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Cubs-Rangers: Let's Make a Deal!

Tab BamfordSenior Writer IAugust 26, 2009

PHOENIX - APRIL 29:  Derrek Lee #25 of the Chicago Cubs bats against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the game at Chase Field on April 29, 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Diamondbacks defeated the Cubs 10-0.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

As the 2009 baseball season comes to a close, it's already time for many franchises to begin evaluating their options to best position their teams in 2010.

Unfortunately, one of those teams that should be looking to next year is the Chicago Cubs.

The team with the best record in baseball in 2008 has fallen apart at the seams this year, and has lots of issues to deal with moving forward. They're financially strapped and need offensive help anywhere they can get it.

They have problems.

Yesterday, I proposed a trade between the Cubs and Red Sox to unload an under-performing asset, Carlos Zambrano, in a deal to Boston that would fill a need on the Cubs roster, closer, by bringing Jonathan Papelbon to Chicago.

Today I propose a second trade that might make sense for both teams.

The Texas Rangers are one of the pleasant surprises in baseball this year. Nolan Ryan has made enormous strides in taking a pitching staff that had been an annual joke and making it legit, and the offense has never been lacking in Arlington.

There are a couple of items that the Rangers need to deal with moving forward, however, as they try to establish some staying power in the American League West.

The organization has huge hopes for young Chris Davis, but he projects more as a designated hitter than at first base. With phenom Elvis Andrus at shortstop, the Rangers also moved Michael Young to third base this year; this move didn't sit well with the All Star.

The Rangers also have a bounty of young catchers, some of whom they don't know what to do with moving forward. Jarrod Saltalamacchia started the season as the regular catcher, but the job has been passed to Taylor Teagarden and now, for the pennant race, Ivan Rodriguez is back.

Could the Rangers be players to make a deal this winter? What if the right offer was presented?

Let's make a deal!

Like I said before, the Cubs need help everywhere. They also have some veteran pieces that might be appetizing to teams looking to take the next step, and the Rangers definitely fall into that category.

The Cubs have one specific player that might be perfect for the Rangers, and come at both the right price and for the right terms. That player is Derrek Lee.

If the Rangers want to buy more time for Davis to develop into a first baseman, then Lee would be a great veteran rental; his contract expires after 2010. If Davis does indeed become more of a designated hitter, then extending Lee for a few years would make sense as well.

Lee also falls perfectly into the Rangers infield. He's a stellar defensive first baseman who, next to Andrus and Ian Kinsler, would give the Rangers one of the better defensive infields in baseball.

Lee is also having a wonderful offensive renaissance this season. Entering Wednesday, Lee has 24 home runs and 83 runs batted in with a nice .291 average and .372 on-base percentage. As a big right-handed bat, he could protect Josh Hamilton very well.

If the question is monetary cost, Lee isn't that bad. His 2010 salary will be $13 million, and there isn't an obligation past that for the Rangers.

What would the exchange be to send Lee to Texas?

Young, like I said, has been a professional about his move to third base but reportedly wants to play shortstop. He hasn't declined defensively at the position; the Rangers simply want to move forward with their future, and view Andrus as that future at shortstop.

Offensively, the Cubs would receive back in Young a player capable of putting up numbers comparable to Lee. Entering Wednesday, he's batting .329 with 22 home runs, 66 runs batted in, and a robust .383 on-base percentage.

The trade would nearly break even at the plate.

Where the deal would change things for the Cubs is in a couple of places. First, Young coming to Chicago would make Ryan Theriot homeless in the field. He's a capable offensive shortstop, but certainly not in the same class either in the field or the batter's box as Young. The Cubs would need to move Theriot.

That might not be a major problem, though. Second base has been an offensive black hole for the Cubs in 2009, and moving Theriot and his limited range to the opposite side of second might be an improvement for the Cubs.

Moving Theriot's .296 average and .345 on-base percentage to second, and probably eighth in the batting order, would improve the Cubs both defensively and on the lineup card.

But the Cubs would still have a hole at first base, where Lee would leave in this scenario. Lee has made players like Theriot and Aramis Ramirez better players with his glove, and the Cubs would need to look for a first baseman that is both defensively competent and offensively capable.

One thought would be to replace Lee internally with Jake Fox, but the defensive questions would not be answered by moving the former Michigan Wolverine to first full time.

Another option, and one that might make as much sense financially as it would on the diamond, would be free agent-to-be Casey Kotchman.

Kotchman has bounced around both leagues in the last couple years, but had a remarkable season at first for the Braves this year before being dealt to Boston in July. Adding Kotchman, who is both younger and cheaper than Lee, might give the Cubs the opportunity to begin building for a winning future.

The money question needs to be answered with this deal as well. Young is signed to a longer term than Lee, and for more money. He'll make $16 million annually from 2010 through 2013, which is only $3 million more than Lee in 2010 and, with Lee's contract coming off the books, is something the team could certainly afford afterward.

So the money issue isn't a deal breaker. Neither is the offensive exchange between players.

The only thing that would need to happen for this deal to go down would be Young to waive his no-trade clause. Given his wanting to play short, he might be willing to come to Chicago and play at Wrigley Field.

Let's make a deal!

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