It was a busy off season for Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry to say the least.
He brought in many new faces, most notably Aaron Heilman, Aaron Miles, and Milton Bradley.
He also showed the door to several prominent members of the Cubs organization. And no, I'm not referring to Jason Marquis.
Kerry Wood, once revered to as "Kid-K", was allowed to sign as a free agent with the Cleveland Indians, while Mark DeRosa was traded to, oddly enough, the Indians.
Many fans were saddened, some were outraged; most were confused. Both players were tremendous fan-favorites.
From the moment Wood made his debut in 1998, he was thought of as nothing short of a savior; his 20-strikeout performance in his fifth career start only fueled the growth of his legendary status.
DeRosa only called Wrigley Field home for two years, but made an impact with his gritty play, clutch hitting, and warm personality. He was also one of the only players to accept responsibility for the Cubs' poor performance in the 2008 playoffs.
Ironically, DeRosa, saddened after their Game Three loss to the Dodgers, commented that the hardest part of the series defeat was knowing that not everyone would return from the current roster. He thought, like many others, that he would return to the Cubs in 2009 and be a focal point of their offense.
In a bizarre trade, however, DeRosa was dealt to Cleveland for minor league pitchers Jeff Stevens, Chris Archer, and John Gaub. DeRosa had one year left on his contract, and was coming off a career year with 21 home runs, 87 runs batted in, and over 100 runs scored.
DeRosa was viewed expendable because he was a right-handed hitter in a predominantly right-handed lineup. Manager Lou Piniella sought more lefty hitting, and DeRosa was out.
In Kerry Wood, the Cubs had another tough decision. Wood was fresh off of a 34-save season in which he stabilized the back end of the Cubs bullpen. Wood would be due a hefty raise from his four-million dollar salary in 2008.
Due to constant health issues, among other things, Wood was allowed to walk and signed a two-year contract for twenty million dollars.
Both moves appear to have paid off for the Cubs this season, despite the broken hearts of many fans.
A look at the 2009 numbers of both players reveals no major losses.
DeRosa's numbers are below average from his already below average career numbers. His .255 batting average is thirty points below is 2008 average. His on-base percentage is over fifty points below last year, while his OPS sits at a pedestrian .737 (over one hundred points below last year).
In return for DeRosa, the Cubs got three promising arms, although none of them are on the current 25-man roster.
Stevens has an ERA of 1.96 this year after striking out 81 batters in 58 innings in 2008. Archer has an ERA of 1.50 in eight starts, while Gaub has a 3.86 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 14 innings.
These pitchers won't help the Cubs win this year, but their future is bright and will give the Cubs options down the road.
2009 has not been kind to Wood either. He currently sports a 7.71 ERA with a WHIP of 1.85. These numbers will go down, but they are a far-cry from his previous seasons on the north side. The Cubs bullpen, while admittedly in shambles, would look no better with Wood this season.
In the wake of these departures, the Cubs had enough payroll flexibility to sign slugger Milton Bradley (although cheaper, better options were available) and give young players like Mike Fontenot and Carlos Marmol increased roles with the club, although both have struggled this year.
These moves were correct at the time, and remain so for the 2009 Cubs.
The current hole at third base is something that was unavoidable once Aramis Ramirez went down with injury. While DeRosa could fill the position, his bat is nothing like Ramirez's. He is a 34-year old career journeyman utility player, and the contract he will be seeking next season is nothing of interest to the Cubs.
Wood's contract was also something the Cubs had to avoid; you just can't give twenty million dollars to a fragile arm like Wood's and expect two healthy seasons.
The Cubs' struggles so far in 2009 are not the product of losing DeRosa and Wood; it is their offense which has been hibernating all season that is causing the most problems.
Some fans may remain bitter about the moves, and for good reason. The Cubs are better off now and will be better off in the future, however. Hendry was able to get young arms back in his system, save money, and still field a World-Series contender for 2009 and beyond.
That's an impressive hat trick if you ask me.
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