As dust settles, here are Cubs three trades I think will happen.

After the last spate of injuries, combined with the team's 29-game losing streak (at least it seemed that long), the Cubs blogosphere appeared to go into sell mode. "Blow this team up!" "Trade everyone!" "I have feelings too!" "Do you even go to this school?" Etc.

And as is always the case with trade talk, many of the ideas that get thrown out first have a tendency to be ludicrous. When you ask a fan who should be traded, they'll scream the names of players like Soriano (that bum!), Zambrano, Fukudome, maybe Ryan Dempster.
But then, once the collective rage towards the team subsides a few days removed from the injuries/losing, it's easier to sit down and talk about which trades make sense, and which don't. For example, which team wants to acquire Alfonso Soriano right now?
Having said that, there are three trades that I think make sense for the Cubs. They involve players with relatively low salaries, on relatively short-term deals, with marketable skills, and trading them will open up spots for young Cubs that could use the major league experience.

1. Marlon Byrd to the Texas Rangers

This deal is contingent on Byrd's face healing and his continuing to hit once he returns from the DL. But even last year, when the Cubs were losing games left and right, Byrd was mentioned as a likely trade candidate: he's being paid something like $5 million a year in 2011 and 2012, he plays great center field defense, hits .300 with a tiny bit of pop, and isn't slow. I've tabbed the Rangers as his likeliest destination because 1) he's played there before, 2) Texas looks like a playoff team, and 3) Byrd would be an upgrade over Julio Borbon, who really looks more like a fourth outfielder than a starter.
(If teams are stingy with the dollars this summer, perhaps Reed Johnson might draw some interest instead of Byrd. It's really not so far off to think of Reed as a poor man's Marlon Byrd: he's another right-handed outfielder that can play center, hit for average with a bit of pop, and run well enough. But Johnson has had durability issues, and shouldn't be counted on to start every day. I could see the Cubs trading one of these players, but probably not both.)
2. Carlos Pena to the New York Yankees

As is usually the case with their team,the Yankees aren't having any trouble scoring this year, regardless of the handedness of the pitcher they're facing. But their current DH against righties is Jorge Posada, who is not having his best season ever (.215/.319/.373). Pena would undoubtedly be an upgrade, and every run counts.

3. Jeff Baker to the Boston Red Sox
Another injured player that could become a useful piece for a competitor if his rehab goes well. You know the deal with Baker as well as I do: right-handed utility guy that can really play just about anywhere on the field, with a .512/.512/.659 line against lefties this year, along with a .932 career OPS against lefties.
Much like their New York counterparts, no one in Boston is losing sleep over the Red Sox' ability to score runs. But after Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis, the lineup is really really left-handed. So maybe there's something there.
I don't think the Cubs will be trading any pitchers this year: most of the veterans are paid too much to draw interest, except for Kerry Wood, who took a discount to come back to Chicago, and I don't think Hendry would dick him over mid-season.
Having said that... I do see two players that could be moved. One is John Grabow; if anybody decides they need a replacement level left-hander for the middle innings, maybe they'll come ask about Grabow, who, by the way, sucks. 

The other is Sean Marshall. Marsh is a great pitcher, but why spend $3 million on a set-up man in 2012 for a team that's nowhere near competing? And let's face it, the Cubs probably won't be ready to compete for a title next year -- although, they should be better than they are now. I think Sean's great, his salary is not that big a deal in the grand scheme of things, and I have no idea how the Cubs would finish games without him, but I could definitely see an argument for why he should be moved.
And here's the last thing I'll say about trades: I could see the Cubs moving Kosuke Fukudome to free up a corner spot for a younger player, but I think the Cubs would have to eat nearly all of his salary to do so, and I doubt they'd get anything good back, so why bother? OK, there, I'm done, if the team trades someone and I haven't mentioned them here I will slap myself as penance for my oversight.

Comments

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  • What do you see coming back to the Cubs for these trades? Salary Relief? Piles of Prospects? "Hope and Change"? Baseball Cards?

    To me, what the Cubs have continuously failed to develop is a "Master Plan". We have been working on one-year plans (in practice, at least) for the past 65 years. When things have fallen into place (typically by happy accident), we have had a couple good years marked by minor tweaking (which suggests that Management was just as surprised as we were about the success, and was afraid to change things too much lest it all fall apart again).

    With the recent success in developing the Minor League teams, we have an opportunity to become Strategic (generate a steady flow of new talent) as opposed to Tactical (find some used-up veterans to fill some pitching slots for a few weeks until the regular guys get back from the DL). But in order to do that, we need to manage trades, free-agent signings, player development, etc. with specific goals in mind. If, for example, the goal is to win the WS by 2015, then you shouldn

  • In reply to HotRuta:

    To your first question, the answer is threefold: 1) marginal salary relief, 2) whatever youth we can get back, and 3) room for young talent on the major league roster later this summer.

    To your last three paragraphs, I would say that I think the Cubs did have a plan in 2007: sign Alfonso Soriano and Ted Lilly, and compete to win the whole thing until the end of the decade with a core of Lee, Ramirez, and Soriano on offense, and Carlos Zambrano, Lilly, and Rich Hill in the rotation. The Cubs won the division that year, and the next year, and were in first place in August of 2009, all the while making trades and signings that improved the product right now.

    Flash forward to 2011. Soriano is actually still good, but not $18 million-good; Ramirez is quickly losing power; Derrek Lee is gone; and a rotation that actually looked pretty OK at the start of the year has been hurt by injury and underperformance. So I think it's safe to say that the window has closed.

    As has been widely reported, the Cubs will shed a lot of salary at the end of this season: the nearly $50 million they're spending on Aramis, Fukudome, Pena, John Grabow and Jeff Samardzija will for the most part come back to them. Then Zambrano and Dempster's deals expire the next year.

    The important thing to figure out is, what are the team's needs? Shortstop and catcher are pretty well covered, and of course we know who'll be in left a few years more yet (Soriano is signed until 2014). Can Blake DeWitt stick at third? DJ LeMahieu at second? Is Brett Jackson or Tyler Colvin ready to play in the major leagues? Can Andrew Cashner be a starter? Lots of questions, obviously.

    None of this is new. We all know there are a lot of unknowns in our farm. The trades I'm suggesting the team make will free up at-bats for those guys, give management even more money to spend on free agent needs (Wilson Betemit? Kelly Johnson? CJ Wilson?), and MAYBE bring back a young player or three with minimal upside.

  • In reply to ajwalsh08:

    Just to be clear

  • In reply to HotRuta:

    I didn't think you were being sarcastic! "Most of the above" is a good interpretation of my stance. There's no way the team gets back any super awesome prospect for Jeff Baker or Sean Marshall, but young raw talent sometimes works out; remember, Chris Archer was one of THREE players the Cubs got back in the Mark DeRosa deal.

    You have a point about Hendry and long-term planning. Soriano for CF for seven never should have made sense to anyone, and if he's the one making the decisions about calling guys up and sending them down then that's even more damning (LeMahieu and Castillo lately, and especially Samardzija over the past few years).

    But I'm not sure I agree about the need for a philosophy. Take your example, of "more power" vs. "more base stealing." Perhaps you were thinking of the Rays when you mentioned the latter strategy; last I saw, Johnny Damon was hitting cleanup for them. Frankly, I want the best available players for each position on the field, regardless of their approach. Look at Hendry's insistence on the team's needing a left-handed power bat; goodbye DeRosa, Marquis, and Gorzelanny, hello Luis Vizcaino, Milton Bradley, Carlos Silva and Carlos Pena.

    Finally, on hirings and firings: before a decision is made about Jim Hendry's future, Crane Kenney needs to be replaced as team president. It's just silly that we don't have a baseball guy at the top of a baseball organization.

  • In reply to HotRuta:

    I'm not against any of these ideas but they are more of the cost-cutting variety than talent-adding variety. The Cubs have some talent in their farm system, but they don't have enough to truly compete -- and they aren't going to add big names in free agency this offseason. The Cubs need to trade bigger, more valuable pieces to get add much needed talent instead of just cutting costs just so they can sign more Jeff Bakers and Carlos Penas. Makes most sense to deal bullpen guys -- I like the idea of trading Marshall if we can get someone worthwhile. Marmol makes the most sense. He's a fancy hood ornament on a Ford Pinto right now.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I actually think Byrd is a valuable trade piece; not only is his salary low enough this year, but he's signed for next year for just $6.5 million. He might actually bring back some talent.

    Having said that, your point about Marmol is well taken. And in that case, maybe the Cubs should think about moving Geo Soto as well, although I'd hate to see him go. Soto is quickly burning through his cheaper arb years, and the Cubs probably won't be ready to make a real run for another couple of years yet.

  • In reply to ajwalsh08:

    If Byrd's healthy than I think it's possible we can get a decent prospect, especially if a team is in desperate need for a CF.

    Soto is an interesting name. The Cubs have Castillo, who can at least do the job defensively -- and he's getting better offensively every year. It's still a little scary to trade Soto, good all-around catchers are hard to come by...but if he can bring back a couple of pieces we can use, then maybe it's worth it to downgrade at catcher a bit if we can fill in other areas.

  • In reply to ajwalsh08:

    I think the one point everyone seems to be overlooking is how many compensation draft picks the Cubs will receive with all these veterans departing the team. Aramis, Pena, Fukudome and possibly Shark & Kerry Wood if he decides to play elsewhere would all be considered Class A free agents. Throw in Grabow and Silva if he plays anywhere next season as Class B FA's and the Cubs could possibly be receiving anywhere from 7 to 12 compensation picks if they don't make huge moves themselves in the FA market. If this were the case I'd rather ride out all these bad contracts rather than eat the money anyways and trade the players for very little in return. To do this right we need to be stock piling sandwich picks if we can.

  • In reply to HotRuta:

    I actually do think the Cubs should move Dempster, but not because I am enraged or hate him. He's actually one of my favorite Cubs. I just think that he'll actually bring a positive return because he's still very good and his peripherals are in line with his last couple of seasons. He's not going to be part of the next team that will challenge for a championship, so shop him.

  • In reply to sep484:

    I wonder if he's too expensive to move right now, especially considering his inability to post consistent end results lately. You're right that the K/9, BB/9, and GB% are all there, but the HR/FB is scary, and more importantly, you still have to have a good ERA in this league to be worth something to most teams.

    I also think Hendry is a "player's GM," as much as those exist, and I don't think he'd move a guy that didn't want to move, especially after he deferred part of his salary to help the team in an earlier season.

    Having said that, I do agree with you that Dempster is a good starting pitcher that could contribute to another team's playoff chances

  • In reply to HotRuta:

    The one piece you didn't mention in Marmol. With both the White Sox and Phillies being playoff contenders with some serious closer issues -- Brad Lidge sucks, we know this -- Marmol could bring back a genuine piece for the future. I'm looking at Gordon Beckham or Dominic Brown. Yes, you'd have to then replace your closer, but Wood can close next year while we bridge that gap. It would take some balls, which I'm not convinced Hendry has, but it has legs.

  • In reply to SamFels:

    Fels, I love SCH, but no way the Sox trade Beckham for Marmol. Sergio Santos has been lights out all year, he only has two blown saves. If he doesn't workout then they can try Thornton again.

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