The Cubs pulled off a trade today, and again I am a genius! How many times have I said "they will make trades and none of us will be able to say we saw 'em coming?" Brilliant!
The players in question are Jose Ceda, a Cubs minor league talent who has been compared to Marmol, and Kevin Gregg, the 30-year-old closer of the Florida Marlins. Gregg has served as a closer in Florida for 2 seasons, posting save totals of 32 and 29, ERAs of 3.54 and 3.41, and blown save totals of 4 and 9. (In a less confuddling way, his save conversion ratio is 82%, which is passable but not outstanding.)
The acquisition of Gregg means one of two things (and possibly three) things. Either the Cubs are assembling the necessary pieces to nab Jake Peavy - and with the Padres bidding farewell to Trevor Hoffman, they might be looking for a closer - or Jim Hendry is giving up on bringing Kerry Wood back to Chicago. Or, possibly, Gregg is being acquired to serve as a second set-up man along with Marmol, but this is far less likely.
Either way, the next couple of days look to be interesting. If Wood is gone, and to be replaced by Gregg, then I will probably not be the only pissed off Cubs fan. If Gregg is the key component that lands the Cubs Jake Peavy, I'll be pissing myself in the streets. I'm not sure why or how that would be considered a "good" thing, but it's better than losing Kerry Wood.
Welcome to the second day of our coverage! In today's article, I'm going to ... well, do a whole lot of nothin'. I'm opening it up to you.
Basically, I love trade speculation as much as anybody. When I was a kid, I used to fill up notebooks with trade ideas to help better the Cubs. ....sorry, did I just mumble? What I meant to say is that I was an unmitigated geek. Actually, I still am.
However, I now realize how ludicrous fan trade suggestions are. They just don't make sense, like, ever. I mean, no, the Cubs aren't going to get Derrek Lee to break his no-trade clause, and even if he will, San Diego wouldn't take him, Jason Marquis, and a prospect in a trade for Jake Peavy and Adrian Gonzalez.
(In all seriousness though, there is a report that Peavy would waive his no-trade clause to pitch in Chicago.)
So, rather than make some trade suggestions that will surely get ripped apart, I'd like to welcome you, the Goat Reader, to offer up some suggestions of your own ... which, uh, will surely get ripped apart. ...ahem.
Or, you could even just list off some non-free-agented players out there who you think the Cubs should consider pursuing.
Or, you could make some ludicrous trade suggestions. Either way.
A big thanks to Rob for his article this morning on the risks of acquiring Milton Bradley. Before I get too far into the intended content of this post, I just thought I'd say a few words on it ...
Hell yes, he's worth the risk! However, I'd consider it a fairly large risk because I don't think he's ever had a manager before with such a legendary temper. I could see them clashing quickly before Bradley gets chucked to the wind. I'm not sure how I missed him in my preview, but Bradley's ability to hit certainly brings something to the table.
With that out of the way ... let's look at the Cubs players who should be trade bait this off season:
SP Jason Marquis - He has a year remaining on his contract, which is a plus in terms of dealing him. Unfortunately, he's also scheduled to make 9.75 million, which makes him tougher to deal, unless Hendry decides to eat probably half his salary.
Why He Will Be Dealt: As much as we loathe him and lament his presence on the Cubs, Marquis brings one thing to the table here - as far as #5 pitchers go, he may be the best in baseball, and on a fair number of teams, he might even be the best #3 option. Perhaps even more importantly, Marquis may see his trade value skyrocket once this off-season's premier free agents are locked up. Somebody out there will be a loser holding a checkbook, and rather than go home empty, will submit to a trade of Marquis in order to tell his disappointed fan base "see? We got somebody!"
Why He Will Stay: If Ryan Dempster fails to return to Chicago, then the Cubs might not want to take a risk in also losing Marquis, a, uh, "proven commodity." The Cubs have a pretty steady rotation, and they've got depth they can play with in Marshall, Gaudin, and perhaps even Rich Hill. But if Dempster goes, and with Harden's proneness of injury, then the Cubs just might not be able to afford the risk of dealing Marquis, too.
2B Mark DeRosa - Poor guy. He signs a 3 year deal with the Cubs, busts his ass in the first year while playing multiple positions, and then goes home to an off season of trade speculation. Then, it turns out that he keeps his job, puts up career numbers which arguably make him the team MVP, and here he is, a guy on the trade block again - at least, in my twisted view.
Why He Will Be Dealt: The Cubs are very limited in how they can offensively upgrade. Hendry will have to look closely at the versatile DeRosa and conclude accurately that he won't put up numbers equal or better to his '08 performance. Therefore, his value will never be higher. Not to mention the fact that the Cubs may choose to upgrade defensively, and if they do it will be in the middle infield.
Why He Will Stay: DeRosa is just too valuable to the Cubs. He is able to play a number of positions, he can get big hits, and he's only making 5.5 million next season. Considering the uncertainty of Fukudome in RF, Hendry and Piniella might keep DeRosa around simply for the comfort he provides them.
SS Ryan Theriot - In his second full major league season, Theriot hit, hit some more, and then hit even more after that. To the angst of Colins everywhere, Theriot put up great numbers (at a glance) and has proven to be an inexpensive alternative to a multi-million dollar free agent, like Raffy Furcal.
Why He Will Be Dealt: Meet the Rich Hill of the '08 off season. Hill had a very respectable 2007 and immediately became the talk of the trade block because he did not look like a good #2 pitcher and the Cubs needed one. Hendry held onto him though, and we saw his trade value evaporate. Theriot might be in the same position. Yes, he batted .307 this year - led the team, in fact. He also had a .387 OBP and 22 steals. Will he do it again? Probably not. Might as well deal him while he's got some value and try to upgrade at short.
Why He Will Stay: On a very expensive team, Theriot isn't. More to the point, he just might be the kind of hitter we want - a guy who works the count, slaps singles, and gets on base. While he will remain the weakest offensive link next year, his presence allows for Hendry to pursue upgrades in right field that he might otherwise not be able to afford.
CF Felix Pie - At this point, Pie has been a disappointment to the Cubs. Like Corey Patterson before him, he has yet to answer the call and demonstrate his ability to perform at the ML level.
Why He Will Be Dealt: Neither Hendry nor Lou will feel comfortable with Pie being Option 1 in center field. Not to mention that - correct me if I'm wrong - he's out of options, so he will never see Iowa skies again. Therefore, before he proves to be a total bust, while he still has some value, the Cubs will likely look to trade Pie.
Why He Will Stay: He's not Option 1. He's perhaps Option 1-A. The Cubs could - and very likely will - move Fukudome to CF next season, making their need of Pie not entirely certain. However, if he is a bust, he's still a bust with a glove and he might be the best defensive 4th outfielder available to the team. Besides, let's not overlook one thing - the Pie Man had a good September and maybe, just maybe, he's figured it all out. I will submit to you this final thought: if Pie gets traded, it won't happen until March. He'll be the last one Hendry wants to let go of.
If you think I missed out on somebody, post about it in the comments section. It's likely that, tomorrow, I'll take a stab at players other teams might be open to trading to Chicago. But, then again, maybe I won't. I think the biggest mistake a blogger - or media type - can make is actually speculating on this kind of thing, because that person will always come off looking like an uneducated doof.
Scott Eyre is now a member of the Philladelphia Phillies. Presumably the Cubs ate salary to make the deal happen. In exchange the Cubs relieve A-ball reliever Brian Schlitter, who may even make it to a major league ballgame without having to pay admission.
UPDATE: Phillies take on all the salary. Wow.
As promised, here are some takes by some of the other prolific Cub bloggers out there. As of this writing:
Bleed Cubbie Blue: They've got nothin'.
On the BCB Fan Blog, however, writer "mrmaroon" writes: Hopefully this'll end up being a good deal for us - I had high hopes for gallagher, but Hendry usually knows what he's doing. Was that before or after Jim swung deals for Steve Traschel, Craig Monroe, and Matt Lawton? Just kidding, my opinion of Jim Hendry is favorable tonight.
The Cub Reporter: Nothin'.
Baseball Toaster: Legendary Cubs blogger Derek Smart says that he's completely thrilled that the Cubs pulled off a deal for the only other true ace-level pitcher available. Yes, he's fragile, so this is high-risk, high-reward, but to me, a pitcher of a healthy Harden's character is what is required for this team to reach the next level. Not surprisingly good points all around, although Derek failed to really talk about the other players in the trade. Harden's fragility is almost made up for by Gaudin.
Ivy Chat: Nothing as of yet.
View from the Bleachers takes a just the facts ma'am approach, leaving the commentary for the rest of us schmucks.
Over at In A League of Her Own, Julie also witholds commentary except to exclaim that the trade went down.
Even the guys over at Thunder Matt's Saloon seem happy with this trade. In a post titled "Harden Hard-On" (somebody had to do it), Saloonier Daft Punk seems happy that the the Cubs acquired a player of Harden's caliber, while Thunder Matt's will be preparing an official statement tomorrow. If they're changing to an A's blog, I'm blocking them on my cell phone.
Goat Friend Chris Yarbage of the Yarbage Cub Review also only briefly reports that the trade went down, with a promise for more information later.
And, lastly, over at this little site called GROTA, there have already been three - and, with this post, four - articles about the trade. Not that I'm trying to compare us with the other Cubs blogs out there, except to say that everybody clearly has lives except those who write at GROTA.
Conclusions: Anybody who gripes that this trade cost too many prospects needs to have a re-evaluation. The Cubs dealt three players they don't have room for, and one certifiable prospect who may never be as good as either of the pitchers they landed from Oakland.
This blog - and this writer in particular - has been critical of Jim Hendry over the last few years. While he has certainly made some huge signings since the departure of Andy MacPhail, Hendry hasn't made a good trade since 2004. This trade changes everything. The Cubs are far-from-guaranteed to win anything, but they now are in an excellent position to not just reach the post season, but to go deep. Harden compliments Carlos Zambrano perfectly - he has the ability to shut down the opposition, and that is something the Cubs have been lacking from most of their rotation this season.
To summarize, a short series rotation now looks like this:
Zambrano 9-3, 2.96 ERA
Harden 5-1, 2.34 ERA
Dempster 9-3, 3.24 ERA
Lilly 9-5, 4.47 ERA
That may be the best in baseball, if they can maintain - or even improve - through October.
P.S. - If Jim Hendry can in fact land A.J. Burnett for Jason Marquis and Ronny Cedeno, he has to do it. That would be one awesome, scary Cubs team.
Sometimes the world seems to work in overdrive to make me look like I know what I'm talking about.
For example, in recent days I - and a bunch of Cub fans and sites, to be fair - have been speculating that the Cubs might make a move to grab Rich Harden or A.J. Burnett. In particular, I wrote:
Jim Hendry is looking to retaliate to the Milwaukee trade of C.C. Sabathia, and when discussing the possibility of Harden coming to Chicago, I speculated that it would cost the Cubs some prospects -probably Sean Gallagher and Matt Murton for starters, and there'd likely be a handful of others included as well. I concluded my thoughts by saying that within a week of the All Star Game, the Cubs will have made an impact trade. Additionally, as recently as Saturday, I had speculated that Hendry might be looking for a top-of-the-line set-up man to supplement Marmol/Howry.
This trade pretty well fulfilled a lot of my various opinions as of late. But before I look into the new Cubs, let's look at The Departed:
Sean Gallagher - While I have expressed considerable man-love for our Irish youngster, Gallagher has proven that he may need a little more seasoning before he's ready to contribute to a team's championship drive. He could and should develop into a very talented player for the A's, and I think they'll be happy to have him, but for a guy who's a front-line starter now, he's well worth the price of admission.
Matt Murton - Murton was once highly toted, especially by this blog, and by other Cubs websites like Thunder Matt's Saloon. Unfortunately, due in part to a lack of the long ball and defensive shoddiness, Murton never really got to start regularly for Lou Piniella. That said, he still managed a .281 AVG and .352 OBP for last year's Cubs in 235 at bats, and had he played a full season he would've been on pace to hit roughly 20 homers and 30 doubles. He may never be a superstar, but he could and should be an offensive contributor to the A's.
Eric Patterson - Lil' Strut has had a few bright moments at the Major League Level, but he's also displayed a knack of getting on Lou's foul side by showing up late and hitting very mediocrely (is that a word) at the Major League Level. That said, he shares his brother's epic potential, maybe he'll realize it while with a team that may be more fundamentally sound than the Cubs.
John Donaldson - Best known for finishing second in a national hot dog eating contest, John Donaldson spends his off-seasons running around in a jump suit calling himself The Nazi Smasher as he fights crime in his home city. Actually, contrary to ESPN's report, his name is Josh Donaldson and he appears to be a catcher who, through 47 games at Peoria, is batting .205 this year.
The Cubs, meanwhile, have acquired two pitchers whose average age is roughly 25.
Chad Gaudin is a starter-turned-reliever who has an ERA of 3.59 in 62.2 innings of work this year. This body of work includes 6 starts, in which he threw 36 innings in 6 starts, went 3-2, and had an ERA of 3.75. He is 25-years-old, went 11-13 last season with a 4.43 ERA, and is probably considered arm insurance should Harden get hurt.
Rich Harden is 26 years old, and is 5-1 with a 2.34 ERA this season. He's a dominating pitcher. In 77 innings of work, he's struck out 92 batters to 31 walks. Now, for the downside. Harden is an injury waiting to happen. He's already missed time this season with a shoulder strain, and if the Cubs fail to use him properly, then he'll be a moot acquisition in October.
All told, the reaction across the Cubs blogsphere is mixed. I'm going to tackle that next, with commentary.
My boss just emailed me and said that Bruce Levine is on ESPN 1000 reporting the following:
RH Pitcher Rich Harden of A's going to Cubs per ESPN.
ERA is 2.34. Record is 5-1 I think.
Cubs giving up 4-5 players/prospects. Not sure who.
You can thank my boss for the scoop.
Update 5:33 pm: Matt Murton and Eric Patterson are involved.
Update 5:34 pm: Sean Ghallager, too.
Geez, this is going to be an expensive trade.
Update: 5:48 pm: The Hendry Press conference just ended. Here's the trade: Cubs get Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin (a RHP currently in the A's pen.) The Cubs give up: Sean Gallagher, Eric Patterson, Matt Murton, and a minor league guy whose name was not familiar to me (Josh Donaldson).
Hendry basically said they've been discussing the deal for two weeks, trading names back and forth. The player that Billy Beane absolutely wanted and that Hendry did not want to give up was Sean Gallagher. Hendry spoke highly of both Murton and Gallagher's character but didn't take the opportunity to extend those remarks to Eric Patterson.
Lou's on, update to follow.
Update 6:08 pm Lou just finished up. He had some great quotes as usual but didn't add too much. Apparently Gaudin played for him in Tampa, but Lou didn't actively lobby for him as Lou didn't find out about the deal until today at 3:00.
When quizzed by one of the beat reporters (Hendry has been working on this for two weeks.) Lou laughed it off, "without me. Ha ha ha." Lou then went on to say that Hendry and he had talked on Friday and that Hendry knew they weren't going to be able to get Sabathia, but Hendry said there might be someone else.
The Quotable Lou Piniella
"Yesterday, Milwaukee made a deal for a real good left handed starter and today Jim went out and got himself a real good righty. It just shows how competitive he is." – Lou Piniella
"We gave up some kids for the present. As a manager you love to see an organization go out and help you." – Lou Piniella
"The Cubs are going to do everything in their power to help us win." – Lou Piniella
"This makes us better and we're very very pleased." – Lou Piniella
Matt Murton shows off his arm in a game against the Giants.
Image courtesy of The Cubdom Photo Gallery
It's a sad day to see Carrot-top leave Chicago, but boy is that red hair going to clash with Oakland green and gold.
ESPN reports that, in an attempt to piss on our parade, the Milwaukee Brewers have acquired C.C. Sabathia from the Indians for a slew of minor leaguers and 1/100th of the soul of every Brewers fan.
As Colin would point out, Sabathia will start perhaps 14 more games this season. Without looking at the numbers, I'd assume that, in those 14 games, C.C. might be able to win perhaps 3-5 more games than whomever he's replacing in the rotation - in this case, probably Seth McClung or Dave Bush.
The area where Sabathia becomes dangerous - at least, in my opinion - is in the post season, where starts get amplified and having two really good pitchers can carry you through a series far more easily than if you have one really good pitcher and a couple of average ones. That said, Milwaukee still has to get there, and while it appears that whomever finishes second in the NL Central is playoff bound, we can keep our fingers crossed and hope that a) that isn't the case and b) the Cubs retaliate with a big trade of their own.
I would have to surmise that A.J. Burnett has now sprung to the forefront of any Cubs trade talk. He very well might be the best option for Chicago, and I can't help but wonder if Hendry will step up his time table a bit and pull a deal within the next two weeks, rather than toward the end of July.
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.
The two best-sourced national reporters, non-Gammons division, are both gearing up the hype machine on the Cubs to Sabathia notion.
The Cubs' priority will be adding the best available starting pitcher — C.C. Sabathia?
Some folks within the industry think that if Sabathia is traded, the Cubs will be the most aggressive in bidding for him. "They're going for it this year," said one GM. "Other teams are laying back and might not want to trade prospects, but the Cubs will."
Okay, so they mentioned it in passing. And maybe the two of them have the same source here.
The Indians are a long shot to win the AL Central this year, with only a 13% chance right now according to BP's PECOTA-adjusted Odds Report. And the AL Wildcard looks to be even tougher to crack. If they continue to slip, dealing Sabathia may be appealing, especially with 2009 shaping up to be a shallow draft in the eyes of many - the Indians don't figure to resign the prospective free agent.
Sabathia started off miserably, with a 7.88 ERA in April - since then, his ERA has been a cool 2.43. His overall ERA for the season is 4.34, which seems inflated by a poor defensive performance behind him.
As far as raw stuff goes, Sabathia seems to pair a 95 mph fastball with a slider and a change. He's a lefty as well.