The year is 2020, Mlb.com has just regurgitated their yearly list of the “most lopsided trades in MLB history” or something along those lines. This years list is more of the same, a couple of older trades no one remembers ending with transactions from Theo Epstein’s run atop the cursed Cubbies. However, something is different with the click-bait in 2020 from 2017, for the top three trades are the following…
That’s right folks! The most lopsided trade in the history of baseball is February 1st 2017’s Eddie Butler pick up by the MLB champion Chicago Cubs, rejoice once more Bill Murray because the Colorado Rockies messed up once again. In exchange for a throwaway prospect and a swap of some cash, Theo once again steals premium talent away from the hands of those less keen sighted. I am no scout nor will I claim to be one, but I would put my money on Eddie Butler finding his footing at Wrigley and becoming the next Cubs pitcher to breakout under Chris Bosio *cough* Jake Arrieta *cough*.
Let’s take a look at the similarities between Butler and Arrieta from a career perspective before switching to a more analytical approach.
Yahoo Sports writer David Brown once described him as “Eternal prospect Jake Arrieta” which was perfectly fitting prior to his electrifying 2015 campaign which ended in some sick hardware. Arrieta, once a top 50 MLB prospect struggled from 2010-2013 with Baltimore, tossing 358 Innings of 5.46 ERA ball with a sad 77 ERA +, but turned the corner with Chicago producing 634.2 Innings of 2.52 ERA ball with a much more respectable 153 ERA+ from 2013-2016. Arrieta is the Cinderella story of a baseball generation, a true rags to riches righty with nothing left to prove.
For all we know, Butler has a crushing fear of heights that has hindered his performance in Denver, or Butler’s disgustingly bad seasons in the Mile High City have spawned said fear of heights. The point being that getting out of dodge may assist the once highly rated prospect. Like Arrieta, Butler was once given the praise of being a top 50 MLB prospect and promised to bring stable innings to Colorado’s future. Instead we received 36 appearances (28 starts) of 6.50 ERA baseball complimented by a dismal 73 ERA + and 1.6 HR/9 for good measure. Needless to say, it wasn’t pretty.
After that paragraph is where hopefully one day I can write that…”Butler, like Arrieta, turned a corner with Chicago, churning in (insert respectable Innings numbers) of (insert great ERA) ball tied to a (insert ERA+ that makes it clear he was far above league average) that helped lead Chicago to three consecutive World Series titles.”
But how can Butler achieve Arrieta Status?
Scouting Report Analysis
Arrieta and Butler feature a number of similar comments on scouting reports that hint at future success
Scout Jason Cole writes of Butler in 2013 that “His stuff is nasty; nobody doubts that. It’s a power arsenal with huge life. His delivery isn’t ideal and leads some scouts to believe he profiles best in the bullpen––where I think he’d be a potential elite closer––but he seems to make it work enough to stick in a starting role. He repeated, got to both sides of the plate, should be durable, and showed a plenty deep repertoire.
While Orioles Scouting Director Joe Jordan wrote in 2008 of Arrieta “He’s a four-pitch guy. When the other three pitches become consistent and he can use them the way he needs to, the sky is the limit. That’s what I’m looking forward to from him in 2009, the progression of secondary pitches. When he makes that step, he’s going to force his way to the big leagues.” and Alex Eisenberg of the Hardball Times adds in 2009 that Arrieta’s stuff may best be utilized in a bullpen role for Baltimore considering his struggle to find a groove and control.
In both cases, the pitchers posses elite pitch arsenals that they struggle to master, a potential to provide quality innings, and the power stuff to carve out a role in an MLB bullpen at least.
The situation that Butler is walking into is perfect. The average MLB GB% sits around 48% while Butler has pitched near a 50% in his big league career and while projections have him near that 48% mark for 2017, Cubs Pitching Coach has done an excellent job extracting the best from the ground-out as seen by Arrieta’s success and Kyle Hendrick’s breakout 2016.
Moreover, Butler is walking in on an infield defense to die for with Bryant, Russell, Baez/Zobrist, and Rizzo which, according to stat site oddshark.com was the best defense in the majors in 2016. That defense should help provide Butler with much more stability than he received in Denver and should in turn reduce his H9 of 12.2 and .357 BABIP.
This argument is arbitrary and has little analytical backing, but there is something about the Cubs pitching staff under Joe Maddon that just makes you think it can be done. Kyle, Hendricks and Jake Arrieta were no names in 2013 but came together with proven stud Jon Lester to form a dynamic staff. Cub’s pitching coach Chris Bosio’s track record of reclamation is not as deep as Ray Searage’s but features a now perennial Cy Young candidate in the similar Jake Arrieta. Manager Joe Maddon brings out the best in his troops and inspires more that what you are deemed capable of.
In all likelihood,
Eddie Butler probably won’t become the next Jake Arrieta. However, if he reaches the ceiling he is capable of, the NL central better watch out because cracking through the Cubs will be tough. If he accomplishes these goals, I will be over here at The Swinging Strike ready to say “I told you so” while sipping out of my memorial three-peat Cubs mug.