Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Chicago Cubs and the Trade Deadline

Its that time of year again, the wonderful baseball trade deadline. Now baseball's deadline isn't close to as good as the NBA's, but it always ends up being fun. Most years the Cubs are linked to a big name or two, sometimes those are real and sometimes just made up. For every Nomar in 2004 or Harden in 2008 deal, there are July's that come and go without any significant movement and/or two weeks of Matt Lawton. This summer sets up to be a very interesting time in the Cubs world, and also around all of baseball.

I've read so many different things about the Cubs payroll situation that I don't think Jim Hendry himself knows how much money he has to work with. Yesterday there was an article in the Sun-Times that included Hendry hinting that me might have more to work with than he let on at first. Then of course you can read 100 reports of there being no wiggle room without dumping one of the big contracts. It all comes down to this- if Hendry really does have money, will he use it?

The payroll is already bordering on out of control at $136 million and only going up next season. Another big contract and we are talking Yankees level here, and the only reason the Yankees sustain that payroll is because of the YES network. Obviously they have to toe a line here.

The way I see it there are three ways to approach this deadline. Major buyer, all out seller, or stand pat. Perhaps it seems a little all or nothing, but if you think about it, that is the exact approach Jim Hendry has taken. I don't see how trading a prospect like Jay Jackson to get Baltimore closer George Sherrill makes the Cubs any more likely to win the World Series this year, and it just hurts that ability in the long term. Now if Jackson has to be part of a deal to get Roy Halladay, I'd be fine with that.

The longer this season goes on, the more I become convinced that this team is destined to finish .500 the way the roster sits now. Getting a bit player will not change that, and getting that player could put the future in doubt. Taking on the contract of Freddy Sanchez and giving up 3 prospects is a big price for a guy who doesn't walk and doesn't hit for power.

Of course selling off pieces and giving up became an idea after the first two games in Philly. While most of the major contracts the Cubs are committed to long term include no-trade clauses, they could hypothetically move some of them. Derrek Lee probably would think about allowing a trade to the Giants. Kevin Gregg could be moved no problem on the Cubs side, but he wouldn't bring in as much as potentially offering him arbitration and taking the draft picks will. Milton Bradley doesn't have a NTC, but nobody is taking him. Plus Jim Hendry's job is on the line with this team, and there is no way he can blow up this team without essentially admitting that he failed and he will probably will be fired.

Standing pat is the best option. Making a huge trade for a Halladay or a Holliday would set the franchise back 5 years, and without that trade leading to a World Series, those would be 5 painful years for fans and management. Trading for a small piece that costs anything more than a meaningless prospect wouldn't provide a short term or long term benefit. Keep the team how it is, if BJ Ryan proves that he can pitch then bring him up. Other than that ride out what we have, while I don't think it gets us into the playoffs, it will give us a full evaluation of the players and Jim Hendry.

Now lets take a look at what the rest of the NL Central could do. Starting from the bottom and moving up.
Pirates- they are in all out sell mode. They have no untouchable players. Jack Wilson, Freddy Sanchez, and John Grabow are all names that will get tossed around.

Reds- who the heck knows. I would think that somebody calling about Bronson Arroyo would probably be able to get him, same with David Weathers or another bullpen guy. The Reds don't really have hitters that are tradeable. Joey Votto would fetch a fortune, but you can't trade a guy like that.

Brewers- They are in the Halladay sweepstakes, though I don't think Roy would waive his NTC to go there. The Brewers certainly have the prospects to get him, but they would officially open a 1.5 year World Series or bust window that could leave them in some trouble after. The positives and negatives of such a gamble could be debated all day by baseball fans.

Astros- With no farm system, and no money to spend the Astros won't be making any moves. To be honest with Lance Berkman on the DL, I see the Astros going back away soon.

Cardinals- The most active team seemingly in the majors right now. They are in the mix for Halladay and Holliday. Obviously they can't get both, but with the DeRosa trade already under their belts, and Chris Duncan gone, things are happening in St. Louis. I do think they end up with Holliday, which would be a great trade for them, but one that seems to have beating winning the division just this year in mind. Halladay makes them a World Series contender, Holliday gets them to the NLCS.

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