The next time a Chicago sports team lifts a championship trophy, the odds are strong that a 2017 trade will have helped get them there. The Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls, Cubs, Sky, and White Sox all made high-profile trades this year with an eye toward the future, yet one of them made a bigger splash than the others.
Three teams shipped stars to start a new youth movement. In February, the Sky traded former WNBA MVP Elena Della Donne for a package including the second pick in the draft, which the Sky used on South Carolina star Alaina Coates. In June, the Bulls traded all-star Jimmy Butler, a move that netted 7-foot Finnish sharpshooter Lauri Markkanen. One month later, the White Sox sent 2016 all-star pitcher Jose Quintana across town for sweet-swinging slugger Eloy Jiménez, the fifth best MLB prospect according to Baseball Prospectus.
Two contending teams made surprising deals with hopes of continuing their winning ways. In June, the Blackhawks pulled the trigger on a pair of stunning trades, freeing cap space by sending veteran Niklas Hjalmarsson to Phoenix, and bringing former Hawks fan favorite Brandon Saad back to Chicago in a trade featuring the team’s second leading scorer, Artemi Panarin. And the Cubs, of course, moved Jiménez—a powerful piece of their farm system—to the White Sox in exchange for Quintana, bolstering their rotation in 2017 and hedging against the possible departure of former Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta.
Each of these trades dramatically changed the course of the respective franchises.
Yet they all take a backseat to the biggest Chicago trade of 2017: the one that brought Mitch Trubisky to the Bears.
Picking No. 3 overall after a disastrous 3-13 season, the Bears had needs at many positions, quarterback included. No media or fan consensus existed. Folks couldn’t agree what position the Bears would draft at No. 3, and even the ones with a general agreement on position didn’t agree on the player. For Bears fans wanting a quarterback, Clemson’s Deshaun Watson seemed like the choice. Solid defensive prospects were available too.
So what happened? The Bears pulled a double whammy. First, they traded up one pick from No. 3 to No. 2. Then, they selected Trubisky of North Carolina—a lesser known player, all things considered—who only started one year of college football.
Fans were stunned. Reporters were stunned. (If the rumors are true, Bears coach John Fox was stunned, too.) For one thing, it seemed like the team gave up an awful lot to move up one space in the draft for a player people thought would be available at No. 3. For another, Mitch Trubisky???
The fan outrage was swift.
Yet now, deep into his rookie year, most Bears fans have seen the light—or at least stepped away from the ledge. The Bears have three wins under Trubisky, plus five close losses. He has the most rushing yards for a rookie Bears QB since Bobby Douglass in 1969. He’s shown off an impressive deep ball.
Most importantly, he has won the locker room, famously dropping f-bombs on veterans when they break the huddle before he says so.
With every pass, good or bad, I think fans are realizing that the details of the trade are ultimately inconsequential. If Trubisky leads the Bears to our first Super Bowl championship since 1985, no number of draft picks relinquished will play a role in the Bears fan consciousness. And if Trubisky goes the way of so many other Bears quarterback prospects, then the pick will be maligned whether we acquired it via trade or not.
In the end, nothing will matter about the trade other than Trubisky himself. A Pro Bowl, Super Bowl-champion Bears quarterback is worth more than all of the Markkanens, Jiménezes, and Saads in the world.
Bear down, Chicago. And go Mitch.