Give Jim Hendry credit. He doesn't get them all right, but he doesn't get them all wrong, either.
On the same day that reports out of both major Chicago newspapers said Hendry will ink middling middle-reliever John Grabow to a two-year extension, he redeemed himself from that gaffe (as I saw it ), by trading reliever Aaron Heilman to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
For more on the deal itself, check out the first B/R article to break this news , or the mlb.com story by Carrie Muskat. Instead of duplicating those efforts, I want to take a moment and assess the talent Hendry procured in return.
The better of the two young Minor Leaguers the Cubs acquired is named Scott Maine. A left-handed pitcher, Maine went to the Diamondbacks in the sixth round of the 2007 draft.
He throws from a low three-quarter arm slot, but still can crank his heater up to the mid-90s on the radar gun, making him a prime candidate for future work as a specialist out of the bullpen. Such a motion could help him neutralize tough left-handed hitters late in the game.
Exclusively a reliever over the past two seasons, Maine has 114 strikeouts against just 43 walks in 80 appearances and 110 innings. He also uses that low arm angle to force batters to beat the ball into the ground: his groundball/flyball ratios at three stops over the last two years are as follows: 1.63, 1.12, 1.42.
Maine is 25 years old, has three seasons of pro ball under his belt since graduating college, and sparkled at Triple-A Reno (not an easy place to pitch, even for a sinker-baller) last season in the Arizona system. Maine not only has a future here, but may be a very real contributor out of the bullpen for the 2010 Cubs. His arrival could also signal another potential trade around the corner, making either Sean Marshall or Tom Gorzelanny (both of whom have been talked about as potential trade bait) expendable.
Ryne White, a 23-year-old first baseman (and native Chicagoan; an unconfirmed rumor says he was named after Ryne Sandberg), went in the fourth round to Arizona in 2008. Already 23, White nonetheless has room to improve. But he knows how to take a walk, a key consideration for a man who lacks much ability to hit average or speed with his hulking frame.
He projects to have power, but will have to actually show some before he becomes a legitimate Major League prospect. Although his only defensive position is first base, he could find his way to the show sooner or later, given his left-handed power. Again, maintaining his thus-far keen eye will be key to future success. Guys like White bloom late; he could well contribute down the road.
To get anything for Heilman, I believed, would be a significant win for Hendry. This represents a coup. Hopefully, this move will give the Cubs momentum as they look toward the Winter Meetings in Indianapolis Dec. 7-10.