The All Star break marks the not-really-but-figurative mid-point of the season. It always seems like a good time to reflect on pre-season items, and how things have played out (read: cliche, but we’re doing it anyway). It is an easy time to look back with the benefit of hindsight … and regret.
The Chicago Cubs had a particularly active pre-season (and early season) in the transaction department, so a review of those moves and how they’ve played out is worth considering. Here, we’re going to focus on the guys that the Cubs moved out. Specifically, it is worth looking at all of the guys that the Cubs dumped like fat chicks before prom – and deciding the measure of regret.
Hill was squeezed out of a spot with the Cubs after a disastrous 2008 campaign, and the team was all too happy to ship him out to the Orioles for a player to be named later. Well, it’s not yet later, so we still don’t know the goods. Hill has started 11 games for the O’s, and is 3-2… but has an ERA pushing 7, and a WHIP of 1.75. Unless he somehow transformed in a LOOGY, he would not have thrown a pitch this year for the Cubs. And if he did, it would have sucked.
Pie was another victim of the roster squeeze this year, and he was flipped to the Orioles for pitchers Garrett Olson and Scott Williamson. Williamson is in the minors, and Olson is with the Mariners. Pie has received a fair bit of playing time in Baltimore this year, but is again on the verge of being dumped, given his .654 OPS. He’s still quite young, but he’s showing that he just can’t handle Major League pitching.
Olson was a Chicago Cub for about four seconds before he was shipped to the Seattle Mariners in the deal for Aaron Heilman. Olson has turned out to be an ok starting pitcher and excellent reliever for the Mariners this year – to the tune of an overall line of a 4.42 ERA and a 1.193 WHIP. The latter number is quite good, and given his lefty-ness, this one is the first that stings just a little.
Regret-o-Meter: Crud, We Coulda Used That Guy.
Cedeno, whose baseball IQ is about four standard deviations to the left (to say nothing of his actual IQ), was also sent to the Mariners for Aaron Heilman. Cedeno, overall, has been nothing short of vomitastic as a Mariner: batting .168 with a .528(!) OPS. He’s hitting a little better the last two weeks, but it still isn’t enough to merit a spot on a Major League team – even with his average glove.
Gathright was a part of a junk-in-junk-out deal for Ryan Freel, who was himself subsequently dumped off on the Royals. Gathright is still looking for work, so the recession is clearly taking its toll on the “guys who can jump cars” market.
Wuertz was shipped out to the Oakland A’s for two prospects… neither of which are still with the Cubs. So that’s great. Additionally, Wuertz has been spectacular for the A’s: a 2.95 ERA, a paper-thin 1.008 WHIP, and an unbelievable 52:12 K to BB ratio in 42.2 innings of work. Gee, think the Cubs bullpen could have used that?
Vizcaino, all the Cubs had to show for Jason Marquis, was kicked to the curb for nothing (despite pitching reasonably well). He lasted with the Indians for a few weeks, and is currently looking for work. If he couldn’t hang with the Indians, I guess there’s not too much to get worked up about.
In perhaps the most surprising of the total dumps, the Cubs let Chad Gaudin go at the end of Spring Training due to a crunch in the bullpen (and a terrible Spring performance), and ate his salary in the process.
The San Diego Padres picked Gaudin up, and made him a starter, a role in which he’s performed adequately this year. He’s had super awesome games, and super hilarious games, which together means a blah 5.03 ERA, and a blah 1.409 WHIP. His ability to pitch out of the pen and out of the rotation would have been nice, but I still don’t see a spot for him.
Jason Marquis was shipped out in a pure salary dump to the Colorado Rockies in order to free up cash to sign Milton Bradley. The Cubs got back Luis Vizcaino, who, as discussed, was himself dumped. The Cubs did this a lot. Marquis, an All Star, leads the league with 11 wins, has a 3.65 ERA, and has generally been the ace of the Colorado Rockies.
Even though I’m not convinced he would have cracked the rotation for the Cubs early on, and even though his performance may have precluded the emergence of Randy Wells, and even though Jason Marquis is always great in the first half and terrible in the second half, how can you not regret this one?
Now we’re getting into the sentimental ones. Kerry Wood – perhaps the coolest Cub of the last 20 years, and quality guys – was allowed to walk away because the Cubs weren’t going to offer him a multi-year deal (the right decision), and he could cash in if he went elsewhere (the right decision). It absolutely sucks in heart-string terms, but financially it was the right move for both parties.
Wood’s rate stats have not been good for the Indians this year (5.28 ERA, 1.435 WHIP), but he has saved 12 games (blown 4). His peripherals have been just ok for a typical Kerry Wood season: he’s striking out about one batter per inning, and about two batters for every one he walks.
There’s no doubt he would have been an asset in the Cubs’ pen… but not as the closer. Kevin Gregg tops Wood this year in every statistical category, and most importantly: he’s saved more games, and blown fewer saves. At $10 million per year, Kerry Wood would have been a terrible signing for the Cubs. And so though it pains me to say it…
The greatest Chicago Cub of all-time, if you listened to anyone in Chicago when DeRosa was traded to the Indians for three quality pitching prospects, or when he returned to town – first as an Indian, then as *ack* a Cardinal.
To be certain, Mark DeRosa (currently injured) has performed adequately this year: .334 OBP, .443 SLG, 13 homers, 50 RBI. None of it blows you away, but it’s solid. And then you remember he’s done that while playing good defense *all over the diamond,* and the numbers start to look a lot better. And then, on top of that, you remember life without Aramis Ramirez, and ponder what might have been if DeRosa were still a Cub.
Still, were DeRosa still around, there’s no way Jake Fox would have been given a chance to shine at the ML level. There’s value in a guy like Fox showing he can do it in the bigs for the minimum salary. How attractive must he look right now to a small market AL team? That mitigates – slightly – the desire to be very upset about this one. Maybe if he comes back in the second half and lights the world up for the Cardinals I’ll change my tune.
Regret-o-Meter: Crud, We Coulda Used That Guy.
So in the end, what exactly is the measure of regret? Some wins, some losses. Some relief. Some angst.
On the balance, I feel… well, balanced.