Chicago Cubs: Fontenot to Giants a Sign of Things to Come?
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The Giants and Cubs had a little unfinished business to attend to before they matched up Wednesday night in San Francisco. With the owner's meetings getting underway in Minneapolis, Jim Hendry and Brian Sabean completed a trade that they reportedly began talking about as the trade deadline was approaching.
Mike Fontenot was sent from the visiting clubhouse to the home clubhouse in exchange for 22-year-old outfield prospect Evan Crawford. In a corresponding roster move, the Cubs called up 24-year-old middle infielder Darwin Barney from Triple-A Iowa.
But what does this mean for the North Siders going forward?
To begin with, it appears that the youth movement is in full effect. Between this trade and the one that sent Ted Lilly and Ryan Theriot to Los Angeles before the non-waiver trade deadline, the Cubs basically replaced three players aged 34, 30, and 30 (Lilly, Theriot, and Fontenot) with another three aged 27, 24, and 24 (Thomas Diamond, Blake DeWitt, and Barney).
It also reduced the cost of this roster.
Lilly was heading into free agency, Theriot into his second year of arbitration, and Fontenot into his first year of arbitration following his Super Two status last off-season. Meanwhile, DeWitt will not hit arbitration for another year and Diamond and Barney are three years away from that milestone at the very least.
It might also mean that the Cubs are set up the middle of their infield for the next few years.
Starlin Castro has six years of team control remaining and a seemingly bright future with both the glove and the bat; Barney has a glove that should keep him in at least a defensive substitution role for those same six years of team control; and DeWitt should be able to provide solid enough offense and defense to hold down the keystone while he plays out his four years of team control.
While many Cubs fans will be waiting for Hak-Ju Lee or one of the many other middle infield prospects to develop and burst onto the scene, those three may very well be able to do the job. If nothing else, the lack of large salaries gives enough flexibility to make additions to the position group down the road.
The most important takeaway for this season, though, is this: the Cubs didn't stop looking for trade partners when the non-waiver trade deadline passed. There may very well be more moves to come.
So who might be on their way out before September 1st?
Since Derrek Lee already rejected a trade to the Angels and Carlos Silva landed on the disabled list with heart troubles, I am hard-pressed to believe that either of them will be going anywhere this season.
In my mind, that leaves only three names that are likely to find their way onto the backs of new jerseys: Xavier Nady, Kosuke Fukudome, and Jeff Baker.
Nady was originally a part of the negotiations that just sent Fontenot to San Francisco and also drew interest from the Rangers earlier in the year. With about one million dollars left on his contract this season, he might get picked up by a contending team looking for a first baseman or designated hitter down the stretch.
The Angels lost out on Lee, so maybe they would be interested in the cheaper (both in terms of money and players sent in exchange) option from the same team. Although it's purely speculation on my part, I believe they might have interest in the Salinas native.
Fukudome is on the block mainly because of his prohibitive contract. He offers a level of defense, patience, and occasional power that would be much more attractive if he weren't making more than 3.5 million for the remainder of this season and 13.5 million in 2011.
Those dollar amounts mean that he is a likely candidate to clear Trade Assignment Waivers and open up negotiations with anyone who's biting, but his no-trade clause makes any such move slightly more difficult. It isn't because he wouldn't approve a trade right now, but because (as I've said before) part of a player's value is how easily you can get rid of him.
Because he only has one year remaining on his contract and does provide the defense, patience, and occasional power that he has shown in the past, there is no reason that the Cubs should be leveraged into eating too much of his contract or getting next to nothing in return. He can still be a valuable backup outfielder for this team if the negotiating parties fail to realize that fact.
Baker, on the other hand, might be the least likely of the three to get moved. The reasoning for that is fairly simple in my mind: he hasn't hit consistently well in his major league career and doesn't provide enough in the way of defense to inflate his value much.
He has some versatility in the infield and at the outfield corners, which helps, and is still under team control for three more years, which also helps, but I'm not sure that's enough to draw serious interest.
Still, it wouldn't surprise me (and shouldn't surprise anyone else, in my opinion) if a few more trades are made in the next few weeks. In return, look for prospects or young major leaguers instead of established veterans.
This season may be all but over, but a solid foundation is being built for the future. Just wait and see.
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