On Tuesday, the Cincinnati Reds traded versatile INF/OF Ryan Freel and two minor leaguers to the Baltimore Orioles for catcher Ramon Hernandez.
Two nice players exchange mediocre uniforms. Who cares, right?
Cubs fans might.
Freel is a speedy, top-of-the-order utility player. He played the majority of his games in the Reds' outfield in 2008 and batted leadoff or second in over 90 percent of his at-bats last season. Injuries limited him to 47 games last year and 75 in 2007, but prior to that he had stolen 30 or more bases in three consecutive seasons.
Why would Cubs fans care about a leadoff man heading to Baltimore in a deal that barely cracked the transaction wire?
Because there's a man batting at the top of the Orioles order the Cubs have wanted for two years, who may have become expendable.
Brian Roberts, the speedy second baseman with one year left on his contract, is a player that last year was involved in as many rumors as Jake Peavy has with the North Siders this winter.
With the rumors surrounding Peavy not intimating that the Cubs may look to shed payroll by moving their own second baseman Mark DeRosa, it may become possible that a Roberts deal is on the horizon.
DeRosa, like Roberts, is in the final year of his contract, but is more of a lower-middle of the order-type batter with more than 20 home runs and 80 runs batted in last year.
If DeRosa is indeed available, and the Orioles now have a replacement to leadoff, this might make the Peavy rumors more intriguing. The Cubs have been rumored to be talking to Baltimore about a trade that would send outfielder Felix Pie to Baltimore for Garret Olson.
Pie's value may have taken a hit when Baltimore acquired Freel (who also plays centerfield), but the ability to perhaps exchange DeRosa for Roberts with the Pie-Olson exchange might become a reality.
Hernandez' role in the Orioles batting order was nearly the same as DeRosa's was in Chicago last year; the production the Orioles would acquire in Freel and DeRosa would offset the losses of Roberts and Hernandez in their batting order.