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justin ruggiano feature[Update: the deal is done, as announced by the Cubs: Justin Ruggiano for minor league pitcher Matt Brazis. Initial reaction to the deal in the final update below. Original text of post follows.]

Two possible intros to this post:

(1) Strange times. Yesterday, amid the Padres/Rays/(now)Nationals trade rumor stuff, there was also an oddly unspecific rumor going around about the Mariners possibly nearing a deal for a bat, but most were guessing it probably wasn’t a big name. Could that bat belong to Cubs outfielder Justin Ruggiano?

or

(2) It’s been an underdiscussed, but always acknowledged, part of the ongoing Cubs-want-a-complementary-outfield-bat rumor stories that mostly focus on Jonny Gomes: don’t the Cubs already have a guy like that in Justin Ruggiano?

Whichever intro you choose, they both take you to this:

Ruggiano, 32, dealt with some injury issues last year with the Cubs, but was pretty solid when he was healthy, hitting .281/.337/.429. He’s slated for his second turn in arbitration in 2015, and could make something in the $2.5 million to $3 million range.

If the Cubs were looking to add another outfielder to the mix, then Ruggiano being moved out would make some sense, given his increasing arbitration salary, and what could become a marginalized role. Why dump Ruggiano to make room for a different right-handed bat, though? Well, the argument would probably focus not only on the possibility of saving some money by swapping out, but would also point to Ruggiano’s decreasing defensive value. Although he can play all over the outfield, his range looked a little questionable to me last year (and the advanced stats back that up).

And if the Cubs are indeed talking to the Mariners about a trade and could pick up something useful, or at least interesting, in the deal? Then swapping Ruggiano out makes all the more sense.

We’ll see if this goes anywhere, as it is not presently necessary for the Cubs to move out Ruggiano. The Cubs have quite a bit of depth in the outfield – Coghlan, Alcantara, Soler, Ruggiano, Lake, Szczur, Sweeney, Olt – but there are also a lot of question marks in there.

UPDATE: This is probably notable, as Jerry Crasnick chimes in:

Crasnick was the originator of the Mariners rumor in the first place, with these tweets last night:

Throw in the fact that the Cubs’ front office is notoriously tight-lipped, and you could see how word of a “bat” got out, but no one was expecting this particular name.

UPDATE 2: Jon Morosi says it’s happening:

UPDATE 3: And, sure enough, it’s done. The Cubs have sent Ruggiano to the Mariners for minor league righty Matt Brazis. The deal opens up a 40-man spot (presumably for Jason Motte), and saves the Cubs upwards of $2.5 to $3 million in salary. Brazis, 25, was the Mariners’ 28th round pick in 2012, and he’s been a dominant minor league reliever ever since. Keep in mind, pure minor league relievers usually have very limited ceilings, but Brazis has compiled an impressive 2.89 ERA and 10.9 K/9 (2.8 BB/9) over his minor league career. He spent 2014 split between High-A and AA. He’s an interesting minor league piece, and about what you’d expect to get for Ruggiano.

And now we see if, for example, a Jonny Gomes signing is around the corner, or if the Cubs will continue to explore other outfield options.

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