The offseason has been an active – sometimes painfully so – one for the Chicago Cubs. The most recent, and for some the most perplexing, major move was the trade of Ronny Cedeno and Garrett Olson to the Seattle Mariners for pitcher Aaron Heilman.

Because of its perceived relationship to the possible Jake Peavy trade, Cubs fans want to know what was going on in general manager Jim Hendry’s head when he made the deal.

Well now we get a little bit of insight, straight from the guy on the other side of the deal. Read about it, after the jump.

A recent Seattle Post-Intelligencer (is that last word an oxymoron?) article sheds some light on the exchanges between, and thought processes of the general managers involved in the Heilman trade. And some of it is downright surprising.

Since acquiring Heilman, Zduriencik and Hendry had gone back and forth on a trade because Hendry had a key slot for a guy who wanted out of the bullpen job that had befallen and befuddled him with the Mets — No. 5 starting pitcher.

Zduriencik stood firm against Hendry’s pleadings until he acquired Olson from Baltimore on Jan. 18. In 2005, Zduriencik, then with Milwaukee, scouted Olson when he pitched at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo before becoming a first-round pick of the Orioles.

Whoa – two big revelations right off the bat: the Mariners wanted Garrett Olson all along. For years, in fact. It now seems more than plausible that when Jim Hendry acquired Garrett Olson from the Orioles, it wasn’t as bait for the Padres in a Jake Peavy trade. It was as bait for the Mariners in an Aaron Heilman trade.

And also, Jim Hendry was definitely looking at Aaron Heilman as a fifth starter option from the word go, despite his tremendous success in the pen.

Zduriencik pushed his leverage, asking that Cedeno, 26, a three-position player who hit .269 in 99 games for the Cubs, be included in the deal. At that moment, Hendry, on vacation in Italy, hemmed and hawed as he stood outside the Vatican. Then he wanted an hour to think about it. When he called back to say yes, Zduriencik couldn’t resist: “You must have gotten divine inspiration.”

Bam, revelation number two. Hendry wasn’t shopping Cedeno to the Mariners, as we had all thought. It was the Mariners who asked about Cedeno.

Some of the article has to be taken with a grain of salt – the writer has a clear agenda to make the Mariners’ GM look like a genius. Naturally, this makes Jim Hendry look like the unwitting dope on the other end of a Derrek Lee – Hee Seop Choi swap.

Even still, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Jim Hendry forged a very public effort to acquire Heilman last year from the Mets, so when he called up the Mariners, they had to know they could push him around a bit.

It also leaves a bad taste in my mouth about the Felix Pie trade (and the Mark DeRosa trade, though I still feel the Cubs will be fine without DeRosa). If Hendry knew all along that the Mariners wanted Olson – and the Padres wanted Olson – and he moved Olson before such a time as Peavy could realistically be traded, then he didn’t really get all that he could for Felix Pie.

What do I mean?

I mean that Pie to the Orioles for Olson (and I’m not forgetting you, little Henry Williamson) represented a chance that Hendry was really putting together a plan for the offseason, thy name was Peavy, and the players that were out of options were going to play a conveniently awesome role in that plan.

But obviously that wasn’t the case. Jim just wanted Aaron Heilman. And I really like Aaron Heilman. As a reliever.

But Jim wanted Aaron Heilman… as a starter.

  • savant

    First of all thanks for the Henry Williamson shout out.

    I kind of like the Heilman as a starter idea simply because he has three pitches that grade as well above average. He has always wanted to be a starter, the worst that can happen is he is unable to make it as a starter and is then bounced back to pen.

  • Boozer

    Heilman as a starter is a disaster waiting to happen.
    He *has* three pitches, but only two of them are worth a dam. Fastball/Changeup. He was strictly that type of pitcher for 3 seasons and pitched well. Then last year he threw his slider A LOT more (at the expense of his changeup) and he suddenly got rocked. Coincidence? Could be.

    • Ace

      Could also be related to the injury he was apparently battling last year – only recently revealed.

      Either way, I agree with you: Heilman in the pen is a far more attractive option than in the rotation. Of course, I was saying the same thing about Ryan Dempster last year.

  • Windier E. Megatons

    It’s certainly easy to argue that after all the wheeling and dealing, the Cubs basically ended up back where they were, only minus Pie and Cedeno. After all, how much better than Marquis is Heilman going to be as a fifth starter? Yeah, maybe he realizes his promise there – the Mets didn’t give him much of a chance – but if he doesn’t, we’re basically talking about trading Pie and Cedeno for a decent long reliever. You could also argue that a decent long reliever was more of a need for the Cubs than what they were doing with Pie and Cedeno – mostly benching them – and that further since Pie and Cedeno were out of options, there was no spot on the big league club to hope they could finish their development. I personally don’t feel Pie ever got a true shot, though I understand why not; Cedeno, on the other hand, was one of the worst players of the 2006 season and while he clearly has his uses, his value to the Cubs seemed low.

    With all that said, this has been a pretty uninspiring offseason, though of course the ownership stuff didn’t help that.

  • Ravi

    Hey guys – Met fan here…I’ve been watching Heilman since he came up a few years back. I think you have got something better than you realize. I say this, because most Met “fans” spew venom toward Aaron, as he gave up the eventual GW HR to Yadier Molina in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS.

    Anyway, the first thing to note regarding Heilman- throw out all his numbers before 2005. Why? As a college pitcher, Heilman used a low 3/4 arm slot to get great movement on his pitches. Upon joining the Mets organization, his delivery was tinkered with, and was more over the top. The result? Well the results were terrible, as his pre-2005 numbers indicate. However, during that fateful season, minor league coach Bob Apodaca actually correct Heilman’s delivery, reverting it to t he low 3/4. Aaron made a few starts to great success with his old delivery. In fact, in his last start in the majors, Aaron fired a 1-hit shutout vs. the Florida Marlins(a lineup featuring Juan Pierre, Luis Castillo, Miguel Cabrera, and Carlos Delgado to name a few), the one hit being an infield roller by Castillo. After that, Willie never gave him the ball. However, Aaron was used out of the pen in the second half, and had a stretch of 2/5 outstanding seasons in the pen.

    One of the criticisms against Heilman is that his is just a two-pitch pitcher. This is not true. Aaron has a 95+MPH fastball that bores in on the right handed hitters. He also features a great changeup to get out the lefties. He also throws a pretty nice slider. The slider however was scrapped for the most part when he moved to the pen.

    Last year, Aaron had some knee issues which he did not disclose mid-season. While he maintained career norms vs. righties, it was the lefties which hurt him the most. I believe that his injuries affected his ability to throw his change. Due to injury, he had poor command of both pitches…he was unable to drive off the mound properly. While a 95mph fastball with tons of movement is still difficult to hit, a changeup with poor location, not so much. Lefties in particular benefitted because they could afford to take changeups out of the zone, while sitting on the fastball. Aaron had difficulty with his FB vs. lefties, because due to its movement, he had to aim the pitch toward the knees of lefty batters to get it in the zone. This was made more difficult by his command issues mentioned above..

    Cubbie fans, I think that if healthy, you guys got a steal in Heilman. He isn’t quite a top (or middle) of the rotation pitcher, but once Pinella realizes that Kevin Gregg is a poor choice to set up Carlos Marmol, Heilman will provide much more value as a set-up man anyway.

  • LB

    “Whoa – two big revelations right off the bat: the Mariners wanted Garret Olson all along. For years, in fact.”

    Well seeing as how Jack Zduriencik has been the GM of the Mariners for less than 6 months, this makes no sense. Maybe knowing just a little about the rest of MLB would help you have an idea of what you are talking about.

  • Ace

    Wow, you’re friendly. I appreciate the drive-by-comment.

    If you read more closely, I’m referring to what is stated in the article – not my words. Zduriencik clearly has wanted Olson for years. “The Mariners” is just a convenient way of speaking about him – the SUBJECT of the post – by extension. And besides, it’s a Cubs blog, dude. I don’t profess to have any particularized or specialized knowledge about the Seattle Mariners.

    Maybe reading a little more closely would help you have an idea of how not to be a douche.

    Thanks for reading!

  • KB

    LB, take it easy: the author, being a Cub fan, is well aware of Z#@$^^&*k being new to the Seattle job, because he’s been the head scout of one of our archrivals for years (Brewers).

    Ace, thank you for pointing out the idiocy of Hendry’s shotgun-spray, rudderless moves this off-season…it’s been painful to watch. Deeply, deeply painful. While Heilman is kind of a wild card, and may prove valuable after all, there is simply no way to defend giving away DeRosa and Kerry Wood, and getting ZERO in return.

  • savant

    Ravi, thanks for the excellent post. It really seems that Heilman’s stuff is top shelf. To me, it seems that Hendry might be attempting to catch some Ryan Dempster lightning in a bottle.