Perhaps the most high-profile 11th-hour trade came when they were in charge of Boston in 2004, when the Red Sox traded iconic shortstop Nomar Garciaparra to the Cubs in a deal that netted them shorstop Orlando Cabrera and first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz. Those two turned out to be key players in helping the Red Sox then win their first World Series since 1918.
On Wednesday afternoon, Epstein and Hoyer pulled off another key deal with the clock ticking toward zero. Boasting a weak bench and with their offense sputtering too often, the Cubs acquired outfielder Nick Castellanos from the Tigers in exchange for minor league pitchers Paul Richan and Alex Lange.
The teams had engaged in Castellanos discussions in recent weeks and were generally on the same page in regards to the exchange of players, but the financial details led to complications. For much of Wednesday, it seemed like a potential deal was dead.
Then about 20 minutes before the 3 p.m. deadline, the Cubs and Tigers reconnected. With eight minutes to spare before the deadline, the teams agreed on the prospects going back to Detroit and also aligned financially. The Cubs will owe Castellanos about $2.5 million for the rest of the season, as the Tigers agreed to pitch in about $500,000 to cover some of his remaining money, the Athletic reported.
Castellanos, 27, is hitting .273 with 11 homers, 37 RBIs and a .790 OPS in 100 games while playing about half his games at hitter-unfriendly Comerica Park. Castellanos is particularly good at hitting lefties, with a .347 batting average and 1.026 OPS in 82 plate appearances against them this season.
His addition was the icing on the cake of a busy day for the Cubs, who also traded catcher Martin Maldonado to the Astros for second baseman/outfielder Tony Kemp on Wednesday and dealt recently demoted reliever Carl Edwards Jr. to the Padres. Chicago had also acquired righty reliever David Phelps and lefty reliever Derek Holland in recent days as well.
The Cubs front office executed these trades amid an onerous financial crunch, which was reflected by a low-profile offseason in which they signed reliever Brad Brach and infielder Daniel Descalso to small deals. The leave of absence by infielder/outfielder Ben Zobrist without pay in early May then opened the window for the Cubs to sign closer Craig Kimbrel to a three-year, $43-million contract.
While many of the Cubs' moves have been low-profile, they believe they've made key additions that give them a strong chance to win the NL Central. To get a key piece in Castellanos, it took patience, ownership stepping up with a few extra million dollars late and then the execution of a trade in just before the deadline buzzer.