The Major League Baseball trade deadline is less than one month away. The Cubs, firmly planted in fifth place in their division, have no hope of making the playoffs. Jim Hendry’s dilemma is whether he looks after his own long-term future or the long-term future of the Chicago Cubs. As the losses rack up, Hendry’s future as the team’s General Manager becomes less and less certain. Holding on to star players should help prevent a 100 loss season. Trading some of those players will add several games to the 2011 loss column but also will provide long-term gains that Hendry will likely not be around to appreciate.
Make it Happen
It will require a lot of guts for Jim Hendry to trade away the best pitcher on his roster. But dealing Carlos Marmol to a contender will bring back a wealth of prospects that couldn’t otherwise be obtained. Marmol recently signed a 3 year, $20 million contract which ends after the 2013 season. One potential buyer, the Phillies, have already gone through a handful of closers this year. In the past, Philadelphia has shown their willingness to trade top prospects to fill a void. Marmol will be a successful closer for the length of his contract but the Cubs won’t be National League contenders over that period of time Hanging on to him while the team rebuilds makes little sense. If Hendry really has the team’s best interest in mind, a trade like this would go a long way to strengthen the minor league system.
With his recent power surge and a manageable contract, Carlos Pena should top the Cub’s tradeable list. He will make $5 million this year along with a deferred $5 million payable next year. Contenders like the Angles, Rangers and Giants should be willing to give up a couple of middle-of-the-road prospects to add a power hitter assuming Pena stays hot in July. This trade is doable because Carlos is one of the few big-ticket signings that the Hendry didn’t give a no-trade clause to. Pena has shown above average defense and major power but continues to struggle with his average and on base percentage. He should not be considered for a long-term deal come this off-season so unloading him for youngsters should be an easy decision for Hendry to make.
With Welington Castillo waiting in the wings, catcher Geovany Soto is now expendable. His contract ($3 million in 2011) expires at the end of this year and the Cubs hope Castillo can step in as a cheaper, more productive replacement in 2012. Soto is a decent defensive catcher and has shown above average skills at the plate over his seven years in Chicago. The Cubs should be able to trade him to a contender who is lacking a viable hitting catcher. If they can obtain a couple of mid-level prospects for him they should make the move.
Ain’t Going to Happen
Aramis Ramirez is on the back-end of his career and makes a lot of money ($14.6 million in 2011). His power numbers and defense are now sub par and the team should be searching for his replacement via the farm system or in free agency. Mike Quade could use Blake DeWitt and Jeff Baker to hold down the position until a long-term answer can be found. The Cubs have a $16 million team option in 2012 on Ramirez. If he remains with the team through the end of this year they won’t pick up that option. But, if he is traded in 2011, his team option becomes guaranteed. Unless the Cubs pay a large share of that $16 million next year, no team will trade for him.
As the Cubs right fielder and lead off hitter, Kosuke Fukudome is having a decent year. History tells us his batting average and on base percentage will decline as the summer continues though. Even though he has an expiring contract, this statistical trend alone will make it difficult for him to be dealt. He will continue with the team through the end of the year and look for work elsewhere in 2012, whether it be with another major league team or back in Japan.
The talk earlier this summer was about Carlos Zambrano’s willingness to waive his no-trade clause. Though he later said his comments were taken out of context and he wants to remain a Cub, his initial quote spurred trade talk among media and fans alike. Even if he waives his no-trade clause, his erratic behavior, poor win totals and a deal which pays $18 million next year all combine to make a trade unrealistic. Much like the bad Soriano deal, Cubs ownership will have to pay the rest of this contract and hope the next General Manager spends wiser than Jim Hendry has.