A Crosstown Trade That Could Help Both Sides of Chicago?

Tab BamfordSenior Writer IAugust 19, 2009

CHICAGO - JUNE 17: Bobby Jenks #45 of the Chicago White Sox pitches against the Chicago Cubs on June 17, 2009 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

There are a lot of changes happening on the baseball teams in Chicago already, and this winter might bring more. But could there be a way the Cubs and White Sox could get together on a deal to make both parties better?

There have been very few instances of there being cross-Chicago trades happening. In fact, in the last 15 years, there have been only two: Jon Garland to the Sox for Matt Karchner (oops) and David Aardsma to the Sox for Neal Cotts (a wash).

Perhaps the most famous trade between the two teams happened in the early 1990s, when the Sox traded a skinny, young center fielder to the Cubs for an aging power bat, George Bell. Sammy Sosa may have been a liar, but he sold a lot of tickets on the North Side.

Could another move happen this winter involving bigger names than Aardsma, Cotts or Karchner?

The Cubs have an enormous need right now: a closer. They need a stopper as badly as any team in baseball, and will undoubtedly be in the market for one this winter after the official "failure" tag was placed on the Kevin Gregg experiment on Tuesday.

There are certainly some internal options for the Cubs, with Carlos Marmol having what figures to be a bright future as closer. But he hasn't been able to consistently throw strikes this year, so the Cubs might not be thrilled to hand him the reigns yet.

Another option could be one-time uber prospect Angel Guzman, who's been a godsend in the Cubs' pen this year. But his track record is as a starter, and a veteran roster might not be the place to gamble with an unknown in the ninth.

So what can the Cubs do?

There's always the free agent market, where Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry loves to go fishing.

But in the winter of 2010, there aren't many solid options on the market. Gregg won't be back. Mike Gonzalez isn't exactly a sure thing in Atlanta, either. And the rest of the free agent market, with the exception of Jose Valverde, is made up of either retirement candidates or set-up men.

Do the Cubs throw a ton of money at Valverde? Probably not.

How about a quick phone call south a few miles to Kenny Williams of the White Sox?

The Sox have made a couple high profile, very expensive additions since the middle of July. Between Jake Peavy and Alex Rios, Williams has added as much as $150 million between 2010 and 2014.

That's certainly not a number that's characteristic of the "other" team in Chicago. There might be a few ways that Williams looks to cut costs in other places to keep the team competitive but bring down the payroll figure, which is more in line with how he has built, and re-built, the Sox during his tenure.

For the Sox, there are a number of players that are going to force decisions from Williams this winter.  Jim Thome, and his 2009 salary of $13 million, will be a free agent. While the Sox would love to have his left-handed power in their lineup, they have a crowded outfield to deal with somehow and might not want to spend the money to retain Thome.

That crowded outfield might force Williams to make a tougher decision...this one with the MVP of the 2005 World Series.

Jermaine Dye might be one of the greatest reclamation projects in baseball over the last 20 years. How many players have been swept up off the scrap heap for minimal money and led their team to a championship that season? Dye made just $4 million in 2005 when he achieve post season glory, a steal by today's financial standards.

But Dye is staring at a mutual option this winter that would cost the Sox $12 million next year. With Rios and Carlos Quentin in the fold, Williams might prefer to pay the $1 million buyout.

There's one more place that Williams might look to cut costs, but it has nothing to do with an expiring contract.

Bobby Jenks, equally heroic in Sox history to Dye for pitching the final out of the Series. But he's had moderate consistency issues, and might become an expensive player to keep around. Jenks, courtesy of arbitration, received a nice $5 million raise this year.

And he could stand to make more in 2010.

With the Sox likely wanting to keep Matt Thornton, a lefty with fantastic peripherals and a fastball that reaches three digits on a radar gun, they might opt to investigate Jenks' value on the trade market.

Let's make a deal!

So the Cubs need a closer, and would theoretically have significant interest in Jenks. What would the Sox want in return?

The Sox have a good defensive first baseman in Paul Konerko, but his contract runs out after 2010. Konerko has been a constant in the middle of the Sox batting order for a decade, but is aging and might not be brought back, again because of his likely price tag of $12 million.

The Sox certainly wouldn't want Derrek Lee, who's own contract expires after 2010. But they might have interest in a solid hitter who could play first or third base or, more likely, could be a solid designated hitter for five to 10 years.

Enter Jake Fox.

Fox has shown, in limited action with the Cubs in 2009, that he could become a 30-homer player who could hit for around a .300 average as well. If he was inserted into a Sox lineup every day with the likes of Gordon Beckham, Alexei Ramirez, Quentin and Rios, he could be a serious offensive threat for the Sox.

The Cubs would probably be asked to include either another prospect or another major league player in the deal, with someone like Sean Marshall being an option to replace Thornton in the lefty setup role if he were promoted to replace Jenks as closer.

But the pieces are there for a Sox-Cubs trade to go down that might help both teams in 2010 and beyond.


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