Well, It Could Have Been Wuertz
Time to retire the "worst-Wuertz" puns as Jim Hendry moves another player without any options for 2009. As we heard yesterday, the Cubs do end up dealing Michael Wuertz to the Athletics for outfielder Richie Robnett and infielder Justin Sellers. Scouting reports and pertinent info on the newbies after the jump...
Richie Robnett was the Athletics first round draft pick in 2004 out of Fresno State University (26th pick overall). The 25-year old lefty stands at just 5-10", but his Stockton coach said he had the "body of a Greek God". He's one of those players that scouts expect to grow into his power, showing flashes with 20 HR's in Hi-A Stockton in 2005 and another 18 between Double A and Triple A in 2007. He hasn't shown much in the way of plate discipline to this point, not a lot of walks and too many strikeouts which contributes to his .257 career minor league batting average.
His 2008 season began with surgery in April for a benign tumor in his stomach. It seemed to be a longer road to recovery than planned as he was originally only expected to miss a couple of weeks, but that turned into a few months before finally joining the A's Triple A affliliate in Sacarmento at the end of May. He started off well enough with an .817 OPS but things quickly turned sour for him for the rest of the season (.658 OPS) and he was demoted to Double A Midland. He improved slightly in Double A (750 OPS), but a disappointing 2008 nonetheless.
Defensively, he's moved between center and right, but it looks like he doesn't quite have the range to handle center. The arm is considered to be a plus arm and he should be anywhere between an average to above average corner outfielder with the glove. He was #24 on scout.com's Top 50 A's prospects entering 2008 and and #7 on Baseball America's Top 10 in 2005. Considered to be an elite athlete, the Cubs will hope it translates into an elite baseball player. He was on the A's 40-man roster and the Cubs will have to put them on theirs as well. If he can show some progress this season, he could be in line for a promotion to the majors this year if injury or ineffictiveness hits Bradley or Fukudome.
Justin Sellers was the A's sixth round pick in 2005 out of high school in Huntington Beach, CA and was ranked #9 in their organziation by Baseball America in 2007. The 23-year old infielder has a career 695 OPS in the minors, so I'm assuming the Cubs aren't expecting a power hitter out of him. He's considered to have above average range and arm with soft hands at both second base and shortstop. The A's aren't much of a base stealing organization so you can't read much into his minor league stolen base numbers, but the scouting reports consider him to have above average speed. Chances are that he'll be nothing more than a utility player in the majors if he ever gets there.
Scout.com had him ranked #29 after the 2007 season, #40 before 2008 and #47 after the season in their top 50 Athletics prospects. He's considered to be baseball smart and his Dad is former major leaguer pitcher, Jeff Sellers.He sounds a lot like Ryan Theriot, the A's even considering having him attempt switch-hitting at one point, although that appears to have been abandoned.
As for moving Wuertz, I have to admit a curious move. Here's a pitcher that has put up ERA's in the 3's his entire Cubs career with a K rate to indicate that it isn't a fluke. I know there's this rumor out there that he only pitches well when the game is out of reach, but that doesn't make sense when he was one of the best in the league in 2007 at stranding runners. I understand the move. The Cubs don't want to end up without a chair for some of these players without options when the music stops at the end of March, so they're trying to give themselves some flexibility. But I would think Wuertz would be the safest bet to be a postiive contributor in the pen over Cotts, Guzman or Gaudin. Of course, I guess that's what would make him the most attractive for a team in a trade as well. Utility infielders are a dime a dozen, so I don't expect much from Sellers, but Robnett has some serious power potential and that's pretty tough to find in the minors and pretty tough to get a team to give up in a trade.
Overall, I'm a bit disappointed in the trade, but it's understandable when looking at the bullpen roster crunch and high turnover rate that the Cubs have had at that position the last few years. It's not like any team ever ends up with the 6-7 guys they start off with in April out of there bullpen, so that flexibility will probably prove valuable down the road.