So how'd the Cubs do?
Every baseball fan's favorite deadline has come and gone, and as you well know, the Cubs' roster is constituted a bit differently today than it was a week ago. You may be wondering what my opinion is on all that's happened. (Or maybe you aren't wondering, in which case: Congratulations! You're sane!)
At this point, the names of the players exchanged in the Cubs' lone deal have been so widely disseminated that stating them again here borders on worthlessness, but for the sake of cohesion I'll do it: the Cubs gave up starter Ted Lilly and infielder Ryan Theriot, in exchange for infielder Blake DeWitt, A-level starter Brett Wallach, and A-level reliever Kyle Smit.
Furthermore, there are two other names that, as far as I can tell, have been omitted from the discussion despite the fact that they probably shouldn't be. Those are Mike Fontenot and Jeff Baker.
Every time Theriot started at second base and/or led off leading up to the end of July, folks may have been asking themselves, "Wouldn't a Fontenot/Baker platoon be more effective than this?" And if they had asked me, I would have said to them, "Yes, it would." It would probably be a half-decent option for next year's team, too.
But Fontenot and Baker have each been in the majors for a few years now, meaning they're eligible for some pay raises. And then there's the obvious fact that a platoon requires two rosters spots, which may block a better bat from being available in pinch-hitting scenarios.
With yesterday's trade, I expect the Cubs to non-tender both Baker and Fontenot in this upcoming offseason, giving Blake DeWitt the keys to second base on a full-time basis. Since DeWitt is not yet arbitration-eligible (at least I'm pretty sure he's not), he'll only cost the team about a half-million dollars. Baker plus Fontenot plus additional raises would have cost between $2.5 million and $3 million, I'm guessing, so, look at that! I just found the money we sent to the Dodgers in this recent deal -- not to mention our new 2B is 25 years old rather than 30, which most baseball folks interpret to mean he may still yet increase his skills. And as a member of the 2011 Cubs, by all means he should have every opportunity to do so.
(An aside: You may have your arms in the air right now, saying, "I thought Starlin Castro was going to slide over to second when The Cubs' Other Franchise Player, Hak-Ju Lee, took over at short?!" Not so, my friends; if Castro is to be moved from SS, I think his strong throwing arm plays much better at third base than at second. That'd be one young, talented infield, no?)
One final point: there's a pretty long list of Cubs that weren't traded this weekend that don't exactly fit with the current team, which is very much in rebuilding mode right now. That list includes, but is not limited to: Kosuke Fukudome, Xavier Nady, the aforementioned Mike Fontenot and Jeff Baker, Carlos Silva, and perhaps even several established veterans like Ryan Dempster, Alfonso Soriano, and Carlos Zambrano.
Remember: there's no guarantee these players will finish the season as Cubs. Likely, most of them will be placed on waivers, which is a-whole-'nother ball game from trades entirely, but it suffices to say that the process could result in some or all of those players being moved.
For now, though, I'm pleased with the return obtained by Jim Hendry in yesterday's deal, and am excited to see the team finally take at least one small step in the direction of a youth movement, rather than patching up our aging roster with 31-year-old, left-handed hitting right fielders.