The Associated Press has reported the Chicago Cubs, seeking a backup for third baseman Aramis Ramirez, have signed Corey Koskie to a minor-league contract.
Koskie, from Anola, Manitoba, hasn't played in the major leagues since July 2006. The third baseman has a lifetime average of .275 with 124 home runs in 989 games, before missing the last two seasons with a concussion suffered when he fell chasing a fly ball in 2006 while with the Milwaukee Brewers.
If Koskie makes the Cubs, the team will have three Canadian-born players on its roster: ace pitchers Ryan Dempster (Gibsons, BC) and Rich Harden (Victoria, BC).
With the Toronto Blue Jays buried in the American League East behind contenders in Boston, New York, and Tampa Bay, perhaps baseball fans north of the border will be rooting for the Cubbies instead of the Blue Birds?
After all, the Cubs have won two consecutive NL Central titles and are led by Lou Piniella, a skipper who seems to always take his teams to the postseason. Dempster had a strong season in 2008, going 17-6 with a 2.96 ERA with 187 strikeouts, after being converted back to a starter following three seasons as the Cubs' closer.
Harden, who has dealt with injuries throughout his career thus far, was simply sensational since joining the Cubbies in the middle of the '08 season. Harden went 5-1 with a 1.77 ERA in a dozen starts, including five 10-strikeout games.
Ted Lilly, a 17-game winner (and ex-Jay), and Carlos Zambrano, who won 14, are also part of a Cubs staff that had the third-best ERA (3.87) in the National League last season. Lilly has won 15+ games three years running, and who knows, perhaps Zambrano just might finally put together a 20-win season this year (while bashing a few more balls out of the park in the process).
Reed Johnson, a fan favorite while he was with the Blue Jays from 2003-07, is also a platoon player with Chicago. The outfielder split time with Jim Edmonds last season and batted .303 with six homers. Johnson should be able to contribute again for the Cubbies in 2009.
Even with Derrek Lee's weak numbers (20 HR, 90 RBIs), the Cubs will be able to score lots of runs again as they did last season in being among the top five teams in several key team offensive categories. With last season's NL Rookie of the Year Geovany Soto, Alfonso Soriano, and Ramirez hitting long balls in the lineup, the North Siders will be a fun team to watch.
But will they be Canada's Team as well, especially if Koskie makes the club?