

Twitter: @GDubCub



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