Chicago Cubs' Potential Trade Chips
On Wednesday, Carrie Muskat wrote an article in which she said that "There are no deals pending, no scouts scouring other rosters to find help."
It wasn't a quote from Jim Hendry. It was just a line added into the article between quotes from the Cubs' general manager.
More specifically, it came immediately before the following quote from Hendry:
"There really isn't anywhere to look," Hendry said. "I would think our position players are not a weakness at all. We're just in one of these funks where we can't get over the hump and get runs in. It's not for lack of talent or lack of these guys working."
Obviously, Hendry is simply saying that there's no reason to look for offensive help in the trade market. At no point does he say anything about trading for pitching, most notably bullpen help.
Unless Carrie was holding back other comments from Hendry which did state that the team isn't currently looking for bullpen help, her addition to the article is a bit misleading.
Most people seem to be under the impression that Carlos Zambrano's move to a setup role is temporary, including "Big Z" himself.
After Friday's game, I'm sure many people are hoping that his time in the bullpen is drawing near an end, including Zambrano once again.
If they aren't looking for trade partners, then they aren't doing their jobs. For the sake of my own sanity, I'm just going to assume that they are.
In that light, they obviously need to have in mind which players they are willing to trade away. I'm not going to claim to know who the Cubs have on their provisional list of potential trade chips, but I do have my own ideas.
Those ideas do not include Aramis Ramirez or Alfonso Soriano.
While others were writing why Soriano should get traded, ESPN's Jayson Stark was doing a poll of who MLB executives thought had the most untradable contracts. The Cubs' outfielder was first on the list .
And after Aramis Ramirez's name started to emerge in hypothetical trades, I jumped in with why such a trade is highly unlikely.
Although he wasn't listed in Stark's aforementioned article, Zambrano's critics should realize that he's probably in a similar boat to Soriano.
So who does that leave?
Because of their expiring contracts, Derrek Lee and Ted Lilly could eventually be available as late-season rentals for a contending team. That, of course, would require that the Cubs were out of contention early enough for a deal to be made.
It also means neither player would be involved in a trade for immediate bullpen help unless Hendry's search continues deep into the season. It's much more likely that a trade of either player would resemble Hendry's trade of Mark DeRosa before last season that yielded three prospects from the Indians.
Another possible trade chip with an expiring contract is Xavier Nady, who I believe is available as soon as another team mentions his name in negotiations.
With Soriano, Marlon Byrd, and Kosuke Fukudome all producing, the offensively struggling Nady is just taking away playing time from Tyler Colvin and being a defensive liability with his still-recovering throwing arm. He's still a promising hitter, but he would be much more valuable with an American League team that he could DH for.
Sam Fuld is a very good defensive outfielder and hitting well in limited action at Triple-A Iowa, so he could potentially be the perfect fifth outfielder for the Cubs after moving Nady.
Back in early April, Fukudome's name was actually being thrown around in trade talks with the Nationals.
I'll admit that it's a possibility, but I'd say that it's 50-50 at best.
With his well-known trend of early-season success and late-season slumping, the numbers that he's put up so far probably won't increase his value very much. The Cubs would most likely have to eat part of the remaining salary for this season and part of the 13.5 million he's due in 2011, but might still be able to get something of value in return from a team that values defense.
The Backup Infielders
Then there's Mike Fontenot and Jeff Baker. One of them will most likely be in different uniform by season's end.
Fontenot might fetch more in return since he has been better offensively this season and can play shortstop in a pinch, but Baker might be the one that the Cubs are more willing to part with for the very same reasons.
With Chad Tracy tearing up Triple-A, it wouldn't surprise me if either of the second basemen were traded by the time I woke up in the morning. If Starlin Castro starts smoothing out his game in the big leagues or Darwin Barney picks up at the plate in Iowa, the clock on that trade will be accelerated.
On the other hand, Chad Tracy might end up on the trading block himself.
His being the odd man out when Castro was called up might be indicative of his status with the team and could offer other teams an alternative to Hank Blalock, who might or might not be moved by the Tampa Bay Rays in the coming days.
Trading Tracy would also slow down any trade talks involving Baker or Fontenot, but by no means indicates that both players are staying.
Now we're only left with three players: Tom Gorzelanny, Carlos Silva, and John Grabow.
Honestly, I will be shocked if both Gorzelanny and Silva are with the Cubs on August 1 for the simple fact that Zambrano needs a spot in the rotation to return to. Also, as shown by Zambrano's move to a setup role, neither pitcher is much of a candidate for a spot in the bullpen.
In fact, going one step further, I'll be a little surprised if either pitcher is a Cub on August 1.
Both Andrew Cashner and Jay Jackson are doing very well in the minor leagues and should be pushing for some starts with the big league club before too long. Casey Coleman might even get a look if he pitches well for the next few months, although I think it's much more likely that he will stay in Triple-A for the duration of the season.
Gorzelanny offers the most upside of the two players and, in my mind, is the piece that is most likely to land the Cubs a setup man.
Silva would need to stay healthy and productive, but he could get moved as soon as the Cubs decide to call up Cashner.
Grabow, the Cubs veteran left-hander in the bullpen, is much less likely to go than the other two to be moved during the season. There aren't too many teams that have three lefties in the 'pen and the Cubs could use every advantage that they have.
Still, if the Cubs have enough confidence in Sean Marshall and James Russell going forward, Grabow could end up on the trading block. Jim Hendry just has to decide if he's wants to free up the $3.75 million that the former Pirate is due next season.
No matter who the Cubs feel willing to move that's currently on the roster, I can guarantee you one thing: they are going to make a trade at some point.
I don't know if it will be sooner or later, but the faces of this team will be at least a little bit different by season's end.
Hopefully a key difference in those faces will be the exuberance of victory and not the sagging look of disappointment.
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