Can you feel the anticipation? The July 31 non-waiver trade deadline is fast approaching.
This historically is always one of the most exciting times for any baseball fan, especially fans of the Chicago Cubs.
The last several seasons, the Cubs have been buyers (and very well could be again this year), but what if they became something of a seller this year?
Before I continue, know that I am in no way throwing in the towel for this season. I'm well aware of the makeup of the NL Central, and the Cubs are still in position to win their third consecutive division title.
It has been well documented that the Cubs may not be able to do much with their limited flexibility on their payroll. With ownership issues very much unresolved, and players like Milton Bradley and Alfonso Soriano eating up large chunks of change, the Cubs appear to be somewhat handicapped.
It has also been well documented that pitching wins in the playoffs, and the Cubs may have some spare parts available.
Angel Guzman has been a key contributor to the Cubs' bullpen this season, but could become trade bait if the Cubs look to improve their club in other areas.
Guzman's current line (2-1, 2.52 ERA, 31 K's, 13 BB) looks impressive to say the least.
In early stages of the season, Guzman was the only reliable arm for manager Lou Piniella. Carlos Marmol, Aaron Heilman, and Kevin Gregg struggled to find the plate, while their opponents' bats had no problem finding their pitches.
Guzman kept the bullpen somewhat respectable, but now it appears as if the Cubs' pen has calmed down, and may actually get stronger with the addition of B.J. Ryan.
While Ryan won't have a large role with the Cubs (if he contributes at all), he will offer insurance to the Cubs if they opt to move Sean Marshall back into the starting rotation.
Marmol, Gregg, Heilman, and even Jeff Stevens have looked very sharp of late, adding to the possibility that Guzman could be the odd man out. Even Marshall, should he remain in the bullpen, would be considered a key seventh or eigth inning arm for Piniella to use.
Guzman's stock has never been higher and too many times we see teams hang on to players for too long. If the Cubs acted on Guzman now, they could likely receive a key contributor for the stretch run—possibly a middle infielder—or at least another lefty for the bullpen.
With Mike Fontenot and Aaron Miles doing nothing offensively to help the club, a fresh face at second base could spark the Cubs' lineup (it couldn't hurt).
Andres Blanco and Bobby Scales will not be able to provide a good bat for the Cubs, and Fontenot and Miles appear to be reserves for the bench at this point.
A player like Adam Kennedy of the Athletics could be had for the right price, and the Cubs have a healthy trading relationship with the Athletics of late. Guzman would be enticing for the A's—or anyone—to consider.
Also, one must realize the injury concerns that Guzman has had throughout his career. Several arm injuries, including this season, have plagued the 27-year-old.
Can the Cubs really trust him to stay healthy for 2009 and beyond?
Guzman has never thrown more than 56 innings in one season at the major-league level, and he is already at 38 for 2009. What's more concerning is those 56 innings pitched came three years ago, back in 2006.
Before 2009 began, a good season from Guzman would have been seen as a luxury. With that luxury taking place so far in 2009, the Cubs need to act on their new found wealth and deal him while they still can; they shouldn't have a problem finding a team in need of a quality relief pitcher.
This team has too many holes to fill with only one player dealt, but there can be at least one roster gap permanently filled with the departure of Guzman.
A bullpen of Marmol, Heilman, Marshall, and Gregg will still keep the Cubs in ball games in September and October, so Guzman's arm should be seen as definite trade bait.
General Manager Jim Hendry has acknowledged his team's lack of flexibility with acquisitions, but he appears to have one piece available in the form of Angel Guzman.
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