MLB Trade Rumors: 5 Potential Deals for the Chicago Cubs
The Chicago Cubs have already traded for starting pitcher Matt Garza and traded away starting pitcher Tom Gorzelanny this winter, and it seems very possible that that will be enough for GM Jim Hendry. There is relatively little else Chicago could do at this point, with the key free agents off the market and the team unlikely to leapfrog the Brewers and Reds into the top spot in a rational prognosticator's picture of the 2011 NL Central division.
Of course, miracles happen every day (see Wells, Vernon), so perhaps the Cubs can find a diamond somewhere in the January rough and make themselves into a more legitimate contender either in 2011 or in the longer term. Read on for five deals the Cubs could try to swing to turn their fortunes for the better.
1. Trade Alfonso Soriano
Get it out of your system, nay-sayers. Go ahead. I know you want to. Say it: There is NO WAY anyone will take on the four years and $76 million remaining on the contract of the aging and declining Soriano.
If the Vernon Wells trade did not give Cubs fans hope that Hendry can flip Soriano, then Cubs fans have forgotten the good old-fashioned optimism for which they are so well-known. To put this comparison into perspective, consider the following:
Nay, you say? I say to you nay-sayers, yea. Yea, Hendry can find a taker for Soriano. Would Soriano bring in return the kind of haul (a great hitter behind the plate and a solid outfield bat) that Wells did? No, of course not. Still, Hendry should be able to unload a lot of that hefty contract in one way or another, given what we just saw last week in Toronto and LA. In fact, the other LA team needs a left fielder (better than Marcus Thames) and has some money to spend. The Cubs should at least shop Soriano around a bit.
2. Trade Geovany Soto
Brain teaser time: Which catcher led the league in wOBA and OPS in 2010, among the 66 who had at least 100 plate appearances? If you regularly read my work, or if the picture next to these words loads properly, the answer is readily apparent: Geovany Soto is a stud, when healthy.
After the Cubs claimed catcher Max Ramirez off waivers last month, though, they now have three right-handed hitters with serious big-league potential behind the plate--and that does not even include switch-batter (he hits from neither side, so switch-hitter seems intellectually dishonest) Koyie Hill, with whom the organization is madly in love.
Given that Soto signed for $3 million for 2011 and could get even more expensive down the road, and given his struggles to stay healthy over the past two years, the team could try to move Soto and take their chances on either Ramirez or Welington Castillo. This trade would likely not happen until at least mid-March, as it should take that long for the front office to buy into Castillo or Ramirez as a starting option, but it could happen. Check out this breakdown of places the team could look to move Soto.
3. Trade For Michael Young
The Rangers signed Adrian Beltre and traded for Mike Napoli in January, which leaves Michael Young drifting around the organization in search of playing time someone leaves lying around. He will find plenty if he does stay in Texas, but he is expendable and expensive to the Rangers in 2011. That means that, if GM Jon Daniels can find anyone eager to take on Young's salary ($48 million through 2013), the Rangers would surely love to deal Young.
The Cubs might be the perfect fit. Young would become the starting second baseman immediately, and whatever adjustment (or not) period he would need defensively would be more than worth the offensive upgrade from Blake DeWitt (.713 career OPS) to Young (.796). Then, if Young feels especially attached to third base (where he has played the last two years), he can move back there beginning in 2011, when the team will presumably say goodbye to Aramis Ramirez.
To get Young, the team would likely need to send hard-throwing set-up man Andrew Cashner (whom Rangers president Nolan Ryan loves dearly) to the Rangers. That deal might not be the right one for the Cubs in the long term, but if Hendry decides that the team could reach the postseason this year (or if Texas will throw in a substantial amount of money), it may be too tempting to pass up.
4. Trade For Rickie Weeks
The Milwaukee Brewers are working against the clock right now: Second baseman Rickie Weeks, a free agent-to-be after 2011, said over the weekend that he does not want to discuss an extension once Spring Training begins. That means that, if the team cannot hammer out a long-term deal in the next three weeks, they may be inclined to trade Weeks rather than lose him for only draft-pick compensation after the season.
The Cubs badly need a second baseman, and although Weeks may eventually need to move to center field to remain defensively viable, he should be able to stay on the infield for at least a couple more years. Meanwhile, when healthy, he provides a power-speed combination at the top of the order and draws sufficient walks to be very effective in that spot. It would likely mean trading Soto and a prospect to Milwaukee, but this deal could make both teams better.
5. Trade Kosuke Fukudome
Chicago's outfield is loaded, perhaps even overcrowded. Brett Jackson, the organization's top prospect, could be ready by mid-season and certainly will be by season's end. In the meantime, the Cubs have Reed Johnson and Fernando Perez as solid defenders and outfield depth. Brad Snyder and Bryan LaHair bring some left-handed thump if needed off the bench.
Fukudome really should not be a tough sell: He has a .368 OBP in three big-league seasons and defenders right field well, plus he has just one year (albeit an expensive one at $14.5 million) left on his contract. The aforementioned Dodgers could be an interested party; so could the rival Diamondbacks. For what it's worth, last July Fukudome told Cubs play-by-play announcer Len Kasper he feels more comfortable in dome-style stadiums like Arizona's. His career OPS in domed stadiums is .923.