Williamson Surfaces In Trade Talks

Mike Kiley of the Sun-Times notes that "Other teams are highly interested in Scott Williamson, as they have been all winter in trade talks with general manager Jim Hendry."  In a separate article, Kiley quotes Jim Hendry saying that Matt Murton, Ronny Cedeno, and Rich Hill have been highly sought after as well.

Hill came up in talks for Barry Zito and a possible Miguel Tejada deal.  As a 26 year-old, Hill is far past prospect status.  Despite pitching college ball as late as 2002, he didn’t pitch above A ball until 2005.  Ridiculously high strikeout totals have been negated by massive walk totals.  Hill finally got the walks down to an acceptable level in the minors in 2005.  If his success continues in Iowa, it’s likely he’s dealt before the All-Star break.

Cedeno was mentioned in talks for Brad Wilkerson, but that was before the Dodgers signed Rafael Furcal.  Missing out on him has taken away one of the Cubs’ best trading chips, as they’re now forced to rely on Cedeno as their starting shortstop.  Concern has been expressed over Cedeno’s hitting prior to 2005, but he may have turned a corner at age 22.  He kept his contact rate near 90% and may be able to couple a .290 average with good defense.  At this point, trading Cedeno makes very little sense.

Murton should be fairly expendable, as he may not project to hit for enough power to play left field regularly.  He’s a 24 year-old with a sweet swing and a good eye.  The average National League left fielder hit .272/.348/.457 last year, and PECOTA projects Murton at .278/.339/.411 for 2006.  Sure, there’s room for growth, but the Cubs probably can’t wait around for it with below average production at a power position.  You might think of him as Rondell White without the health issues.  He’s better suited for a developing team like the Pirates or Royals.

Williamson does fit the win now mentality, and he’s probably the one Cubs reliever with the potential to dominate.  I would keep him around as closer insurance and not worry about having too many setup men.  At $2MM something like his 2002 season would be spectacular (2.92 ERA in 74 innings).  I can’t see how the Cubs would get a more useful player in return unless perhaps it was to bolster their bench.

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