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The Chicago Cubs continue to search for a new center fielder following the unceremonious dumping of Milton Bradley a few weeks ago. The most likely candidates come from the ugly free agent market, and include Marlon Byrd, Rick Ankiel and Scott Podsednik.

Thankfully, the Cubs recognize how unattractive those options are, and they’ve begun exploring alternatives – one if by free agency and two if by trade.

Probably the most intriguing new option, ESPN has suggested that if the Boston Red Sox re-sign Jason Bay or alternatively sign Matt Holiday, they may make Jacoby Ellsbury available. If that happens, the Cubs are expected to make a strong push for the young center fielder. Ellsbury is, of course, wildly overrated because he plays in Boston and because he had a tremendous 30-game stretch in his first big league taste at the end of 2007. In his two full ML seasons, he’s actually not hit particularly well. Last year would be fine as far as the Cubs are concerned, though – as he hit .301, had a .355 OBP, and stole 70 bases.

Perhaps even better, Ellsbury is considered one of the best defensive center fielders in the game, having been named the defensive player of the year by MLB.com this year. NESN has an interesting article about Ellsbury’s defense – specifically, criticizing defensive metrics as inadequately evaluating his true ability.

Ellsbury is under control for four more years – he’s not eligible for arbitration the first time until after 2010. Thus, he’s cheap, making him all the more valuable. The real question, then, is what would the price be? The short answer is high. Likely not as high as what the Tigers were seeking for Curtis Granderson, but some of the top names in the Cubs’ system will have to be considered.

The other new possible trade option comes from the Tampa Bay Rays – and no, it isn’t the long-rumored Bradley swap partner, Pat Burrell. Nor is it Carl Crawford. Sorry.

It’s Fernando Perez – a 27-year-old outfielder with blazing speed, solid defense, and a good OBP (at least in the minors). Phil Rogers notes that the Cubs may have interest, but only if Perez is over his recent shoulder surgery. One has to question, however, why the Rays would deal Perez. He is cheap, developing, and looks like a great guy to have on the bench.

Finally, a new free agent name has started popping up: Johnny Damon. Jim Duquette recently said he’s heard from multiple sources that the Cubs are “very interested” in Damon to play center field (h/t CCO). Damon, 36, had a huge offensive year last year in lefty-hitter-friendly new Yankee Stadium, but defensively is merely adequate in a corner outfield spot. The prevailing wisdom is that he would be a liability in center field.

Damon’s also seeking three years at more than $10 million per year, putting him out of the Cubs’ reach, unless they massively backload his deal – which always works out well. If Duquette heard this rumor, odds are he heard it from Damon’s agent, Scott Boras. The market for Damon has taken a long time to develop, and it isn’t beyond Boras to drum up a few rumors where there isn’t a whole lot of veracity.

  • Pingback: hotstove.com / archive » Monday Morning Hot Stove Notes: Mets, Cubs, Rays, Reds, Orioles, Damon, Garland, more

  • Kevin Gallo

    These are the cost of Jacob Ellsbury from what I am hearing Josh Vitters, Had-Ju Lee, Andrew Cashner, and Jay Jackson. Any thoughts on the that price. I think Vitters is high over rated I saw him play when he was with the Chiefs and again during the AFL. He wasnt very selective at the plate Castro was much better, Vitters will most likley be alot like Adam Dunn strikeout wise and his defense was below avarage at best. I dont know much about the otherI know Lee is a ss and the other two are pitcher I dont know if the are starter or reliefer.

  • Kevin Gallo

    Just rereaded my post sorry about the typos really should completely wake up before I post anything.

  • brian

    If the Cubs got Ellsbury I would be actually happy with this offseason. I think it shouldn’t cost all four of those prospects and most likely would have to involve a third team. I don’t know much about Perez but Ellsbury I see as the only option worth while other than keeping it in house having Fuld platooning with Johnson. I’d say if the deal is there pull the trigger, as long as it doesn’t cost the farm.

  • brian

    oh and Damon shouldn’t even be considered, the fact that his name is in this and has been tossed around scares me.

    • Ace

      Damon is flawed, aging, and expensive. In other words, he’d fit right in.

  • TonO78

    Trade them all for Ellsbury (I would only really keep Cashner because he could be viable RP or even closer in the next 5 years). They are CUBS prospects, which mean 4A guys who underachieve. Ellsbury= defense, offense, lead-off, SB, and not big money until other contracts have finally expired.

    • Ace

      I agree with you in spirit, but of course, there’s no magic voodoo that makes Cubs prospects suck. And that there price is waaaaay too steep. Two of those four and some other, lesser prospects perhaps.

  • KB

    Think about the notion of Hendry/Gary Hughes making a trade with the Red Sox brain trust. Jim is not a bad trader, so I doubt we’ll be fleeced. But our farm system will certainly take a giant hit.

    Does Ellsbury have any power at all?

  • Kevin G

    I would be ok with this if we got some low level prospects if not they may as well just rade for A-Gon themselves and trade and flip him of D Lee. Otherwise they are kind of getting screwed.

  • Kevin G

    I would be ok with this if we got some low level prospects if not they may as well just rade for A-Gon themselves and trade and flip him or D Lee. Otherwise they are kind of getting screwed.

  • juniorbors

    I personally dont understand where Boston benefits by trading him? They would be trading him to make way for Bay? Why? Ellsbury doesnt make money. He is a good financial fit and if they are adding Bay they are making a push for today not taking a step back. Boston would not benefit by trading Ellsbury for prospects unless they know something we do not. Ellsbury is key both offensively and defensively. Cameron was supposed to be slotted in one of the corners.
    That all being said I believe Ellsbury is a better fit than even Granderson. This would be an great addition defensively and a terror on the basepaths. We will see, but I think it is highly doubtfull

    • Ace

      It’s a good question, junior, and one that’s perplexed me, too.

      • Kevin G

        The answer is easy Adrian Gonzalez, also cheap and I am scared to see what he would do at fenway. They have alot of outfielder and cameron gives them a centerfielder option. Either way to get Gonzalez I think they will have to part with Ellsbury and I would rather the Cubs get him them the Padres.

        • Ace

          Kevin – the answer being Gonzalez presumes that the Red Sox somehow NEED the Cubs to be involved in order to swing a deal for Gonzalez. Do you really think that’s the case?

          I suppose it’s possible that the Red Sox don’t want to deal their tip top prospects, but are willing to deal Ellsbury, AND the Padres don’t want Ellsbury, but do want Vitters/Cashner/whoever. Just seems unnecessarily complicated to me.

  • Kevin G

    San diego doesnt want him. I live in San diego it been all over the radio. They want prospects and pitching. The Red Sox are will to throw in Clay (and I am going to bucther this one) Bulozho. So I would be surprise if this is possible. But it depends more on the Padres then the Sox.

  • Kevin G

    To finish the Red sox dont want to give up as much of their farm system as the padres are asking for so they want to bring in a third team. ho know that the GM of the padres was an assist GM for the Red Sox right? So he he knows their farm system too well for the their liking. It does make scense if you know what going on from the other side of the trade.

    • juniorbors

      Well, who knows, I guess anything can happen, hell the Bears are up 16-0 at half, maybe even Hendry can get his head out of his ass and pull this off.

      • Ace

        For what it’s worth, Bruce Levine has now said that the Sox/Padres/Cubs have not discussed this trade.

  • Kevin G

    Did you hear tha Big Z is eminently available? See the Cubs dont seem as happy with him as you are?:)

    • DaveB

      You should leave the blogging to Ace, Big Z is definitely NOT available.
      When the Yankees contacted Hendry about Z, he told them it would take the farm and the Yankees to eat ALL of Zs contract for the Cubs to even CONSIDER trading Z… hes not going anywhere

  • Kevin G

    first I would hope Ace would know I am just giving him a hard time because of a blog earlier we were talking about and two do you read any other websites? Although Ace does a great Job there are other sites with other opion

  • KB

    Of all the weird trade ideas, the oddest one is the AGonz/Padres situation. Why on earth would they trade him? He’s got a WAY under-market contract, he’s under their control for 2 more years, he’s by far their best and most popular player, and he’s 26!

    Trading him would be like ……
    well, it would exactly mimic what Ron Burdundy said to San Diego.

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