12-19-2003 - Traded Wilton Chavez to the Montreal Expos. Received Jose Macias. 12-19-2000 - Signed Todd Hundley as a free agent. Think this is bad? Tomorrow isn't any better.
Along with acquiring a middle-of-the-order run producing RF and finding a new home for Corey Patterson, Jim Hendry has at least one other item of importance to accomplish this off-season, or at least sometime prior to Opening Day 2006. And what might that be?
Shawn Green. I don't usually get excited about trade rumors. In fact, I rarely acknowledge them; so many rumors fly around during the off-season that keeping track of them is a fool's errand. I try to wait until a player is solidly linked to the Cubs before I consider how that player will help or hurt the team. But I have to make an exception today. Yes, I know the rumor has only shown up on one site, and that that site's track record regarding Cubs moves has been spotty at best (though mlbtraderumors.com calling them out for lack of veracity is one of the funniest things I've read in a while). And yes, I know that even if talks were in progress, the player's no-trade clause makes it very difficult to trade him to the Cubs. And yes, I know that even if they Cubs did get him, it would be costly. He's owed $8M next year, $9.5M in '07, $2M remaining on a signing bonus, and has a $10M nututal option on '08 against a $2M buyout. Plus, we haven't even gotten into what the Diamondbacks would want from the Cubs in return. Let's just say I doubt Corey Patterson would be enough. But still. Shawn Green in right field would be niiiice. He's not the guy who hit 40 homers back-to-back for the Dodgers anymore. but he is a legitimate 20+ homer, 30+ doubles threat, a guy who knows how to walk, hits for power and average, plays a solid right field, and doesn't miss a game. He bats left-handed, too, which would be a nice addition to the Cubs' righty-heavy middle of the lineup. OK, that's enough. I know it isn't going to happen. But leave an old man to his mid-winter, clearing-ice-off-the-sidewalk, imagining-the-Cubs-with-a-real-rightfielder, hot-stove dreams. At least for a few days.
Jim Hendry has seemingly made it something of an off-season priority that his Cubs avoid going into 2006 with Todd Walker manning second base. Hendry picked up the $2.5m team option that they hold on Walker for this upcoming season, but he seems not just open to trading Walker, but rather intent upon it, so much so that he's recently been guilty of talking about the keystone position as vacant, as though Walker had already departed the organisation. He hasn't yet, but he's reportedly been openly shopped around the league, with the Cubs not particularly happy with his ability to "catch the ball". The Cubs aren't exactly off-base with such an assessment of Walker's defence: the truth is that it's never been particularly good. His range is unremarkable, his glove isn't particularly golden, and his troubles turning the double play do cost the team runs. As a result, no one is particularly happy with his ability to "catch the ball". On the whole, he's slightly below par when it comes to playing defence, and second base is one of the more important defensive positions. That is problematic. Second base though is also a position where offence is notoriously hard to come by: over the last two years, major league second sackers have hit a meagre .272/.329/.413. Todd Walker, on the other hand, has hit .290/.354/.471 since he joined the Cubs, though Carlos Lee and unnecessary platooning have limited him to just 239 games. That kind of offensive production has made Walker one of the best offensive players at his position, with only Jeff Kent, Chase Utley and Marcus Giles really outperforming him with the bat. What Walker has given away in the field then, he's made up for and then some in the batter's box, establishing himself as comfortably above average. His salary in the last year of his contract, $2.5m in 2006, is comfortably below average, and as such he represents the kind of superb value that teams should be striving for, not striving to give away. None of that is to say that the Cubs should completely disregard the idea of trading him. Walker will turn 33 in May next year, and if his offence slips, as is entirely possible, with his defence not getting any better, he will be a significantly less valuable player. Indeed, his value may never be higher than it is right now, what with the numbers he's put up over the last two years, and, as such, especially at his salary, he makes an attractive trading chip. He's also just one year away from free agency, and the Cubs probably want more of a return than draft pick compensation. Finally, in Jerry Hairston, the Cubs have a decent enough alternative with which to replace him. All the same, none of that justifies the approach that the Cubs so far seemed to have pursued, one of making it entirely clear that he's not wanted around come next April, not least because the Cubs appear more inclined to give the second base job to Neifi Perez (with Cedeno at short) than to Hairston. The $5m contract Neifi's still celebrating says that much. The Cubs are not in a position right now where they can afford to give away much offence, and that's the biggest reason why a Todd Walker trade doesn't make the sense it otherwise might. Presently the most likely lineup scenario for next year sees Murton and Pierre accompanied in the outfield by a reasonable but unspectacular bat in right field, acquired either via free agency or the Walker trade, plus Cedeno and Neifi/Hairston up the middle, the pitcher batting ninth, and not much on the bench capable of stepping in and playing every day. That, as far as I'm concerned, is a completely unacceptable scenario. I'm all for giving the youngsters the chance, but one of the reasons why you put up with whatever they put up is the fact that they're earning just a little over $300k apiece, giving you the opportunity to re-invest the money you'd otherwise have spent filling the positions on impact players elsewhere on the roster. If the Cubs aren't doing that, because they've not had the foresight to avoid a situation where there are no impact players left for them to actually spend their money on, and are instead surrounding the kids with mediocre at best veterans, they're not going to score many runs even in best case scenarios. And we'll be back where we were at last year, entirely dependent upon the health and supreme effectiveness of our pitching staff. How did that work out for us in 2005 again?

The trade went down a while ago now, but one of my favourite pitchers, Jermaine Van Buren, now gets paid by the Boston Red Sox, and here's my take... Van Buren has pretty impressive stuff. He works off a good fastball that sits comfortably in the 91-93mph range, and compliments that with an assortment of breaking stuff: an above average slider, a decent curveball, a changeup. He likes to throw all his pitches, he's a real fighter out there on the mound, and, of course, he has his funky delivery, which means he's extremely fun to watch. It's a delivery that's very herky-jerky drop-and-drive. Because there are so many idiosyncratic movements to it, he finds it very difficult to repeat. Some of the time he's absolutely fine, and though his delivery still looks eccentric, it's thoroughly balanced throughout, and he ends up facing the plate, ready to field the ball. Some of the time though he completely loses his balance mid-delivery and he ends up in a quite ridiculous position, facing left field. Because he tries to keep watching the ball, for obvious reasons, a lot of the rotation in his body and hips in such instances comes very late, and is extremely violent and uncontrolled. His right leg falls completely across his body, and it drags the rest of him around with it, away from the mound. Naturally, in such a position, he'd be completely unable to field the ball. But most of the time Van Buren's delivery falls somewhere between those two extremes, unbalanced but different most times, yet not quite as exaggerated in terms of the position in which he ends up and how ridiculous he looks in the process of getting there. The real problem that Van Buren's poor mechanics cause him is not so much that he sometimes can't field his position, because that's not that important. The real problem, besides his delivery maybe making him more susceptible to injury, though he's a big strong guy, is that most of the time he isn't capable of putting the ball exactly where he wants, and so he's liable to walk a few more hitters than he should. But that's something that you just have to put up with, because attempts to remodel and restrain his delivery (made by the Rockies, for instance) have compromised the rest of his natural game, which certainly has a lot to recommend it. Not least his numbers over the last two years -- a 1.98 ERA in 123 innings (67 hits allowed, 8 home runs, 147 strikeouts), mostly at AA and AAA. Baseball America named him the Triple-A relief pitcher of the year for 2005. Although I think that Van Buren could fashion for himself a pretty decent career as a major league middle reliever, and although he's got three option years left and will be cheap for quite a while yet, and as such should be very handy as the last man in a bullpen, I'm not that disappointed to see him leave the Cubs. We don't have room in our bullpen to accomodate him after the Howry and Eyre signings, and he'd have only seen the time in the major leagues that he deserves in case of injury. As such, he was a perfect trading chip - potentially useful to some one else, but not a great fit for the Cubs, especially because we already have more than enough relievers with good stuff but problems with their control. I am though very disappointed that Jim Hendry parted with him for nothing more than a PTBNL in a deal that he forced upon himself with yet more shoddy management of his 40-man roster. Van Buren could have been used in a package deal to land us something of worth. Instead he was shipped out in a hurry, probably not netting much of a return, just because Hendry, needing to clear roster room, thought him expendable. He was, but less so than a number of guys Hendry's hung onto (Mitre and Wellemeyer in particular, both out of options, plus one of Soto and Reyes, since we have four catchers on the forty), and he was more valuable than some of the other guys that Hendry's hung onto (Koronka and Macias in particular), and if Hendry hadn't made a number of entirely needless additions to the 40-man roster (Dopirak and Moore in particular), there wouldn't have been a roster crunch in the first place. Of course, the entire deal depends on the PTBNL, who still hasn't been named. But my suspicion is that the Red Sox went a little bit of the way to avenging the loss of Matt Murton with this nice piece of opportunitism. Best of luck with the Red Sox, Jermaine.
12-16-1992 - The Giants name Dusty Baker as manager to replace Roger Craig. (taken from Baseball Library) 12-16-1985 - Traded Billy Hatcher and a PTBNL (Steve Engel) to the Houston Astros. Received Jerry Mumphrey.
12-15-2003 - Traded Damian Miller and cash to the Oakland Athletics. Received Michael Barrett. 12-15-1997 - Drafted Roosevelt Brown from the Florida Marlins in the 1997 minor league draft. 12-15-1912 - Traded Joe Tinker, Harry Chapman and Grover Lowdermilk to the Cincinnati Reds. Received Bert Humphries, Red Corriden, Pete Knisely, Art Phelan and Mike Mitchell.
12-14-2000 - Signed Tom Gordon as a free agent. 12-14-1998 - Traded Brant Brown to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Received Jon Lieber. 12-14-1990 - Traded Greg Smith to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Received Jose Vizcaino. 12-14-1987 - Signed Vance Law as a free agent. 12-14-1948 - Traded Hank Borowy and Eddie Waitkus to the Philadelphia Phillies. Received Monk Dubiel and Dutch Leonard.
As everybody around here probably knows, Corey Patterson is among five Cubs (Carlos Zambrano, Jerry Hairston, Jr, Juan Pierre, and Will Ohman are the others) who must be offered salary arbitration by next Tuesday, or they can become free-agents. I'm sure Jim Hendry will tender the offer of arbitration to Zambrano, Pierre, and Ohman, and PROBABLY to Hairston, but I'm beginning to wonder if Patterson might not get non-tendered. Here's why:
12-13-1999 - Traded Richard Negrette to the Baltimore Orioles. Received Augie Ojeda. 12-13-1996 - Signed Kevin Tapani as a free agent. 12-13-1995 - Signed Rob Dibble as a free agent.
12-12-1999 - Traded a PTBNL (Brian Stephenson), Terry Adams and Chad Ricketts to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Received Ismael Valdez and Eric Young. 12-12-1999 - Traded Manny Alexander to the Boston Red Sox. Received Damon Buford. 12-12-1997 - Traded Miguel Batista to the Montreal Expos. Received Henry Rodriguez. 12-12-1903 - Traded Jack Taylor and Larry McLean to the St. Louis Cardinals. Received Mordecai Brown and Jack O'Neill.
Here is an update on 2006 Cubs payroll & roster situations.
With a PTBNL sent to the Cubs in return. The brief announcement can be found here. Leicester, 26, has not yet figured out how to get out left-handed hitters, as his career line of .391/.513/.641/1.153 indicates. But I think the real ground for his relocation is that in 2005 he couldn't get out right-handed hitters, either. 2004: .200/.221/.314/.536 2005: .238/.393/.429/.821 Leicester already had lost his spot in the bullpen in favor of Weurtz and Novoa, among others, so this move does not really change anything when projecting the composition of next year's pen. Rob G.: Nothing more than a move to clear some 40 man roster space. I wouldn't be surprised if a few more were made in the next few days in preparation of the Rule V draft. Speaking of PTBNL, where's our guy from the Orioles? We're due one when Dave Crouthers retired earlier this year. Christian: I have no feelings about Jon Leicester one way or the other. But since getting rid of him for a PTBNL opens up a spot on the 40-man, that should help ensure no Andy Sisco scenarios this year. And that is a good thing.
As expected, Lee got jobbed out of the MVP and ended up third behind Albert Pujols and Andruw Jones. I can live with losing to Pujols, it was a tossup between the two and team records were going to give Pujols the push. But worst of all, Lee only received one first place vote and only one second place vote. Absurdity, in my opinion. Actually the whole vote was an absurdity. Morgan Ensberg finished 4th ahead of Miguel Cabrea. Pat Burrell and Jimmy Rollins finished 7th and 10th respectively, but Bobby Abreu was nowhere to be mentioned. It appers that Jason Bay didn't receive any votes and if you're going to give some votes to Jimmy Rollins, how do Marcus Giles and Rafael Furcal not get some votes? The Internet Baseball Awards hold more meaning then this bunch of phooey. UPDATE: Here's the link to the final vote tally. I had only seen the top 10 when I originally posted. Jason Bay finished 12th, Bobby Abreu 15th, Marcus Giles received one 8th place vote and Jose Reyes received more votes (one 10th place vote) than Rafael Furcal. Meaningless? Sure. Ridiculous? No doubt. Lee didn't go home completely empty-handed though. He did win the prestigious MVN NLA (Nap Lajoie Award) as the NL's most dominant hitter. The press conference is tomorrow. Anyway, they asked me to write up a blurb on why I thought he deserved the award and you can read it by following the link.
Buried in a Sun-Sentinel article, this gem:
"The Braves and Cubs are among the teams that have contacted Marlins free agent shortstop Alex Gonzalez."
Yes, by all means let's have the Cubs' fallback position be one of the few shortstops Neifi looks good against. Gonzalez, career: 896 G, 245/291/391 Neifi, career: 1,262 G, 270/301/380
No surprise, but Jim Hendry has let Nomar's agent know that he should try to "find a better fit" for Nomar elsewhere. There's the usual "door is still open" stuff, but this is a pretty clear indication that Garciaparra won't be back with the Cubs. It closes the door on a chapter in Nomar's career, and the Cubs' history, that could have been so, so much better. Final stats for Garciaparra in a Cubs uniform: 105 G, 395 AB, 56 R, 114 H, 26 2B, 0 3B, 13 HR, 50 RBI, 28 BB, 38 K, 289/350/453 Now he's off to Los Angeles, or Baltimore, or Minneapolis, or somewhere else, most likely to play third base.


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