Trades no surprise as Cubs look to future

OAKLAND, Calif. – The Chicago Cubs got the ball rolling Tuesday with a flurry of trades aimed at the future, and surely they’ll be dealing away more veteran pieces as the July 31 trade deadline approaches.

Before Tuesday’s series opener against the Oakland Athletics, manager Dale Sveum tried focusing on the potential upside of the players Chicago received in multiple deals that essentially kicked off Major League Baseball’s trading season.

In their biggest move of the day, the Cubs shipped right-handed starter Scott Feldman and catcher Steve Clevenger to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for right-hander Jake Arrieta, reliever Pedro Strop and $388,100 in international bonus pool money.

They also sent reliever Carlos Marmol and a sizable chunk of international bonus money to the Los Angeles Dodgers for reliever Matt Guerrier and dealt minor league second baseman Ronald Torreyes to the Houston Astros in exchange for $784,700 in bonus money.

It’s expected that Matt Garza, another rotation cornerstone, and closer Kevin Gregg could also be traded away soon.

Sveum was asked if it was demoralizing to see his team officially go into “sell mode.”

“I wouldn’t say it’s tough, because you know it’s got a chance of happening,” Sveum said. “To get an arm like Arrieta, that kind of athleticism and body … the ability to get a ball to 97 miles per hour but have a 91 mile per hour slider, it’s [the kind of guy you’re] trying to get in the organization.”

Arrieta will report to Triple-A Iowa, but Strop and Guerrier will both join the big league bullpen Wednesday.

Lefty Chris Rusin was recalled from Iowa to start in Feldman’s place Tuesday, but the Cubs need to find a permanent replacement for Feldman. Sveum indicated that Carlos Villanueva will be stretched out to join the rotation. The right-hander has made eight starts this season but has primarily pitched in relief, posting a 2-4 record and 3.59 ERA.

Sveum doesn’t expect Villanueva to be ready for a start until sometime around the All-Star break.

Strop, 28, was a key piece to Baltimore’s standout bullpen last season, but he’s struggling to find the strike zone this season, posting a 7.25 ERA and issuing 15 walks in 22⅓ innings.

Arrieta, 27, was once a highly regarded prospect, but he’s failed to fulfill expectations. He was 1-2 with a 7.23 ERA in five starts this season before being sent to the minors.

Multiple analysts across the country slapped the “change of scenery” label on Arrieta and Strop, hinting that switching organizations might be the key to unlocking their potential.

“We all know it happens,” Sveum said. “You can go to another organization and start [flourishing], whether it’s in a different role or the same role but you just get out of a place. It’s a fact. It happens, and, hopefully, it happens with these guys because they have power arms.”

With the new spending limits Major League Baseball has placed on clubs when it comes to paying international free agents, acquiring bonus money from other teams as part of a trade is a new strategy the Cubs pursued aggressively Tuesday.

They reportedly acquired $963,000 in bonus money and went right to work on the first day international free agents could be signed. Their highest-profile signing was 16-year-old Venezuelan shortstop Gleyber Torres, who received $1.7 million. Baseball America ranked Torres as the No. 2 international prospect available.

The Cubs also signed Dominican right-hander Jefferson Mejia for $850,000 and 16-year-old Colombian right-hander Erling Moreno for $800,000.