February 06, 2009
Throughout January and February, we're reviewing offseason MLB transactions that have fantasy implications, and we're going team-by-team. This isn't quite like Hot Stove Daily. The focus here is limited. We're only looking at ownable fantasy players who've found new employers.
If you've ever held a yard sale in order to get rid of a few items that were once valuable, but had become embarrassing reminders of your shortcomings – goodbye, Bowflex – then you're already familiar with one of the major themes of the Cubs' offseason.
Chicago basically dragged Felix Pie and Rich Hill into the front lawn with a sign that read, "Must sell. Out of options. Best offer or PTBNL." Then Baltimore's Andy MacPhail pulled up in his van and hauled them away.
It would be nice if the Cubs could recognize the limitations of their young players before every other Major League team catches on. There was certainly a time when Pie and Hill were significant trade chips. So was left-hander Donald Veal, who went to the Pirates in the 2008 Rule 5 draft.
Ah, well. The Cubs remain a contender, and they've clearly had an active offseason. They threw lots of names at San Diego in potential deals for Jake Peavy, but apparently not the right names. (Jeff Samardzija somehow got a no-trade provision in his first professional contract? Really?) If the rival Brewers were to acquire Peavy – and Milwaukee has no shortage of interesting prospects to deal – then Chicago fans will be seriously displeased.
Still, the Cubs are coming off a 97-win season and they led the National League in run-scoring by a wide margin. They were also third in team ERA (3.87). This is a very good team, and they've added a few pieces that are relevant to fantasy owners. Let's review...
Milton Bradley, signed for three years, $30 million
We all know the risks associated with Bradley. He's only reached 500 plate appearances in two of his nine MLB seasons. The guy is an excellent hitter, though, and he offers tremendous fantasy intangibles – the News & Notes items on his player page are endlessly entertaining.
Last year at age 30, Bradley led the American League in both on-base percentage (.436) and OPS (.999), and he was third in batting average (.321). He benefited from a friendly hitting environment at home in 2008 (check the splits), but his road numbers were still very good (.290/.410/.462). If the Cubs can keep him healthy – and that's a big, ridiculous "if" – then they'll have added another terrific bat to the heart of a productive order. Bradley's current Mock Draft Central ADP is 143.7, which puts him way down in Willy Taveras territory. He's not a bad risk/reward pick. Obviously if you're in an OBP or OPS league, Bradley needs to go much higher.
Doesn't $30 million seem like kind of a lot, especially when you look at the deal accepted by Pat Burrell (two years, $16 million) and the rumored offer to Bobby Abreu (one year, $8 million)? The Cubs have not mastered the buy-low/sell-high concept just yet.
Kevin Gregg acquired via trade
With Kerry Wood now in Cleveland, Carlos Marmol is expected to close for Chicago. But Lou Piniella has at least created the illusion of competition:
"(Marmol) has earned it, but (Gregg) has done well," Piniella said. "Let them compete. I think it worked very well last year when we went into camp and let them all compete. I feel comfortable with Marmol, no question. But remember, we traded for this other young man and he was a closer with success, so give him a chance too."
So you're writing Marmol's name in pencil, not pen. He's clearly the superior pitcher, though. Marmol posted an 11.75 K/9 and 0.93 WHIP last season; Gregg's rates were 7.60 and 1.28.
The right baseball move might be to keep Marmol in high-leverage situations and not waste his innings on two-run and three-run leads in the ninth. Fantasy owners are hoping the Cubs make the traditional baseball move, not necessarily the right one. Matt Lindstrom now sits atop Florida's bullpen hierarchy.
The Cubs dealt RP Jose Ceda to the Marlins in exchange for Gregg, which honestly seems insane. Ceda is a cost-controlled young reliever who throws in the high-90s. He struck out 95 batters in 84.2 minor league innings last year at age 21, and he collected nine saves at Double-A. Propaganda on the Marlins' website suggests that Ceda "resembles a young Lee Smith." We'll see if a year of Gregg (at $4.2 million) is worth that.
Aaron Heilman acquired via trade
Chicago dealt Ronny Cedeno and Garrett Olson (acquired in the Pie trade) to the Mariners for the 30-year-old Heilman. The right-hander was a disaster for the Mets in 2008 (5.21 ERA, 1.59 WHIP), but he delivered three quality seasons from '05 to '07. Heilman will apparently compete with Sean Marshall for a rotation spot, although this move might also tell us something about Rich Harden's shoulder. The real fantasy significance here is that Heilman has been removed from Seattle's closer competition. You'd really only consider him for spot-start duty in fantasy leagues.
Aaron Miles, signed for two years, $4.9 million
The fun thing about Miles is that he, like Mark DeRosa before him, can play pretty much anywhere. Miles saw time at seven different positions last year. He'll likely find himself in a job-share with Mike Fontenot in 2009, however, and Miles is a severe liability in four fantasy categories.
It's not hard to understand why Chicago fans would miss DeRosa, who's now with the Indians. DeRosa is a likeable guy. But if you're of the opinion that the Cubs completely wet the bed in the NLDS in '07 and '08, then you really shouldn't be too upset. You'll recall DeRosa's tragic GIDP in Game 3 two seasons ago – when Livan Hernandez couldn't buy a strike – and his error in the second inning of Game 2 last season.
There's a nice rundown of the prospects acquired in the DeRosa deal over at Let's Go Tribe. Nothing to concern yourself with, fantasy owners.
A few other Cubs notes: The Ricketts family was signed for $900 million ... The Cubs added Joey Gathright, presumably for pinch-running and double-switch purposes. So Taguchi was added in case something happens to Gathright. We're still expecting a Kosuke Fukudome/Reed Johnson platoon in centerfield ... Ryan Dempster remains with the Cubs after signing a four-year, $52 million deal. His current ADP is 153.3, so you're not paying a whole lot for a starter who put up exceptional numbers last season. Will he deliver another sub-3.00 ERA? Not likely. But he did post an 8.14 K/9 and he should get plenty of run support ... Don't look for Michael Wuertz in the Chicago bullpen anymore. He was dealt to the A's ... Jason Marquis was sent to the Rockies in exchange for RP Luis Vizcaino. Enjoy him, Colorado.
Photos via AP Images and Brian Stieglitz