Trade needs and suggestions
While I for one am not going to take the PANIC!!! approach, I've been saying all season long that, eventually, Jim Hendry will have to make some trades before the end of July.
Taking a quick scan of the team, I would suggest the following areas are most pressing:
- Ace pitcher to compliment Carlos Zambrano
- Top-of-the-line set-up man to supplement Marmol/Howry*
- Strong-hitting infielder to come off the bench
(*I'd just like to point out that I've been suggesting the Cubs strengthen their bullpen even further since pretty much the start of the season, so this isn't reactionary to the recent Marmol collapse)
At this stage, there are a fair number of teams that are likely to be selling, rather than buying. I'm talking about teams like Toronto, Kansas City, Cleveland, Texas, Seattle, Atlanta, Washington D.C., Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Houston, San Francisco, Colorado, and San Diego.
Let's address these issues by position/role:
Starting Pitchers of Interest:
A.J. Burnett - 8-7, 4.74 ERA. Burnett has 108 strikeouts in 106.1 innings of work, and while his numbers aren't exactly "ace-like," he's got an ERA of 3.94 on the road in one of the most offensively devistating divisions in baseball. He wants to pitch in Chicago, and although he's not necessarily a solid ace, he'd definitely be a step above a Marquis, Marshall, or Gallagher in a short series.
C.C. Sabathia - 6-8, 3.86 ERA. Sabathia is 27, he's big, and he's an ace. Without a doubt, he is the most desired player on the market. Sabathia has struggled this year, although he's been dominating these last two months. Colin argued in a recent post that Sabathia would make a minimal difference in the 10 games he'd play in as compared with, say, a more affordable pitcher having a good year. However, the strength of Sabathia is how he might pitch in a 5 or 7 game series. Just ask the D-Backs; two aces can make a huge, huge difference.
Erik Bedard - 6-4, 3.67 ERA. Perhaps Bedard should have been pursued by the Cubs this off season, but he went to Seattle instead at a heavy price by the Mariners. At one point, Rich Hill and some other talents might have paid for the lefty ace, but now the Cubs would have to craft a more interesting and more costly package for the guy. While he's not the same kind of pitcher as Sabathia, again, like Burnett he'd evoke a lot more confidence than a guy like Marquis.
Aaron Cook - 11-5, 3.38 ERA. Cook's ERA remains about a run below his career ERA, and his last couple of months have been average at best. That said, again, Jason Marquis. At the end of the day, I really don't need to say more than that, do I?
Greg Maddux - 3-6, 4.04 ERA. 3 wins in 18 starts? As Colin will deftly point out, Maddux has a Marquis-like ERA outside of pitcher friendly San Diego, but, c'mon, it's Greg Maddux. Better than our current 4's and 5's? Might be had for nothing? Anybody with me on this? It's not like they have to start him in October, y'know.
Middle Relievers of Interest:
Ramon Ramirez - He may be too young for the Royals to do away with. He has an ERA this year of 2.68, 43 strikeouts in 40.1 IP, and he's been very effective in close and late situations. That said, obviously the guy to get from the Royals would be Joakim Soria, but at 24 and as a force of nature, the Royals would almost certainly not entertain any offers for him.
Sean Green - 46.1 IP, 3.11 ERA, born on the 20th of April 1979, Sean Green has been very effective in close-and-late situations this year. He's cheap, he's putting up respectable numbers, he might be a good 7th inning option.
Jon Rauch - 43.1 IP, 2.49 ERA, 17 saves, 5 blown. Rauch is 29. He's a decent closer, and he may be an even better set-up guy. Because of his age, 29, and his team (the Craptionals), he may be available.
Bench Players of Interest:
Joe Inglett - 30 years old, batting .315 with an OPS of .852 while on pace for about 250 at bats this year for Toronto. Inglett plays almost every position and, although he's only in his third season in the majors, he's a career .300 hitter in 317 at bats. He'd be a valuable addition to any team making a pennant run.
Jamey Carroll - 34 years old, Carroll can play second, short, third, and has spent a little bit of time in the outfield as well. Carroll - who looks like James Carvell's illigitimate kid - is batting .277 with a .709 OPS - passable as a bench player.
Mark Grudzielanek - 38 years old, Grudz is used to being a starter. However, Grudz can still hit the ball, he's played in Chicago in the past and was a valuable contributor to the '03 squad, and he very well may be a positive bench factor for the team. So far this year, Grudz is batting .314 with an OPS of .791.
Ray Durham - It seems like Durham has been around forever, regularly as a starter. He's making too much money to be a backup, he may not want to be a backup, but the Giants would probably be willing to eat some salary to unload his old ass for a half-decent prospect. As a 5-and10, he'd have to approve the deal, but if he came to the Cubs with a .293 AVG and .805 OBP, he'd be a huge asset on-or-off the bench.
I'm sure there are options I've left out. What will likely happen is Hendry will go out and pick up some veteran talent, as they can often be had for cheaper, and the Cubs will have some extra ammo for October. But, while I am not slapping that panic button, I still feel - and have always felt - that a trade for another front-line starter isn't an option - it's an imperative. Make it happen, Jim.